Taro's Ramen & Café, Brisbane

Author: Fiona Donnelly
Photography: Sophie Richards

Saying Taro Akimoto's devotion to the art of ramen borders on obsessive is something of an understatement. Sure, he eschews MSG and other shortcuts, makes his noodles in-house and uses only premium Bangalow pork for his tonkotsu broths, but it's a rare chef who weighs and cooks each organic egg separately, using a chart of his own devising to ensure creamy yolked perfection every time.

After four years in a low-key, unlikely spot on Brisbane's Adelaide Street, Akimoto is bringing Taro's Ramen to the lucky people of Ascot with his second venture, on Racecourse Road.

The digs are neat and simple, tables are topped with handmade wood slabs crafted by the chef-owner, and it's counter service only.

"I like to keep pretty tight control, so I don't think you'll be seeing me expand worldwide," Akimoto laughs. "I like to keep a close eye and take control of things physically."

To be a little more eco-friendly, he recently swapped over from traditional cooking methods, and is now using a pressure cooker to make the tonkotsu, an approach he says is becoming popular with more progressive ramen shops. His broths now take five hours rather than 50 to prepare, and gas bills are down, but it hasn't turned out to be much of a time-saver in practice.

"There's a noticeable difference in results. I always aim for a particular density in the soup. With the traditional two-day cooking method you get about 10 per cent dissolved matter. With the pressure cooker - it's about 20 per cent and a more flavoursome soup."

The traditional method creates a broth that remains creamy for a long time, while the pressure cooker results tend to separate when held at 90C.

"It took a lot of work to get the results consistent."

With the new method, for service Akimoto brings each order to temperature, then uses a stick blender to emulsify the soup.

"There's more effort in the preparation… because while some use soy lecithin and gums to stabilise, I prefer to stay natural and premium."

Irrashaimase, indeed.

Taro's Ramen Ascot, 1/145 Racecourse Rd, Ascot, Qld, (07) 3868 2833, and 363 Adelaide St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3832 6358. 

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