QLD’s best produce: The Coral Trout

October 31, 2020

Super generous staff C’s husband went fishing and they gave me a fresh whole coral trout!! Look at this beauty!

I have to say, it is one of my favorite reef fish. And I think it’s one of QLD’s tastiest produce.

In my opinion, bottom reef fish generally have really great tasting white flesh but coral trout is the champion with such an elegant taste with gentle fat and firm texture.

Somehow, filleting fish has become a soothing activity for me recently. Japanese people generally and me especially enjoy the whole fish and leave nothing to waste.

I had the fish in 6 ways.

Thinly cut sashimi “usudukuri”, skin off and skin on “yubiki” (frosted with hot water and chilled). I also cleaned and boiled the stomach “ibukuro” and cut into thin pieces and ate along with the sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi. Chewy and yummy.

My filleting is not great but no fret. Frame, head, steamed chinese style. Lightly starch dusted fish steamed and topped with with fresh ginger and shallots, sweet soy sauce, hot oil poured on top for final aroma. This is my favorite style to enjoy this fish. I also enjoy the cheek and eye meat.

By the way, “China Sea” at Milton does this style of dish, “Steamed Coral Trout with Ginger and Shallots”, particularly well if you don’t have a fisherman friend or the passion to cook it up yourself. They don’t use off cuts they use fillets.

Fillet pieces lightly dusted and deep fried, “karaage”.

Finally another part of the fillet was preserved “kobujime” or cured with kelp and enjoyed at another date. Don’t have pictures. But the kelp umami transfers to the fish and also the fish aging and dehydrating makes the flavours richer. Really nice with sake.

The Fish Factory at Morningside sometimes has line caught ikejime coral trout which is also very fresh too.

C-san, gochisosama deshita!!

22 Agnes Pop Up Bakery

April 22, 2020

Been following Chef Ben Williamson’s next move and the timing could not be worse for his project getting off amidst the Corona Virus pandemic.

the bar area seating inside

I too was working like an overloaded wheelbarrow on a winding road. From a restaurant to take away / delivery plus an online shopping platform plus kitchen packing factory and logistics depot for our DIY ramen homepacks.

bar counter / impromptu service counter freshly sanitized after each customer

I was finally able to take a breath and head over to check out Agnes this morning.

Bar and bottles available for sale

Got there just before 8:00 and there was a queue of eager customers politely keeping their social distance. The anticipation grows as i see exiting customers smiling and carrying their precious baked goods.

the menu the basque cheese cake seems to be the most popular and was sold out at around 8:30 am

Inside, two parties are shown to the bar counter and order with passionate staff that are happy to fill my curiosity.

Here’s what we purchased.

  • Fermented Pumpkin Pork and Fennel Pizza = Stinky good!
  • Kouign Amann. Custard and Almond = kept for my afternoon delight.
  • Malted Sourdough = Slightly burnt bitterness of the crust complimenting the sweet and sour pillowy inside.
  • Seven Cluster Rolls = Rich and the right balance of chewy and soft.
  • Smoked butter = pretty strong! reminiscent of wood vinegar, potent and a taste that you get hooked to.
  • Pork Rillet = Smooth, can’t think of any other way to describe it but like tuna and mayo.
  • Pork Lonza = Sliced heaven.

Warmed up the pizza and the bread and we had a blissful breakfast. Obviously the bread was superb but the pork lonza was divine!! Just amazed at the skill of the team perfecting even a very specialized craft like dry curing..

Corona Related Changes

March 18, 2020

Dear Customers, we would like to express our whole hearted thanks for supporting us through these tough times. I know for a fact how fortunate we are with a steady amount of trade due to our regular customer’s faith and generosity.

The situation is getting tougher and tougher but we are committed in continuing to serve ramen because that’s all we know how to do well to give Brisbane a bit of happiness in these grim times.

Today I was in the Stones Corner kitchen experimenting some new recipes to try to create an Immunity Booster Ramen. It’s not perfect yet but please stay tuned!

Also, mainly from this week we started implementing a few measures so we can have you guys safely enjoy our ramen.

  • Reducing and distancing tables at all shops for social distancing.
  • Back dating all staff travel history so all currently rostered staff are well beyond the 14 days incubation period.
  • Stopping self service chopsticks, water and condiments (now via iPad or counter orders).
  • Placing sanitizers at all tables and toilets. Sanitizing tables and seats after each customer turnover.
  • Open windows and doors for airflow and minimal surface contact.
  • All staff to wear single use gloves for money handling and dirty dishes.
  • Considering takeaway ordering options.

It’s a bit of change and a small concern regarding the lack of tables, as it may potentially create a bit of delay on a busy day but we would rather stick to this and keep you and our staff safe than cramming customers in for a profit. Right now it’s about making sure we look after our hard core customers and keeping our staff safe and employed.

Let’s continue to do what we can to help each other in the community, look out for our elderly friends, wash our hands and keep Brisbane safe and happy.

Thank you again!

Taro Akimoto

Taro’s Ramen Ascot awarded Premium Malts Quality Master

February 26, 2020

アスコット店がサントリー様にプレモルQuality Master認定されました。南半球で6店目だそうです。嬉しいです!!密かにご来店いただき覆面調査していただいていたという事で地道な努力が報われた瞬間です。

5 years ago, I met Suntory Draft Meister Ohno san and blogged about my excitement in this post.

Who Is Ohno san the Draft Meister? https://mobile.suntory.co.jp/beer/pre-mal/kamiawa/draftadviser/

Ohno san taught me that Suntory Premium Malts is a beautiful beer, enjoyable in the can or bottle, but “extraordinary” out of the keg by pouring it right and adding the divine cappuccino head. It is the duty of each restaurant or bar to bring this new style of excitement to the customer, one that can’t be achieved at home. But this can only achieved when done right. I was excited to be able to take part of this Suntory Premium Malts movement and at the same time, felt a sense of responsibility in not letting the brand down.

Just a couple weeks ago, I got a call from Suntory. They have decided to recognize us as Suntory Premium Malts Quality Master. Ohno san’s protege, Trurumoto san visited us today at Ascot and presented me with the certificate.

Apparently, they have been following us regularly and checking on the quality of our beer under cover. Taro’s Ramen – Ascot actually becomes the 6th shop in the Southern Hemisphere to be recognized with this certificate. And it’s not just the honor, they also presented us with a special tap spout only available for Quality Master shops. The creamy head nozzle pinhole is an extra 0.2mm thinner so the trademark creamy head becomes even creamier. They only give out these tap spouts to the Quality Master shops due to concerns of mishandling including unsanitary cleaning which might lead to clogging of the tiny pinhole spout.

I am overwhelmed with the quality control regime of Suntory to actually do the field work even in a remote market like Australia and to have been recognized as a proper Suntory PM dealer.

After talking with Tsurumoto san, I felt a lot in common. They have the passion of a small batch producer and are producing a distinctly delicious beer experience but are supplying the public at an amazing price point. We are not at all comparable in size but my philosophy with ramen is essentially the same. There’s a bit of pride, certainly passion and my own satisfaction and enjoyment, and the humble nature of the craftsman thinking that we can still do better and in this feeling of being in the middle of our pursuit, we don’t falsely believe or boast to others that we have reached our goal. We are genuinely doing it to make ourselves and our customers happy and it’s not about gold plated marketing or up-selling to make a short term profit. I am proud and grateful to be able to handle a like minded brand as our favorite beer.

Pipit @ Pottsville NSW

December 16, 2019

I had the pleasure of visiting Ben Devlin’s Pipit, 2020 Good Food Guide’s Regional Restaurant of the Year.

I had been asking Ben for advice and he has been an inspiration from my very early days.

After numerous head/executive chef stints in top restaurants (including my favorite Esquire), Ben is back in his home area in the Northern Rivers area to open his own restaurant.  There he is experimenting as ever, with ways to eat healthily and deliciously whilst keeping our conscience healthy as well.  The menu is sourced entirely local, mainly organic, with minimal red meats.

The starters were all amazing!! The baby vegetables from local organic farm matched with a smoked almond paste and green garlic oil.  It’s such a privileged feeling to enjoy the delicate young life of these produce and just the tender sweetness and minimal bitterness coming out.  The bottarga canapé with Davidson plum. Obviously cream and roe, touch of sweetness, tartness, can’t go wrong! The pickle roll with mustard leaf emulsion, intentionally swaying away from any richness, keeping to sourness and bitterness, I thought was a great way to stimulize the taste buds for the courses to come. The sourdough bread with cultured cream and macadamia butter was also great.

The first course, roasted koralbi dish. I was smiling. The roasted tender koralbi pieces are soaked in stock and the contrast of the crunchy radish. The richness of the nut butter adding another decadent layer. I would never have expected it but this plant based dish was my favorite dish.

The awesome tuna carpaccio follows.  It is good quality albacore treated well with a salt cure but the combo of the tomatoes, the sour tomato plus the smoked cherry being bonded by the pea mash. The produce quality and treatment of the tomatoes was shining through.

The parsnip noodles with albacore mince. Beautiful presentation and a creative mix of flavours.

The bay lobster tartare. A local business has just recently succeeded in farming Moreton Bay Bugs and are marketing it as bay lobsters. Just beautiful. I tried cooking raw or lightly blanched bugs myself but I gave up on them because the flesh does not form a nice fillet or even a decent sized morsel to treat as sashimi so I gave up but Ben’s tartare was a great idea to showcase the delicate raw flavours in a beautiful way. The combination of flavours was awesome too using the mustard leaf emulsion to put an edge to it.

The sugar loaf cabbage with spanner crab. What a presentation. A mound of snow, creative use of shaved macadamia. A combination of exciting white coloured elements on the dish. The brown butter sauce was rich and amazing and wanted more!

The grouper was done expertly with the skin being super crunchy and flesh being perfectly done. Matched nicely with shaved squash. The grouper, and all bottom swimming fish, are great eating fish, clean, strong umami and pleasant amount of fat. The accompaniments were in their place not interfering with the star.

Some rock melon with finger lime as a palate cleanser.

The sapote dessert, the caramelized banana crisp was tasty, the coconut crisp was good, the sapote is an interesting exotic fruit with chocolate resembling characters.

The honey dessert, the ice cream was nice, and the merengue crispiness, the texture of it retaining crispiness while soaking up the honey almond milk underneath was great.

The menu. For the Saturday lunch session, you can either go prefixed or alacarte. I think it would be best if you confirm the content of the prefix or go alacarte to make sure you want to try what you see on the menu.  If I could, I would have wanted to slip in the swordfish, the duck and the alpine style raw cheese dessert with pickled carrot!

I took away a lot of inspiration and was again stimulated with Ben’s passion and creativity. The potential of a brand new category, reduced meat gourmet plant emphasis eating in the making!

Thank you for having us and thanks for your gift!

Restaurant Dan Arnold @ Fortitude Valley

December 12, 2019

Sometimes you just don’t want to instantly share your experience on Instagram or Facebook. The impact and feeling you get makes you think it deserves much better than a few photos and hashtags.

That’s exactly how I feel about RDA. I was able to sneak out on a date with my better half on a Saturday night. The place was recommended to me by my dentist (By the way, If you need a recommendation on the best dental prosthodontist in town, Please message me).

RDA got recognized by the critics this year and is deservedly on the rise in popularity. I hope people don’t go because some critics say it’s good but actually recognize themselves the quality of the cooking that goes into each single component of the dish.

Let’s talk vegetables. Say in the menu of a good alacarte restaurant, the proteins position themselves in the pole position with lavish description, whilst the vegetables are simply clumped together as “Side Dishes” and are priced reasonably, think your $8 offering of stuff like chargrilled broccolini with evoo, or a morrocan spiced legume salad. I do look forward to these healthier side kicks and order them frequently. At these good diners, I would expect a good quality produce done simply with good technique and with a bit of twist to your usual steamed veggies.

At RDA, it is all set course menu and no alacarte, and the vegetables are incorporated with the mains. They are not offered in a heaped serving but are given a varied and precise treatment full of intent. Of course the protein components are flawless but I was just blown away with the vegetables…

We started off with an amuse bouche of cured salmon and another type of canapé style crisps. Sorry no picture.

The finger food starter course continues with cucumber cigars, cheese croquettes, beet root ravioli and cauliflour mousse.

The first course is lamb. The choice of vegetables are so lively reflective of the season, broad beans, asparagus, grains, each cooked to its best texture (or maybe Dan and I have similar tastes) the asparagus slightly blanched but broad beans almost raw to keep the crunchiness. All brought together with an onion mousse.

The second course was a Wagyu rib cut. The accompanying mushroom was multi layered, some with a touch of vinegar and some with rich buttery confitness. The potato tartlet was divine… the perfect doneness of the potato just in between the crunchy raw texture to when it’s just starting to become starchy.

The house made bread, the light citrus butter went perfect with the molasses bread but personally I like sourdough with a more savory style spread.

I forgot the desert picture, It was a mango passionfruit dish paired with goats cheese. Great balance with rich and refreshing. Some petit fours to finish.

A shot with the master mind himself!

It was an extraordinary experience and an inspiring evening…

We opted for the least expensive lamb/beef three course for $80 but as you can see with all the added complimentary courses, it’s truly an experience. I am wanting to come back for the seafood/duck based 5 course. There was an alluring mention about yolk which is stuck in my mind.

La Cache A Vin @ Wharf St

October 13, 2019

Back in the days, I visited Montrachet on Caxton St. a few times. My last visit was 6 years ago.


That day and most other day and nights, Thierry Galichet was almost always there to converse with us and we always had a wonderful time. Fast forward to 2019, Montrachet is now closed at its original location but Thierry’s personal presence at his new La Cache A Vin is unchanged making sure the food and wine is authentic and top quality.

I visited the other day and was greeted by J (long term regular customer of Taro’s Ramen) and Thierry himself. The decor is reminiscent of classic comfortable bistro style just like Montrachet.

We had the following beautiful dishes.


Lobster Omelette

Steak Tartare 

Foie gras

And some Steak with Frittes for mains and of course wine! It was a wonderful truly delicious memorable experience. Thank you Thierry and team.

Hakushika Sake Tasting Event Oct 2019

October 11, 2019

We had Saki from Hakushika come into offer insight on their sake, paired with ramen components.  This is what we tried.

Fresh and Light × Edamame

Sake type: Junmai Namachozo

■Junmai × Menma (Bamboo Shoots)

Sake type: Junmai

■Junmai Ginjo × Ohitashi (Pak Choy with Dried Bonito)

Sake type: Junmai Ginjo

■Snow Beauty × Mozuku (Seaweed & Tomato Salad)

Sake type: Nigori

■Goka Sennneju × Nitamago (Seasoned Egg)

Sake type: Junmai Daiginjo

■Chokara (Chilled & Hot) × Charsiu (Pork & Chicken)

Sake type: Junmai (dry)

■Hanakohaku Umeshu × Noodle Chips

Sake type: Plum sake (Junmai Ginjo with natural ume extract )

■Today’s Special Sake

Sake type: Seasonal Hiyaoroshi Junmai

Results: We had participants choose their favourites.  Here is the result.

No. 1 Goka Sennenju Junmai Dai-Ginjo

No. 2 Junmai Ginjo

No. 3 Hanakohaku Ume Sake

I will have these top three on the menu at Stones Corner for a limited time.

Here are some shots from the night.

Bula Vinaka Cafe @ Red Hill Bowls Club

July 28, 2019

We planned a family bike ride to have Sunday brunch at Bula Vinaka Cafe. They are located conveniently along the bike path at Red Hill Bowls Club.

I can’t help but feel connected to James and Shika’s story. They were actually teaching our children at our school and followed their passion to open a food business.

Although the cafe blends in completely with the Red Hill surrounding, serving Campos coffee at a picturesque bowls club the food menu oozes with Shika’s passion and Fijian roots.

Breaky Wrap with spices mixed into the egg and with a touch of homemade mango chutney.

Spicy Spinach Pakoras. Tamarind sauce.

Noodle Cakes with Chickpea Salad and the amazing house relish.

Açai Bowl. Helena Smoothie, Power Breakfast Smoothie. Nutella Pancakes.

Home made Cacao Bliss Ball, Lemon Lime Bliss Ball (from their own lime tree) and a Fijian Coconut Sweet Slice.

I initially went because they were my kids teachers and wasn’t expecting much. But as I ate through menu, I was taken aback with the presentation, the amount of homemade-ness and the balance between exotic and local. I really really hope establishments like Bula Vinaka to thrive because they deserve it. Considering the amount of passion and care and hardworking that goes in, it can not be replicated by anyone else in the world and it is truly special and a unique thing that they have created.

Bangalow Sweet Pork Site Visit

April 12, 2019

I can not emphasize the importance of good produce and shout out to the producers that provide us with our top quality produce.

Bangalow Sweet Pork

It’s been a while since my last visit to Bangalow Sweet Pork (link for my previous blog post) so I drove down to the Northern Rivers to pay them a visit.

Founder, the late Joe Byrne told me his motto was “Old Fashioned, the way pork should taste”.  Since then, new owner Damien Dougherty has taken over in 2011 and has been following Joe’s strict quality control regime.  We have been blessed with a wonderful partnership with them and exclusively supplied pork bones for our soup and collarbutt for our charsiu.  And that has been arguably the one of the most important fortune that Taro’s Ramen has had.

Whilst Bangalow Sweet Pork has established a reputation for their succulent pork, their sustainable farming practices and Damien’s philosophy is not given enough credit.  They use the Eco Shelter system to establish a hygienic and comfortable environment for the pigs whilst keeping a controlled waste management process to minimize the environmental footprint.  Their solar energy generation capacity has made them self sufficient for daytime electricity requirements and Damien’s vision is to achieve a carbon neutral business in the future.  With his innovative ideas of harnessing emerging technologies such as biomass generation I think he is not too far off.

My site visit is summarized in this Taro’s Bangalow Sweet Pork Site Visit Youtube (video clip). 

Thank you so much Damien!