$10 (burger, tempura fries and a can of soft drink)
It's been just over a month since Chef Keizo Shimamoto debuted his Shoyu Ramen Burger on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Since then, it has swept the globe with various incarnations popping up around America and the rest of the world. If you are unfamiliar with ramen, I recommend you have a read of our Nao and Dosukoi posts. In the ultimate fusion of Japanese and American cuisines, Shimamoto created the ramen burger: a beef patty glazed with shoyu sauce, topped with spring onions and rocket and served between freshly cut ramen noodles that have been fried into 'buns'. It's fun, over-the-top and just a little bit ridiculous. For precisely these reasons it has made headlines across the world.
Shiro Izakaya is a contemporary Japanese restaurant overlooking Central Park in the heart of the Perth CBD. At the risk of oversimplifying things, 'izakaya' is a Japanese term referring to drinking houses that serve accompanying food (kind of like tapas bars). Izakaya cuisine was traditionally an alternative to fine dining establishments and marketed itself as livelier and more affordable. These days, the 'izakaya' term is used more broadly to refer to restaurants that serve an assortment of smaller dishes, although the focus on affordability no longer applies outside of Japan. While their dine-in menus are not Pavarotti friendly, Shiro also serves over the counter sushi and, as of late, the ramen burger from a hole in the wall takeaway section.
Shiro should be congratulated for so promptly making the ramen burger available in Perth, a city that often bemoans its trailing behind 'the rest of the world'. Yes, it is jumping on the bandwagon but it's got people excited and talking about food - always a good thing! We couldn't go past the $10 meal combo and were offered a choice of teriyaki or chilli sauce (we all opted for chilli). After a 15 minute wait our burgers and fries arrived, cleverly packaged in Japanese newspaper. We didn't stand on ceremony!
We didn't love the ramen burger. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I took that first bite, but I should have. It tasted exactly how it looked - like a burger patty sandwiched between two piles of noodles that have been fried in oil to make them stick together. Combined with the cheese it was too oily and heavy. It reminded us of the last time we tried gimmick-fusion food - Iku Sushi's cheeseburger sushi (bad, bad, bad!). When I first heard of the ramen burger, I imagined that some culinary genius had distilled the rich, meaty flavour of ramen into burger form. With it's shoyu glaze, Shimamoto's original ramen burger may well achieve this. Shiro's ramen burger, while riding the wave of popularity, sadly does not. The burger patty itself lacked that meaty flavour and texture that you expect with a good burger.
In Shiro's defence, the tempura fries were crispy and extremely tasty, especially when coupled with their spicy salt. I'm not sure you could make fries much unhealthier but if you're after a healthy meal, you wouldn't be here in the first place! Also, we appreciated that one of the employees came outside to ask us for our feedback, which he would pass on to the chef.
As it turns out, a love of ramen and a love of burgers does not manifest into a love of Shiro's ramen burger. We're glad we tried it but won't be back any time soon...unless we've got killer hangovers.
It's worth mentioning that at $10, including fries and a drink the Ramen Burger Combo is incredible value. Game enough to taste the Ramen Burger - let us know your thoughts in the comments below.