“Each bite-size cube is so tender, it melts in your mouth.
The savoury soy sauce from the braise leaves a lingering, lip-smacking taste that
makes you yearn for that next decadent chunk of fatty pork belly.”
The state of Sydney’s dining scene continues to change as we are seeing more casual restaurants opening each month whilst the higher end of fine dining continues to struggle.
The choice for a good and cheap feed in Sydney has never been more varied and plentiful. Diners are choosing between Japanese sushi and ramen, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese noodles, Italian pizza and Spanish tapas and I have only mentioned the tip of a gastronomic iceberg that has hit our city.
Smaller suburban restaurants are wooing customers with food prices that compete with food halls in the city.
One can dine cheaply in neighbourhood restaurants and the good news is there are so many suburbs around Sydney that have evolved into little food havens.
The choice of restaurants and cuisine in some of these suburbs are plentiful and can rival the multi-cuisine offering of food halls in the city.
What I like about some of the local neighbourhood restaurants is they generally serve good, honest food and cater to locals and families.
These small businesses also pay relatively lower rent than their city counterparts and lower overheads are usually reflected in competitive menu prices. In addition, there is usually a cluster of cafes and restaurants in the location which compete against each other.
Today, I am in the lower north shore suburb of Artarmon which is merely 10 km north of Sydney CBD.
When I first lived here in the mid 1980s, this suburb was a quiet, little hollow with the obligatory local post office, green grocer and friendly neighbourhood butcher.
Fast forward a quarter of a century later and you find a vibrant residential hub with booming real estate prices and new local businesses sprouting out from every corner. Coupled with the convenience of the train being a mere 25-minute commute and just six stops away from Wynyard in the heart of Sydney CBD, Artarmon is popular with young families who are looking to live close to the city.
Wilkes Avenue, which is merely 10 metres from the Artarmon train station now has three Japanese eateries, a Korean BBQ, Japanese grocery store, cafe and Thai restaurant.
On the other side of the train station along Broughton road, there is a choice of pizza, Japanese sushi and yakiniku, BBQ chicken and more Thai.
So how do you know what’s good to eat when you are in Artarmon. Today, I will share with you some of the dishes which I think is good, honest food at prices that would not make a dent in your wallet.
Here they are, in no particular order, my top five cheap eats in Artarmon:
1. Miso ramen @ Rahmen Genki
Let it be known that having lived in Artarmon for so many years, I have never tried the ramen at Rahmen Genki until most recently. The owner of this double shopfront at Wilkes Avenue is a burly-looking Japanese local who loves his sports seeing the number of posters of sporting teams on the walls.
This is the thing about dining in neighbourhood restaurants. They are not pretentious, often casual and if you are familiar with the owner and staff as most locals are, half of your dining experience is safe because you will invariably get good service.
Now to the food. Rahmen Genki is usually packed, whether lunch or dinner because it is a convenient stop for locals who get on / off from the train station to grab a quick meal.
The procedure in this restaurant is: Order your choice of ramen, pay at the counter and proceed to your table. For a lighter broth, try the Shio ramen (image above) but my favourite is the miso ramen. The noodles are fresh and crunchy in a large bowl of piping hot, miso-flavoured broth. Beansprouts, corn, and thin slices of bamboo shoots complement succulent pork slices.
This bowl of noodles is a winner, especially on a cold and wet day. Better still, it’s a winner if you have an alcohol hangover on a cold and wet day.
Now, why for the life of me have I not eaten more bowls of this gorgeous ramen when I was living in Artarmon?? Why???
2. Slow braised pork belly in soy sauce @ Taipei Chef Restaurant
Taiwanese food has never quite caught my fancy because I find it is an awkward cross between traditional Chinese and some form of modern Hong Kong style cuisine struggling to find a rhythm of its own.
I found my meal at Taipei Chef Restaurant along Broughton road to be very average except for one dish ~ slow braised pork belly in soy sauce.
There are many interpretations of this classic Chinese dish and who in their right mind can pass off slow cooked pork belly? Each bite-size cube is so tender, it melts in your mouth. The savoury soy sauce from the braise leaves a lingering, lip-smacking taste that makes you yearn for that next decadent chunk of fatty pork belly.
3. California roll @ Tatsuya
Mysaucepan and I discovered Tatsuya when we first dine at their outlet in West Ryde.
We found the sushi and sashimi at their West Ryde branch to be fresh, tasty and best of all reasonably priced. And when they recently opened an outlet in Artarmon, we knew we would want to try and when we did, we were not disappointed.
A California roll comes in nine big chunks of sushi ladened with tobiko or flying fish roe. The tuna, salmon and avocado in each piece are very fresh and every mouthful is moments of silence you will need to truly savour the flavours dancing in your mouth.
4. Dragon roll @ Tatsuya
I love the dragon roll where grilled eel sushi is rolled up and sliced into bite-sized pieces topped with tobiko and drizzled with teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise.
You can read our full review of Tatsuya here.
5. Stir fried egg noodles @ The Thai
I am a fan of Asian-style stir-fried noodles because I love the smoky aromas that a skillful chef transfers from his fiery wok onto what’s presented on the plate.
I dislike Pad Thai because of the sweet sugar taste in Thai-style noodles. So for the stir-fried egg noodles with chicken at The Thai, I requested no sugar and added egg. It is the next best thing to a well-executed Malaysian-style char kway teow.
There is good food to be found in Artarmon.
Here are two more dishes which I believe to be extremely well-executed and worthy of a mention. They could have easily made it into my top 5 dishes above.
Thai style fried rice @ The Thai
Every grain of rice in this Thai style fried rice with chicken is firm with aromas of Thai basil.
Sizzling tofu hotplate @ Taipei Chef Restaurant
A sizzling tofu hotplate comes with big, hearty cubes of tofu in a gooey, peppery sauce. Now, pass me that bowl of hot steaming Jasmine rice!
So dear readers, where is your favourite cheap eat in Sydney?
6 Wilkes Avenue
Artarmon, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9410 3777
Opening hours: Lunch & Dinner Wednesday – Monday (closed on Tuesday)
Taipei Chef Restaurant
1A Broughton road
Artarmon, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9419 7719
Opening hours: Lunch & Dinner Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Monday)
Shop 2, 92 Hampden road
Artarmon, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9419 4546
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 11.30am – 9.30pm (closed on Sunday)
5/130 Hampden road
Artarmon, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9419 3088
Opening hours: Lunch Monday – Friday, Dinner 7 days
Love the village feel of Artarmon. Also love the smoked chicken and deep-fried sweet potato with salted plum powder at Taipei Chef.
Artarmon is a great little hub – used to frequent it quite a bit. Taipei chef has very generous portions!
I do love a good cheap eat and we used to frequent Artarmon when we lived on the North Shore! 😀
These might be cheap, but they all look delicious!
That ramen and dragon roll made me drool!
Bookmarked! Thanks, guys, I really need this kind of cheap-eats post
Your description of the California roll was wonderful. “Moments of silence … flavors dancing in your mouth.” Good sushi does that! I also liked your quote and am glad you found another place to enjoy pork belly.
An interesting if somewhat confusing article. Its titled Top Five Cheap Eats so I assumed five restaurants but you only list four. On the five dishes you don’t mention what you paid so don’t really know if they’re cheap or not. And then at Tapie Chef you say all the meal was average except for one dish, but then go on to mention a second dish, so I assume the second dish, Sizzling Tofu, is only average. I grew up in Artarmon in the 60’s and the only food was the fish & chip shop and the Gardenia Milk Bar, so it has come a long way. My two faves are the Korean in Wilkes Ave and the Japanese place opposite Taipei Chef. Good eating.
It’s titled Top Five Cheap Eats and there are 5 (five) dishes clearly numbered and each dish is clearly named and prices displayed as well.
As for how you spell “Tapie Chef” (I presume you mean Taipei Chef), I did say the meal was average except for the slow-braised pork belly in soy sauce which is clearly numbered as 2.
On top the the 5 dishes that have been numbered (1 to 5), I have also included 2 more dishes – the Thai style fried rice and the sizzling tofu hotplate (from Taipei Chef) which I thought was pretty good as well but clearly did not make the top 5 in my books.
So in total, I have identified 7 dishes which are worth trying from 4 different restaurants. Out of the 7 dishes, I named 5 dishes which I believe to be the top cheap eats in Artarmon.
I’m not sure why that is confusing to you as I think it’s pretty clear and easy to understand.
Also, there are currently 2 Japanese restaurants opposite Taipei Chef – Wakana and also Tatsuya (which I have mentioned). Both restaurants are pretty good though I’m not sure which one you are referring to as your favourite.