While in Sydney for work a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to try a bowl of ramen so intensely porky and delicious that it was life changing. After sitting over a giant bowl of literally Pork, Pork, Pork and more Pork, I called Alissa and my parents up to tell them I'd just eaten the greatest bowl of Ramen in my life, and jokingly (but also half seriously) added that I was also about to have a heart attack due its rich unctuousness. Along with the more refined (and possibly even better) Hakata Ramen of Ichiran in Hong Kong, that bowl has been a high watermark for Tonkotsu - and Ramen in general. Called Super Mega Ramen and the most deluxe and impressive bowl sold at Gumshara Ramen in Sydney's Chinatown, Gumshara was the top priority of places to check out again while we were over from Perth for a week. Having eaten a lot of Ramen in the years since - and even written a guide to the different Ramen Joints in Perth - I was interested to found out if Gumshara was as amazing as I'd remembered it being.
Located in the aptly named Eating World in Chinatown, the story of Gumshara has been told many, many times before; at a time before David Chang made Ramen as fashionable and omnipresent as it is today, Japanese expat Mori Higashida had a dream of bringing truly authentic Ramen to the people of Sydney. So Mori gave up his job as Managing Director of a jewellery exporting business and went back to Japan to study the ways of Ramen from Muteppou - a Kyoto-based chain renowned for their very thick, collagen rich broth. Opened since 2009, and proudly considered a member of that illustrious chain, Gumshara frequently ranks near the top of 'best of' lists for Ramen in Sydney and even has 3 Stars in the Good Food Under $30 Guide - even if David Chang famously didn't dig it.
Alissa and I arrived 5 minutes before opening, and there already were a handful of people ahead of us, but thankfully not the kind of crazy queues I witnessed a few years ago. Even though its too much for a single person to really eat, I just had to order the Super Mega Ramen again, with a Chilli Bomb thrown in. There are plenty of incredible fine dining dishes that treat pork with the respect it deserves, however Gumshara's Super Mega Ramen would have to be the greatest ode to the deliciousness of porcine flesh (and fat and bone) that has even been made*. Where some would be happy with pork two or three ways, the Super Mega Ramen features Pork four ways. To begin with the broth - purportedly made with just 130kg of bones slowly simmered in water - is so thick its practically a gravy rather than a broth, and has an intensity of porky flavour that is unmatched by all other Tonkotsu broths I've tried except for the more refined style of Ichiran. This refinement makes Ichiran more impressive in a way, however Gumshara really sets the standard for how far one can take Tonkotsu to its most intense extreme.
But that's just one of the Pork components. Chashu is a very common Ramen topping, but having a plate completely surrounded by a ring of slices is highly unusual to say the least. While flavoursome and tender, Gumshara's Chashu is probably its least amazing Pork component, as its about the standard I've had at a number of places and a few notches below the very best that I've had. This is made up for by the other two Pork components - A skewer of Barbecued Pork Belly meat and a huge Barbecued Pork Rib. Both have to be tasted to be believed - the meat is well seasoned, tender and unctuous in the extreme, with a nice, roasty crust on the outside of each. As with broth, these are totally over the top but undeniably delicious. Throw in perfectly cooked eggs with custardy yolks, some Menma for some pickled funkiness and enough sheets of Nori to ensure every mouthful is the very definition of umami, and its just about the most impressive toppings one can get in a bowl of ramen anywhere. The Chilli Bomb was probably unnecessary however, as there is a special station at the front of the store with enough chilli oil to have gotten the heat levels right anyway. Finally, with noodles that feature a good amount of bite, its hard to really fault this bowl - other than the fact that I think few people could actually finish eating the whole thing (myself included), and that its so undoubtedly extreme in its caloric content it really should be treated as a sometimes food.
With the Super Mega Ramen larger than one person can or should be eating, Alissa decided to order one of the smaller bowls as I could then share some of the toppings with her. Alissa loves a more garlic forward broth so was happy to order the Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen. This is basically uses Gumshara's signature thick broth but with the addition of a a Black Garlic Oil and finely chopped pieces of Roasted Garlic on top. Alissa found the Garlic gave the broth a nice roastiness that complemented the already umami broth. A good alternative to the standard broth for those who like their Tonkotsu with even more complexity.
The Verdict: Excellent +
*Total hyperbole, I know, but if you can think of a dish more porky I'd love to try it!