In the lead up to its first birthday, Surry Hills’ Salaryman has made the switch from ramen to robata, a Japanese method of slow-grill barbequing skewered foods over charcoal. 

The restaurant has always featured robata-style dishes and smaller plates alongside ramen, but chef Stephen Seckold said the venue had evolved since its inception, responding to diner sentiment.

“Ramen is something you’re supposed to enjoy a bowl of on its own. But Salaryman is a fun place and people sort of started using ramen as a side dish at the end of the meal,” he told Hospitality.

“People want to share their food so cranking up the robata and moving to a completely shareable menu was the way to go. Ramen isn’t really a social thing, plus Surry Hills is very beverage driven and we have the bar as well.

“The new menu works well with the bar, for people dropping in after work for a drink and snack.”

alanadimou-salaryman-november-41.jpgImages: Alana Dimou. 

Noodles will still feature, albeit in a different form more suited to the warmer months.

“At the moment we’ve got ramen noodles, but they’re topped with fresh ginger and shallots. So they aren’t as hot; they’re a bit lighter and crisper.

“On the charcoal we’ll be doing skewers. That’s what everyone wants – we’ve gone from a noodle restaurant to a skewer restaurant,” said Seckold.

The share plate trend is yet to let up and is a big part of the decision to rework the menu.

“The skewers are smaller, you can share them and have a whole lot of them for not much cost,” said Seckold. “Ramen isn’t really something you can share.”

Built around small plates, raw dishes, charred salads and vegetables, fried dishes, buns and charcoal skewers and plates, the new menu will also offer a broader range of flavours from across Asia.

“We’ve never been strictly Japanese, but now we’re taking some influences from China and South East Asia as well,” said Seckold.

Mapo-tofu-Udon-alanadimou-salaryman-november-38.jpgMapo tofu udon. 

While these influences are clear in dishes like mapo tofu, Szechuan fried chicken, and Xinjiang lamb belly, there’s still a heavy dose of fusion with halloumi skewers proving to be “super popular”.

Ramen may be off the menu for now, but it’s not out of mind for Seckold. Salaryman will continue to trial Tsukemen, a variation of ramen, to test its popularity with Sydneysiders.

“People are still a little hesitant, we just more education I think,” said Seckold. “Everyone thinks they’re ramen experts, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to ramen and Australian palates.

“So much work goes into making ramen, 100 percent. We’ve spoken about doing a ramen bar in the city and just focusing on ramen there. But Salaryman is still growing and establishing itself so I want to make sure it’s in the right place first.”

Charred-Cucumber-watermelon-sesame-salad-alanadimou-salaryman-november-12.jpgCharred cucumber, watermelon and sesame salad. 

Chicken-tsukune-egg-yolk-gyu-dare-alanadimou-salaryman-november-22.jpgChicken tsukune, with cured egg yolk and gyu dare. 

Szechuan-fried-chicken.jpgSzechuan fried chicken. 

Octopus-enoki-chilli-yuzu-alanadimou-salaryman-november-27.jpgOctopus enoki and chilli yuzu.

Spicy-karaage-chicken-bun-pickled-daikon-alanadimou-salaryman-november-09.jpgSpicy karaage chicken bun with pickled daikon.

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