I love ramen. Suki. Daisuki desu. There’s no other way of putting it. I love shoyu ramen (soy sauce based), shio ramen (salt based), and can do with a tonkatsu ramen (pork bone based) when I’m in the mood for something thick and heavy.
Travelling to Japan fairly often has given me the opportunity to try ramen in all sorts of places whether they are little joints, late night chains, a stall in a mega department store when they’re having a special food festival, or one off shops that are famous for their particular ramen. There are also a fair few places that sell ramen here in Australia, and in the Gold Coast there are quite a few that prepare reasonable bowls of ramen.
In Brisbane however, there aren’t that many places that you can find a decent bowl of ramen. So when I heard of Taro’s I wanted to give it a go.
Taro’s most well known ramen is their tonkatsu ramen, which they make from pork bones from Bangalow (Bangalow, if you didn’t know, is pretty famous for pork in Australia). Their char siu is also made from Bangalow pork onsite. All their noodles are handmade by Taro himself, using Australian ingredients and made with a special machine he imported from Japan. Their soup stock is simmered for two days to ensure that it is very rich in pork flavour, as you would expect from a good bowl of tonkatsu ramen in any respectable shop in Japan.
One windy day I decided that ramen would be perfect for lunch and wandered up the road to Taro’s. It’s a very unassuming little shop that sits at the bottom of an office building and the only thing that gives it away is the very distinctive Japanese style writing that adorns the glass windows of the cafe. I ordered a tonkatsu ramen because I was very hungry. I was a little concerned that the soup base would be very fatty, as tonkatsu stock can be, but I had to try it to find out right?
When my ramen came out I could smell was the rich soup which wafted over in the wind. It looked very enticing, the soup very cloudy, topped with fresh shallots, some pickles, a little strip of seaweed, and a pretty sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. Oh and it came with half egg. I was a little disappointed that the ramen only came with one slice of char siu (I was hungry remember?). However with one taste I was hooked. The soup was surprisingly light for a tonkatsu base, but very very rich in flavour. It didn’t leave a heavy, fatty aftertaste and had the right amount of saltiness. The pork taste was delicious and the ramen noodles were lovely and chewy, just the way I like it. The cha siu was the way I expected it to be – not too much fat in the roll but still very moist and flavoursome. I do wish the ramen came with two slices of char siu though. If you in any way like boiled eggs, you would have loved this one. It was perfectly cooked so it was half gooey on the inside, and was slightly sweet from their soy sauce marinade.
Taro’s shio ramen is much lighter than the tonkatsu ramen – probably more my usual style. With its golden triple soup (a combination of vegetable, chicken, and seafood stock) and fried shallots and seseme seeds, it was a lovely soup. The pork is simply salted, and of course, my favourite egg was included. The curly noodles were nice and chewy, and I drank pretty much all of the soup and had to roll myself out of there. Memories of Hokkaido came back to me.
I have also tried their tsukemen which I asked for as take away as I was in a rush. dipping soup was carefully packed in a disposable coffee cup and wrapped with cling wrap for extra security (thanks Taro!). The soup base consisted of their triple soup, but it also had scallop oil. The noodles were curly and firm, as there was no soup there to cook it a bit further, and the soup was delicious with its roasted sesame seeds and bonito and soy sauce flavour. Again, the egg was perfectly cooked and slightly gooey on the inside. I swished my curly ramen in the soup to pick up the flavours and was hanging out to slurp my noodles as you do with ramen. But I didn’t.
A few other things to try at Taro’s include their chicken kaarage – the chicken is marinated before its coated and fried, so the flavour is a bit more complex then just ‘fried chicken’. Perfect with Japanese mayonnaise. Taro’s sushi rolls are pretty nice too – simple, however they have a home made flavour to it. However on my last visit, Taro advised that he no longer makes sushi rolls as he didn’t sell enough of them 😦 I was so sad…
Taro’s has become a favourite place of mine in Brisbane when I want to be reminded of Japan. The service is friendly, which is typical of Japanese hospitality. They even provide little blankets you can use if you’re feeling a little chilly – a very Japanese touch. And if you pop in a bit early, you might see Taro out the front of the cafe doing some stretches before he get serious for the lunch rush. How Brisbane is that??
Taro’s Ramen Cafe
363 Adelaide Street