We held tight to the memories. Playing in the shade among the roots of Moreton Bay Figs. Tree climbing. BMX bikes by the Torrens from the City to Henley Beach. Standing on a jetty and casting a line. Getting lost in the Adelaide Hills. The Drive-In. A rope swing over the Murray. Dancing lights in a night eternal, where yesterday was dead and tomorrow never comes.
Until one day we looked back and wondered if those moments were ever special in the first place, or if they were just prosaic memories made singular by the passage of time and the perspective of age. The nostalgia of opening a neglected door in your mind and stepping into an antique shop, with its musty odour and faded opulence. Not-quite-familiar broken toys. A 2.5 legged rocking horse without a mane. Green toy soldiers, supine. Chipped matchbox cars. Bakelite. Warped, yellowed Tupperware. Yo-yo biscuits by a Teledex. Milk Bars. The patina having had plenty of time to layer over neglected dreams half-remembered and nightmares half-forgotten.
To me, many of these memories revolve around food.
Before the ever-expanding permutations of gastronomic experience from the cultural culinary melting pot explosion of the 90s with pho, banh mi, laksa, American barbecue or labneh.
Black Dog Gallery is a small Cafe in Tusmore serving Japanese classics and fusion-style dishes. Stepping into the cafe is both familiar and novel, in keeping with its menu.
The Shio ramen is spectacular. Perfectly cooked noodles float tantalisingly in a rich, slightly cloudy soup. The noodles demonstrate a springy bite and a substantial texture, coated with a flavoursome broth, and are a far cry from microwaved instant noodle fare. No tangles clinging to each other. No suspicious sticky residue that adheres to the fingers and lips. No discomfiting plastic odour. A ramen egg (an egg steamed or lightly boiled then marinated, often overnight, in soy sauce, mirin and other seasonings) adds another element to the broth; the firm but yielding white breaking apart to reveal an unctuous, oozy yolk infused with savoury tones. Seaweed on the side; a hint of the sea. Tender and umami char siu pork, thinly sliced to allow a multilayered cross-section of textures and flavours. It's a delicious, complex, well-rounded dish reminding me of the half-remembered past but also updating it for the present.
There are specials on offer. Today, the Black Dog Gallery version of the AB is another modernised throwback sensation. Here, meaty, succulent pulled char siu pork, generously sauced with Chilli Aioli and Tonkatsu is mixed with spring onion and cheese before being served over a bed of fluffy garlic fried rice. As expected, it is a medley of luscious meaty flavour made even more rich by the addition of the melted cheese. It is almost too over the top, but pairs perfectly with a tangy potato salad side provided as part of the dish and washed down by the crisp, icy, yeasty freshness of a short grain rice lager (on this occasion Koshihikari Echigo Beer).
Further options range from the familiarity of grilled salmon teamed with roasted fennel and quinoa salad with a yuzu and raspberry vinaigrette to Japanese staples including natto (fermented soybean, a polarising taste to be sure), umeboshi, baked potato and pickled daikon.
The menu could not be described as either compact or extensive, but it is full of surprises and less common combinations. The ramen and rice bowls are also highly customisable, with add-ons such as fish cakes, avocado, crispy fried onion, wakame seaweed, nori, fermented bamboo shoots, wilted spinach and buttered corn (A Sapporo tradition) among the highlights. Those looking for steaks and platters of meat should best search elsewhere at this point.
Drinks range from the usual non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages to also include Japanese ramune, soft drinks and beers/spirits/sake. A range of coffee and tea is also available, and, judging from the near continuous hiss of the coffee machine, a popular option.
The prices are as expected for a cafe of this ilk, with mains around $15 - 20. Ramen is around the $15 mark with extra for additional toppings. Portions are filling. The service? On the day I visited? Impeccable.
The cafe is open from 10am–4pm and 5:30–9pm Tuesday to Saturday, open from 10am to 4pm only on Sunday and closed on Mondays.
If you're in the area, perhaps drying clothes at the local laundromat or hankering for some delicious Japanese food, both traditional and with a twist, served with a range of drinks and a variety of less common/perhaps challenging flavour combinations, Black Dog Gallery on 4/455 Greenhill Rd, Tusmore SA 5065 will surely satisfy that singular craving.