There’s no bowl of ramen quite like Yakuza‘s.
About a week ago, Xbox Australia announced probably the most delectable promo for a next-gen game yet: Rags to Riches, a $400 bowl of ramen topped with a golden lobster. It was a tie-in for the Western release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which is launching alongside the Xbox Series X/S consoles on November 10 (with a PS5 release in March 2021).
We haven’t done a local Snacktaku in a while — COVID hasn’t helped — so when the opportunity came up to try a $400 bowl of ramen, it was the perfect time to bring it back. But it’s not reasonable for one person to finish an entire lobster and broth made on 10kg of pork bone and 5kg of lobster heads, so I recruited some help.
Alex Walker, Kotaku Australia Editor: Most people wouldn’t have eaten anything like the Yakuza: Like A Dragon Rags to Riches bowl that we enjoyed. Have you ever eaten an entire golden lobster, Tegan?
Tegan Jones, Gizmodo Australia Editor: Never! And I couldn’t agree more about how delicious it was.
I think it could be really easy to assume that it would be good because of presence of the lobster. But it went so far beyond that. Sure, the lobster was great. In fact, it was the best I've had in my entire life - juicy, buttery, delicious. But honestly the even bigger hero was the broth.
The owner and head chef revealed that it was made from 11 year old master stock that has been used for the restaurant's ramen the entire time it's been open. That was super special to me. Like one of our mates, Fergus Halliday said, it was like eating history.
Alex: Absolutely. I mean, for one, there's only two actual bowls of the stuff being made. That's incredibly rare and special. Gumshara's head chef, Mori Higashida explained that he had the idea of making a lobster ramen almost a full decade ago, but the opportunity never arose. So when the team working on Yakuza: Like A Dragon came around and wanted something appropriately extra, I mean ... gold leaf nori? Over 15 kilos of pork and lobster? The fact that the master stock is used so frequently that they boil over two hundred kilograms of fresh pork bones every week?
No wonder it's so incredibly rich. To give it more of a tactile feeling for readers, I'd ask them to imagine doing a big pork roast. Take that huge, juicy bit of meat, and just imagine the drippings, small bits of meat, that wonderful fond that fills up the bottom of the roasting pan.
Now imagine that's turned into a thick, deep brown liquor gets turned into a bowl of ramen. And that's what's most incredible: the bowl starts with a relatively normal thick, tonkatsu colour. As you work your way through the dish, it transforms almost a gumbo-like colour. It's unreal.
Tegan: Stoooooop now I'm hungry for more. But honestly you've got that exactly right. Of course in this case the broth was imbued with a wonderful lobster flavour as well, but I imagine the regular ramen you get can get from Gumshara would be similar in terms of the richness. I'll certainly be going back to find out.
It thickened in real time - the further done we got into the bowl the richer and thicker it got. This also meant that it coated the noodles beautifully, clinging to them almost. They worked together in harmony rather than separate entities.
Alex: And that's probably one of the more unusual features -- I'm not used to a broth getting richer and thicker as you eat it. Nor am I accustomed to having so many people watch as I slurp noodles.
But that's unavoidable at Gumshara; it's situated in one of Sydney Chinatown's oldest food courts -- a place I used to go a lot as a kid, funnily enough -- and there's no pomp and circumstance. You go there to have tasty, unfussy, good food. It just also happens that a chef there is talented enough to make some of Sydney's best ramen, and a $400 bowl at that.
Another thing that comes to mind: spring onions. They're standard in all ramens, of course, but what was so fascinating with the Yakuza bowl was how much freshness they provided against the richness of the broth. Spring onions in most Australian bowls of ramen are really more for texture; they give you something to chew against. The broth is never so thick or viscous that the spring onions provide a genuine contrast, but here, they were absolutely essential in cutting through the fat of the meat.
If I'm being honest, I could have grabbed some more spring onions. That's not a knock against the ramen at all -- it's just so unusual to have a bowl of ramen where spring onions have such an impact.
Tegan: Completely agree, the spring onions added some freshness and sweetness that cut through the richness of the broth beautifully.
I'm also a big fan of the the Eating World food court. I'm a big believer that the best food in any given city isn't found in the fanciest or most highly priced restaurants. The best meals of my life have always been hidden away in the little nooks and crannies. Down laneways, wedged between two other businesses, and even in food courts. My philosophy is if a ton of locals are there, its probably really good. It's how we approached Japan when travel was still a thing, and the same can be said for Gumshara.
Sure, in this case it was a pricey dish, but the regular ramen looks just as tasty, even without the giant gold lobster.
If you're based in Sydney -- or can somehow get to Gumshara for a $400 bowl of ramen -- you can enter in the Yakuza: Like a Dragon Rags to Riches competition via the Xbox Australia Twitter account. If you can't, but can still get to Gumshara, you should -- their pork spare rib ramen comes highly recommended.
As for Yakuza: Like a Dragon itself, it'll launch on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox, PC and the PS4 on November 10, with a PS5 version due out on March 2, 2021.