A few years ago Monsieur Poisson and I first noticed Ryo-Tei, usually en route to Maisy’s, and wondered what manner of deliciousness the place offered in order to attract a constant group of patrons to patiently wait in an orderly queue outside. The eatery has a distinct garish orange frontage but no obvious English signage apart from the (usually obscured by the queue) red plastic sheet hung outside the window displaying highlights from the menu and the name, ‘Ryo’s Noodles’. The only other signage is a plaque above the doorway in Japanese and a pair of drapes framing the doors bearing the massive kanji characters of 亮亭– neither of which are of any use unless you can read the language. Being in a non-restaurant area away from Pacific Highway just adds to the mystery, however parking is easy to find on side streets.
So after driving past Ryo-Tei for almost a year without knowing its name, assuming only that it served some sort of Japanese food and being suitably intrigued, Monsieur Poisson put his internet searching skills to good use. Many questions were answered when he found this post on Grab Your Fork, and the photo of the deep-fried soft-shell crab alone meant that we just had to go and try it for ourselves. Not to mention the personalised endorsement from Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai gracing the wall!
We have since had numerous visits to Ryo-Tei but have yet to introduce all our friends to its delights. So one particular weekend when Ms Sourdough was in town we gathered up Weirdo, Dr King and Kiki for a visit and warned all involved to expect there to be a wait especially seeing as there are six of us in attendance. But the surprising part is that there is no queue when we get there – we are the queue! However Ryo-Tei is full inside at only 6:30pm and we do have to wait a little as tables for smaller groups become available sooner to those behind us.
Ryo-Tei’s dining space seats only around thirty people, which partly explains the queues. The two largest tables seat just six, and we manage to get one of these which is adjacent to the front window – you know, the one which attracts stares from people in the queue while you eat! The walls are a bright canary yellow and are decorated with menu items written in Japanese plus the aforementioned soft-shell crab which is not on the orange printed menu.
We order several things to share and soon our table is crowded with plates. There are two onigiri (one roast pork, one mentaiko), two serves of gyoza and four deep-fried soft-shell crabs which are served whole in a tangle of legs. The onigiri are plump and are larger than they seem with the roast pork one being much tastier; and I lament the lack of mentaiko in the other. They gyoza are crisp and juicy while the soft-shell crab is always a hit with its bare coating of batter. On a separate return visit, Monsieur Poisson and I order the ‘Fried Chicken’ which comes with a dollop of beautifully rich and creamy Japanese mayonnaise. A word of warning though: do not be greedy and eat the chicken as soon as it’s set down on the table – such action results in burning the roof of your mouth! I speak, of course, from personal experience.
As if this is not enough food already, strewn across the table we have a couple of ‘Tokyo-style ramen’, a ‘Spicy hot ramen’, a couple of ‘Japanese-style curry beef rice with tonkatsu’ and a ‘Mixed vegies ramen’ (not pictured). I often order the ‘Tokyo-style ramen’ as I like bamboo shoots and, because it comes in a soy sauce chicken stock soup, is great when I want something a bit lighter than the pork bone stock variants. It is also accompanied by a whole sheet of nori unlike most other places.
Of course Monsieur Poisson and I have to have the requisite side of corn!
Kiki braves the ‘Spicy hot ramen’ which I’ve had once before and comes with a serious layer of chilli oil floating on top. The oil conceals a bowl of pork bone stock underneath, both of which help to retain heat in the bowl. The chilli oil offers heat of another kind and coats each strand of ramen as it is slurped upwards.
Dr King and Monsieur Poisson both go for the ‘Japanese-style curry beef rice with tonkatsu’ which comes with a heap of curry studded with beef bits to accompany the rice, a mound of Japanese pickles and a large deep-fried pork cutlet. It is an effort for both of them to finish their meals.
Monsieur Poisson is not a fan of ramen in general but Ryo-Tei is one of the few places where he does enjoy it. Their sticky pork bone stock is a delight and each bowl offers great value in its use of straight noodles cooked to retain some bite (many places use a curly variant), whole sheets of nori, gooey-centred boiled eggs and thick, tender, fall-apart strips of roast pork. If you haven’t been to Ryo-Tei, I highly recommend it.
125 Falcon St (near cnr West St), Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9955 0225
Opening Hours: Thurs-Tues 12pm-2:30pm (lunch)