First look: Salaryman, Surry Hills

Author: Maggie Scardifield
Photography: Alana Dimou

Get ready to slip, slop and slurp this summer. A new noodle bar serving seasonal ramen, Japanese-inspired small plates and cocktails is opening in Surry Hills soon: Salaryman is here to punch the clock on good times.

Expect an exploration of the full spectrum of ramen styles, focusing on lighter broths such as tsukemen in the warmer months, and richer broths as the weather cools down.

"There are enough giant bowl options in this city that will knock you off your feet," says chef Stephen Seckold. "Instead we want to try and offer an experience; a chance to eat a few snacks, have a few drinks and then enjoy a bowl of noodles while still being able to kick on with your evening."

There'll be shio and sesame-spiked tantanmen, plus the less common mazemen, a drier style ramen, which at the moment is made with quail broth, breast and confit leg, and topped with miso-buttered corn. The vegetarians won't miss out, either; opening week, there's a shoyu made with organic mushrooms and roasted cabbage. And not a tonkotsu in sight.

"I doubt there will be," says Seckold. "At least not for the summer and autumn months - unless we feel it's needed to help with the Surry Hills hangovers as an alternative to the burger craze."

A bowl of ramen will set you back between $16 and $25 (the latter for a "limited ramen" made with wagyu rib eye and cavolo nero, say) and the menu will change each day. As for the noodles, Seckold is a big fan of what chef Ivan Orkin does in Tokyo and New York. "We'll be following his lead in terms of noodle style," he says. "We've been working on a blend of wheat, rye and other grains from a producer in Gunnedah and we'll be steering away from imported ingredients."

In addition to the ramen, Japanese-inspired small plates include the likes of rainbow trout grilled with eucalyptus ($21), tiger prawn takoyaki with lemon beurre blanc ($12) and grilled calamari with wasabi and horseradish ($23).

Sweets are not forgotten. Desserts includes sour milk ice-cream with native apples, or, from the restaurant's takeaway window, you can grab vanilla custard and balsamic and strawberry taiyaki - the popular fish-shaped cakes sold in Japan.

The name Salaryman refers to the dark-suited masses of white-collar workers in Japan who clock off to swill beers and slurp ramen. Interior designer Paul Kelly (Sokyo, Black) is responsible for the fit-out, which has been designed with dimly lit izakayas, gritty subways and the "work hard, play hard" mentality of the salarymen in mind.

The liquor licence is yet to arrive so it will start off BYO until the paperwork is finalised in early December. From there, former Flying Fish chef Marzio Lanzini will take the lead on the drinks menu - which will lean towards Japanese-themed cocktails such as The Rice Fields (herb-infused white rum with rice and junmai daiginjo sake), international beers and biodynamic wines.

Seckold is best known in Sydney as the chef at Flying Fish, and he says that while neither he nor his Flying Fish backers are "noodle experts", the team has done some serious research - tasting and testing from Australia to the US, the UK, and of course Japan.

"I basically fell in love with ramen a few years back," he says. "After travelling and seeing the endless possibilities, I thought there was an opportunity to bring something different to the growing ramen scene in Sydney."

Salaryman, Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, 52 Albion St, Surry Hills, NSW

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