Fast food with class: Zundo Red with optional egg. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Our waitress apologises as she brings a steaming bowl of ramen to the table. ''Thank you for waiting,'' she says. It's been four minutes since we ordered, paid and sat down. Hardly a wait, and we're delighted with the efficiency, especially with a hungry eight-year-old in tow.
It's a special night out for Archie - not only because we've left his sister at home. We're heading to a concert at the Opera House, so getting fed quickly is a good thing.
Only a couple of other tables are occupied when we arrive at Ramen Zundo, at the Liverpool Street side of the labyrinthine World Square complex. Less than an hour later, there's a queue out the door.
Japanese soul food: Ramen Zundo at World Square. Photo: Marco Del Grande
The restaurant is an attractive, well-designed space, with a wall of red and white paper lanterns at the entrance.
Owners Hiroki Nagao and his wife, Masako, are no strangers to Japanese fast food, having previously run Sushi Fusion in Randwick and the city. Ramen Zundo is their first foray into what they refer to as Japanese soul food.
Our three soups are brought to the table one by one, each with the same cute apology. The waitress thoughtfully offers Archie a fork in addition to the chopsticks and spoon. Frustratingly, the appetisers we've ordered - pan-fried gyoza with a chilli-laced ponzu dipping sauce and crisp, deep-fried pork and vegetable spring rolls - arrive after we've started on the soup, which momentarily puts Archie into a lather of not knowing what to eat first.
Zundo White is the signature ramen. At its base is a richly flavoured tonkotsu broth - inspired by those from the Kyushu region, as well as ramen enclaves in Tokyo - made by simmering pork bones for more than 12 hours.
Gloriously tender slivers of chashu pork belly (which is boiled then marinated overnight in a secret sauce), squares of nori, spring onions and bean sprouts nestle on the surface, while fine house-made noodles are submerged beneath. You can up the aromatics with Zundo Black, laced with roast-garlic oil, or up the heat with the Zundo Red. The chilli in the latter adds a wonderful spiciness to the rich broth.
Hiroki, who learnt to make noodles in Japan, uses a blend of premium Australian flours to create a texture that's silky but firm to the bite and ''catches'' the soup.
Pork and chicken broth are combined with dried niboshi sardines in tonkotsu niboshi ramen, a delicate, aromatic soup with an underlying pungent fishiness from the sardines. Topped with half a boiled egg, bamboo shoots, and more melt-in-the-mouth chashu pork, it's a satisfying, warming dish.
The menu features donburi (rice) dishes, with protein heroes including chicken katsu and teriyaki salmon, as well as a selection of Japanese curries, but it's the soups that are the stars here.
What Ramen Zundo lacks in size, it makes up for in speed and flavour. This is Japanese fast food with class. No apologies needed.
Do … Order what you want to eat first, then go back to order more. The service is so swift, it will end up all arriving at the same time.
Don't … Over-order; the regular-size soups are large. If you're keen to try a range of dishes, order a smaller portion or a ramen set.
Dish … Zundo Red.
Vibe … Bustling, with tables turning often. A place for great-tasting filling food served with speed and efficiency.
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- 02 9264 6113
- Cuisine - Japanese
- Prices - Appetisers, $2.20-7.90; ramen and soups, $11.80-$13.80; curries and donburi, $6.80-$12.80; desserts, $3-$3.80; BYO, $2 a person.
- Features - BYO, Cheap and cheerful, Family friendly
- Owners - Hiroki Nagao , Masako Nagao
- Opening Hours - Daily, 11.45am-9pm
- Author - Sally Webb