Taro Akimoto. Father of two beautiful daughters and a son, married to the strictest but beautiful and wise wife. In love with another beautiful thing I devoted my heart, ramen.
Born and raised in Japan in a family that puts priority on food more than most, I am not surprised that fate has brought me to open up a ramen restaurant today.
My father’s job according to him was to entertain his customers to the best restaurants in town and my mother did things like making her small DIY smokehouse in the tiny balcony of our Tokyo apartment to make ham and sausages. There must have been an influence and I took interest in all types of cooking and food from very young but always found ramen to be my favourite. I even wrote “ramen” in my interests section of my resume when I applied for my first job out of Uni.
I went through a lot of 出会い and even a few ”ramen shocks” during my life.
First was the 出会い with tonkotsu. My mother is from Saga, Kyushu and when I as a child, was taken to our grandparents place, we always stopped by a ramen shop. In Kyushu, ramen = tonkotsu and the rich aromatic white soup drew me in like no other.
Next was the shocking 出会い with 天下一品 in Kyoto during my highschool and University days。 I just returned from US back to Kyoto, Japan. In the US, people were shaving off all fat off their meats, some kids even slabbing paper napkins on pizza to wipe off extra oil. At Tenkaippin, the soup was probably all the things the USFDA condemned. Oily, thick, thick to the degree it was dollopy. To me, it was a shock and this soup also redefined ramen to me. Until tenkaippin, I had categorized ramen between Shoyu, Shio, Miso or Tonkotsu. This, did not fit in any of these categories and I was hit that ramen had much much broader possibilities, it is basically completely free from rules. Anything can go as long as involves noodles and it tastes good.
From Tenkaippin, I started my journey of tasting various types of ramen around Japan. I started my own ramen note, giving ratings and comments to each bowl I had. I tasted as much ramen as I can wherever I went. Around the Kyoto area where I lived and went to Uni, and around the Kansai area in general. In my young days, I was in the pursuit of the kotteri ramen, from Wakayama shoyu tonkotsu to Kyushu tonkotsu, to the Kyoto kotteri like Tenkaippin and 味の名門. The thicker the better.
Another highlight was a trip around Kyushu. My grandpa decided to hand me down his beloved little jeep, Pajero Jr to me when he turned 80 something so I hitchhiked myself down to Kyushu. He gave me his car, and I started my journey of eating ramen day and night all around Kyushu. The trip lasted for 2 weeks. My favourite was 銀嶺 in Omuta. I regret to this day that my knowledge of Kyushu ramen was not good enough and I did not stop by 久留米, the mecca of the most kotteri tonkotsu ramen. I was amazed that almost everywhere you go, tonkotsu was the ramen soup by default choice and there were no shops serving any other soup. The soup got thinner as you got closer to the southern tip, Kagoshima. In Kagoshima they serve assari tonkotsu soup. Almost presenting a clear color. I was also interested to know that the most popular ramen shop in Kumamoto 北熊 serves a milky tonkotsu looking soup but actually use chicken frames.
I also spent a winter in Northeastern Fukushima in a restaurant in a ski area. Perhaps my passion for food was evident, I did not have any qualifications and was only a Uni student like the rest of the part timers but I was made in charge of their small satellite lodge restaurant. So under no supervision, I cooked curry, udon, soba and katsudon, etc. It was a lot of fun carrying up ingredients on a snow mobile and working with the commercial kitchen equipment! On my days off, I headed for 喜多方。The noodles in Kitakata were usually handmade 縮れ多加水麺 with a very good texture. Also the charsiu was usually tender and juicy. Not the melt in your mouth type but retaining the natural meat juice. The clear soy soup with a focus on the 麺 and charsiu was not something that appealed 100% to my heart, but I never the less, I enjoyed these types of ramen as is and was able to obtain an appreciation of the different focuses that ramen can have.
After moving to Tokyo to start work in 1999, I did not find any interesting good ramen shops. The boom was 背油チャッチャ系 and all they did was put in lard in the soup and called this kotteri. I only craved for the kotteri of the west.
Then, soon after in the new millennium, the boom of the double soup swept Tokyo. This was the doubling up of 動物系 (meat based) soup and 魚介系 (seafood based) soup. This produced wonderful ramen which was not oily kotteri but very rich taste. Since then, the ramen scene has evolved to a very high level involving in some cases, crossover cuisine, homemade noodles, utilizing no MSG, using super premium ingredients, collaborating with various media, etc, etc.
The passion could not be contained any further. I just found it my self-imposed mission to bring this exquisite and imaginative cuisine at its best to Australia. From resource industry Investment Analyst to Ramen Chef, I decided to take the plunge!