About me and ramen

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.  

天下一品

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!

60 Responses to About me and ramen

  1. sachiko says:

    yeay chef taro—-!!!!!! ganbare-!!! i love this bio. very well done!

  2. Thanks Sachi, I should insert some photos. Maybe I’ll get a photo off your blog of Tenkaippin.

  3. I found a very well written and thorough article on ramen by fellow ramen mania dragonlife, what’s a french man doing in Shizuoka? Blogging about food of course!?

    http://shizuokagourmet.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/ramen-the-basics

  4. Tomoki says:

    Taro,
    Don’t know if you remember me but this is Tomoki Takebayashi. Long time! I ran into Ai in Hawaii (small world…she was working on the wedding for a good friend of mine) and she told me about your blog. Exciting stuff!! I love ramen too – especially tonkotsu. Been to all the major places (tenka ippin, ichiran, ippudo, santoka, etc., etc., etc.,) and still a big fan of nin-nikuya in Higashi Koganei. We now have santoka and ippudo in NY/NJ and they are really popular. I am sure you will do well in AU! Looking forward to the updates. All the best!

  5. Hi Tomoki, Of course I remember the Nattomaki brothers. Yeah, Ai told me about running into you. Thanks for your comments! I shall put Ninnikuya in Higashi Koganei on my list. BTW, Just for the record, Tenka Ippin is not tonokotsu. It’s chicken based with a lot of vegetables. Actually, a lot of places in Tokyo are apparently now serving ‘veggie potage’ soup and seems this is the next big thing. I haven’t tasted the veggie potage soup yet but I have a feeling it’s been inspired by Tenka Ippin.

  6. Hiyoko says:

    Hi Taro-san,

    When is your restaurant going to be open, and where in the City???

    We are all waiting for yammy ramen!!!!!!!

    • Hiyoko san, Thanks for your comments!!
      I am also very very anxious to let you all know about the opening but unfortunately, it’s still work in progress. I hope I can disclose further details in the next couple of weeks.

  7. MIchael Gray says:

    Taro-san, great to read of your passion for Ramen. I can’t wait for your place to open and will make sure I bring a big team from Maccoal along. My kids and i are very big Ramen fans so look forward to trying all your range… all the best Michael

  8. Ezs says:

    Great Site, can’t wait to try your Ramen!

    Keep up the good work!

    Ezs

  9. Wen says:

    Yo, had your tonkotsu ramen today for lunch, pretty good stuff!! The soup was tasty and the pork surprising, I thought it was going to be dry but it was superb. And now after reading your entries on Bangalow pork I know now it could never have been bad.

    What an odd little location, I had to look twice when the sign said ‘Ramen & Cafe’! Looking forward to more lunches soon though, keep up the good work.

    • Wen, Thanks for your comments! It is an odd setting like you say. Tucked away in the corner, but I fell in love with the spot when I started talking to the previous owner about the site. I reckon it’s the best way to enjoy Brisbane. An alfresco dining setting with views and breezes from the river. Re Bangalow Sweet Pork, I have to tell you, they are the best. It’s available in Village Meats in Rosalie or in the Butcher shop in James St Markets. I will have a proper signage prepared soon so hopefully less confusion for customers.

  10. Haru says:

    Taro-san,
    Great blog and a very intesting read I must say. I’ve been in Brisbane for over 20 years and I have been waiting for a place like yours to open for a long time. I hope to visit your cafe very soon and I’ll look forward to some geki-uma ra-men!

    Cheers

  11. Thanks so much Haru san for your encouraging comments! Let me know what you think once you tasted it. All feed back is appreciated.

  12. Grant says:

    Hi Taro.

    I lived in Osaka for 8 years with my wife and kids. We all love Ramen! My wife’s family is orginally from Okinawa so we have a strong inclination towards Okinawa’s men as well. North of Manamo they make the noodle a flat with a crinkle. It helps absorb the soup. Wonderful!!!

    We’re looking forward to visiting your shop as Brisbane has been screaming for quality Ramen made by someone who has a passion for it. You sound like the man to fix it. I’m hoping anyway. LOL

    I only wish you open a shop towards St Lucia somewhere so many of the Japanese families can easily visit. The city is such a hassle for parking etc and to go by public transport is such a headache with the family.

    Cheers mate and I’ll be sure to say hi when we visit the shop.

    • Hi Grant,
      Thanks for your comments. If there’s one thing that I won’t be beaten on, that’s passion for ramen. Your comments and feed back on the poll is appreciated. You seem like a hard core ramen mania yourself. Look fwd to having you at Taro’s
      Taro

  13. olivia says:

    Hello,

    Do you have any vegetarian options on your menu. I know vegetarian food isn’t very popular in Japan but I have to ask!

  14. Hi Olivia,
    Thanks for the inquiry. We don’t have a vegetarian menu ready but we can make every ramen without pork or egg toppings. Having said that, the shoyu and tonkotsu soup does contain chicken and pork stock but my hiyashi ramen soup is made of dried fish only. If you are ok with dried fish stock, ask for my hiyashi ramen with extra salad no pork, with or without egg.
    Taro

  15. thatsso says:

    Hi Taro,

    I saw your add on the Japanese Magazine…I am very eager to try… I’m one mad Ramen addict… I have not found a place in brisbane that has good ramen… ajisen ramen was serving good ones but their standard has dropped … their portions got smaller… taste as well a little dissapointing…

    Well anyways… I hope to try your ramen sometime next week… I hope that you will give ajisen a good fight.

  16. thatsso says:

    Hi Taro,

    I saw your advert on the Japanese Magazine…I am very eager to try… I’m one mad Ramen addict… I have not found a place in brisbane that has good ramen… ajisen ramen was serving good ones but their standard has dropped … their portions got smaller… taste as well a little dissapointing…

    Well anyways… I hope to try your ramen sometime next week… I hope that you will give ajisen a good fight.

  17. Ezs says:

    Hey Taro,

    I still haven’t had the chance to taste your Ramen, but will do it on the 25th as I finally have the chance to go into the city. What time do you normally open and also do you do deliveries to Milton by any chance?

    Ezs.

  18. Hi Thatsso. I tend to disagree on one point. I have also been to Ajisen a few times since their opening. Being an international franchise, one of the thing I respect and need to imitate is their consistency on taste, portions, toppings, presentation. My portion is probably about the same size as Ajisen so I suggest you order Kaedama extra noodles if you are a big eater!

    Ezs, ramen is served 11.30am-15.00pm on weekdays. Sorry, I don’t do deliveries. Takeaways, I do because so many people want it but I really don’t recommend it. In my opinion, ramen must be served and eaten immediately. The aldente texture of the noodle is spoiled each second, and the soup is best when hot.

  19. FIT RS says:

    Taro-san, I’m from Sydney and come to Brisbane every now and again for work. While surfing the net for places to eat, I stumbled across your blog. Reading your blog illustrates your dedidication and passion for the art of Ramen. I had lunch at your ramen shop this afternoon, the Tonkotsu ramen was very nice. Drop me a line when you can.

  20. FIT RS san, thanks for your kind comments! In Sydney, Men-ya, Ryo-tei and Gumshara are the places I like visiting.

  21. FIT RS says:

    Yes! I go to Ryo-tei regularly, the 博多とんこつ is my favourite and I go to Men-ya when I’m in the city. I did not know about Gumshara. I have not visited the Eating World building for more than 15 years, but after reading about Gumshara’s tonkotsu process I must try it.

    K

  22. Jen says:

    Wow, congratulations on this wonderful achievement! I can’t wait to taste your ramen! Too bad I’m in Sydney. I’ll keep an eye out for cheap airfare to Brisbane. I love that you’ve followed your passion… I too took the plunge about 8 months ago, from a Senior Advertising Exec to an entrepreneur (as you can see on my profile site, I dabble in everything!)

    Keep it up & hopefully I’ll come around soon!

  23. Michael Gray says:

    Hey Taro – good to see you last week and loved the tonkotsu! As discussed, I’m taking the family to Japan next week for a two week holiday. I’d love a few suggestions of your top Ramen and other great food places in Tokyo and Kyoto. thks Michael

    • Hi MG,
      Kyoto.
      Tenkaippin. Chicken collagenous soup with starchy potage like finish. There are many shops being a franchise, but for the best stuff, ask your taxi to go to Kitashirakawa Honten (Head Qtrs!).

      http://r.tabelog.com/kyoto/A2603/A260303/26000716/dtlmap/

      Ajino Meimon. Super chicken collagenouse soup. Sticks to your lips as you go thru the bowl. Location, Close to JR Tanbaguchi station in Shichihonmatsu.

      http://gourmet.goo.ne.jp/restaurant/shopID_tabelog-26002241/map/

      Ichibanboshi. A sentimental favorite in Okazaki. Their charsiu is very good and soup is well balanced with strong soy flavour. They also look like a cafe rather than a ramen shop. No late night trading, only open during early hours. Very difficult to find. If you are going to the Heian Jingu or the Museum, worth a visit.

      http://r.tabelog.com/kyoto/A2603/A260301/26001752/dtlmap/

      A convenient stop is Yokozuna and Shinpuku Saikan Close to JR Kyoto station. Although not very akin to my palate being a strong soy nose soup, a famous Shoyu ramen rival chain operating side by side on the eastern side of JR Kyoto station, on a street that crosses the rail tracks. Ask a local where it is. Open until late.

      http://r.tabelog.com/kyoto/A2601/A260101/26000791/dtlmap/

      Sorry all these maps are in Japanese.

      Tokyo.
      In Tokyo, prepare to line up in a queue for good ramen. The nation is obsessed with ramen and the amount of people who flock to a reputable shop is tremendous. I have not been to many of the recent famous ones but I will list some that I like.
      Aoba. This shop is in a pedestrian only mall in Nakano. Being in Tokyo, I think you can google some English speaking reviews and maps. They are famous for having introduced the double (meat and fish stock) soup.
      Jougen no Tsuki in Kamata. A shop with a masochistic passionate owner. She unveils unbelievable info like what her costs are on the wall!!!
      Sorry MG, there is no end to this topic so will leave it at this. Cheers and happy ramening in Japan! Taro

  24. Scott Gray says:

    Hi Taro,

    My brother Michael Gray just sent me the link to your site. I love tonkatsu too! In Sydney we have Ramen Kan in Chinatown and bondi junction. Both chefs do a slightly different stock and both are absolutely delicious. I went to a very authentic ramen bar in a food court in Chinatown but the tonkatsu was very thick (how you like it) and it was a bit too much for me. The chef was constantly stirring the pot with his long stick and the sound of the pork bones really set the atmosphere. I imagine you would feel that it is very authentic. If you come to Sydney we should try some local ramen.

    Scott Gray

    • Hi Scott, Thanks for visiting my site. I will say one thing, I am mad keen about ramen and within the limited opportunities I have had so far in Sydney, I have already tried Ton-Ton, Gumshara, Ryo-tei, Men-ya, Tokyo Ramen, Naniwa tei, Ramen-kan and even the ramen they serve at Crescent night club. Re, the thick one, you must be talking about Gumshara in the Chinatown Eating World food court. I have already been there! I don’t know whether authentic is the most applicable word to describe them though. They (the Japanese big brother Muteppou) became famous by defying the traditional norm of ramen making by going to the extreme in terms of using so much bones and producing the thickest broth possible. We can say that this passion, commitment and crazy zeal and seriousness about ramen making is very authentic and common within the purist Japanese ramenists. This is what you must have felt when you saw the Gumshara guy stirring his pot.
      I’ve also been to Ramen-kan a long time ago but recall that I was not too impressed. Sydney has so many ramen shops you are spoiled for choice!

  25. Mitani says:

    太郎さん、
     国際の三谷です。ご無沙汰しております。
    豪州でラーメン屋はじめたと風の噂で聞き、辿り着きました。
    そっちに仕事で行く機会はなさそう(中国中心なんで)ですが、
    同僚もいるので紹介しておきますー。
    死ぬまでには一度食べてみたいです。
    でわでわ。

  26. Michael Gray says:

    Taro – thanks for the suggestions. We had a fabulous holiday, the highlight of which was of course the food.

    We went to Tenkaippin in Kyoto as you advised. Absolutley Amazing! More a sauce than a soup… Sensational flavour and i think i can still feel than unctuous texture on my lips!

    In Tokyo we went to Menya Musashi near Shinjuku for what i think is probably a shoyu style ramen (although my Japanese is not great). The kids love the vending machine ordeering process…

    We also went to Marukin (?) in Ginza which was a classic tonkotsu style. Sensational.

    Too many other food higlights to mention! What an amazing country!

    thanks
    MG

  27. Ramenkia says:

    Hi Taro San, I wish you the very best in your restaurant opening. Me and my wife will visit you when we come to AU in the near future. Gambate!

  28. Kim says:

    I tried many ramen in Sydney, Gold Coast, Cairns or other cities and I believe Taro is the best ramen in Australia.
    By the way, how do you plan for opening hours in Christmas and New Year period?

  29. Martin B says:

    aye,

    I ate at your joint this evening and the soup was absolutely perfect. Such a great broth and the noodles perfectly chewy! Ahh was in heaven, will be coming in more frequently!

    THANKS!!

  30. Jo says:

    Hi Taro
    I am so happy to have a place like yours in Brisbane.

    I am tired of places that are impersonal and without any effort or heart in food and just cheapest options to make best profit and no thought of flavour and nutrition and art.

    My friends and I came tonight and and had your ramen and all agree it is excellent quality and we love all about the style of your restaurant. (even understated writing on the glass, adds to character :)

    Keep up the good work, I am inspired by your passion!

    • Jo,

      Thanks for your approval! You have taken the words out of my mouth.

      I too admire and respect any specialty cuisine shop around Brisbane. The time of trying to accommodate all vectors of the gastronimical chart has ended. It is time for the customers to choose the specialty shop of their choice, therefore restaurants to cook to their core audiences rather than trying to make everyone happy.

      Taro

  31. Richard, Rosa, Lachlan & Oliver says:

    Dear Akimoto san,

    We had the opportunity to visit Sydney again as part of taking the boys on a holiday and tried Menya in Haymarket. Whilst it was good and the style of broth was drier in taste with a hint of fish stock, we all agreed that Taro’s had a touch of finesse about how your stock is prepared. Even our eldest son said your soup stock was more subtle and polished in taste instead of the bold in your face style of Menya. You had unanimous vote again on a win in our ramen quest de excellence…! Need to find time to take the kids over for another fix again soon.

    • Richard, Rosa, Lachlan & Oliver ,
      Thank you so much for your very articulate compliments. Regardless of the occassional negative comment given by those who can only appreciate “bold in your face” flavours, it feels so worthwhile knowing that people with true sense of taste appreciate the actual natural great flavours of quality ingredients. I am hoping that even the MSG junkies will come to appreciate the goodness of my flavours after detoxing thru a couple visits and understand the clean after taste and not having the side effects (sleepiness, thirstiness, tingling sensation on the tongue, etc) of a bad MSG fix.
      Taro

  32. Steve says:

    Hey Taro, Your Ramen is phenomenal and I recommend it to everyone. We’re lucky to have a place like this in Brisbane,

    Best,

    Steve

  33. Helen says:

    Hi Taro san,
    We had our End of Financial Year Work Dinner at your cafe last week. I lived in Oitaken for a year but my colleagues have never really had Japanese food before so they wanted to try some. We had the Shabu Shabu. It was sensational. It was nearly as good as my obaachan’s… We loved it so much we will be back tomorrow for some Ramen. Tanoshimi!!!

  34. Daniel says:

    Ate lunch at Taro’s toady with my wife… 美味しいでした!

  35. Louise McCormack says:

    Hi there I’ve just returned from Tokyo and Kyoto where I had amazing tsukemen. The broth was thick and maybe had tomato in it? I wondered if you’ve got a recipe for it? Or can suggest anywhere in Brisbane where it’s available? I’m not that keen on the standard ramen broth. Many thanks, Louise.

    • Hi Louise, which shop did you go to? Tsukemen is a dish with a very wide variety (imagine if someone asked you they went to Italy and ate awesome linguine and asked you for the recipe) though tomato in tsukemen is pretty unusual and unique. The most Famous one daishouken uses a shoyu based soup with chilli and vinegar. Perhaps this combo made it taste like tomato?

  36. Calvin Chang says:

    You definitely know what you’re talking about

  37. Tim says:

    Hi Taro-san,
    Delighted to have found your blog. I was born in Yokohama and lived intermittently in Tokyo with a life long passion for “noodles” (such an inadequate term…..)
    I had the pleasure of eating at your restaurant last September during a trip from Canberra.
    My wife and I immediately decided that we will be returning a day earlier than usual next year – so that we can try out more of your amazing delicacies!
    It is a double pleasure, and a privilege, to eat great food, and food that has been conceived with such passion. Perhaps you will have another of your “specials” on the menu!
    We are in your debt.
    Tim

    • Tim san, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Delicious, safe, ethical. As much as i believe in what i do, not everyone will be pleased. It’s words like yours that keep me going!

  38. 高瀬(岩崎)桂子 says:

    はーい、太郎。
    同志社時代の高瀬(岩崎)桂子よ。思いだせる?
    あけましておめでとう!こちらは、日本の神戸で2014年をむかえたわ。以前、ラーメン屋をオーストラリアで開くってメールくれた時から3年くらい経ってるのかな?
    あなたの店らーめん道に関するブログやネット上の情報は面白く見てるよ。まさに太郎がこれまで歩んできた人生がかかってるなあ、太郎らしく自由でチャレンジングで私もはらはらドキドキしてるよ。
    また、仕事で道を究めるってスタンスは日本人太郎のidentityが懸ってるんちゃう?すばらしいと私は思うよ。ただそれが、オーストラリアのブリスベンって土壌にみとめられるのか否かはまだわからん感じがするよ。もしかしたら、今こだわってることを逆に捨てたほうがええかもしれへんで。

    返事を待ってるよ。

  39. Hi Weintraub Sensei!

    How are you. I had a drink with Asa at Utaka’s wedding last July.

    Yes we are open but i am not always at the shop so pls email me if you decide to come! ta0308 at yahoo dot co.jp

    Thanks, taro.

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