For Taro Akimoto, one door closes and another opens. When the celebrated ramen cook received news in April that his Edward Street shop would have to shut down due to renovations on its 288 Edward Street premises, he immediately set to work to find a replacement venue.
Ask Akimoto why he settled on the former digs of The Bent Elbow in Stones Corner and the first thing he mentions isn’t a business opportunity, but his employees.
“[We needed a] venue for my good staff to keep working with us,” he says. “[So] we looked at turnkey sites close to the city but not overlapping with our existing shops … I like Stones Corner. It feels like West End a few years ago – the rent is cheap and there are lots of aspiring multicultural entrepreneurs.
“[The premises] looked pretty good. The fit-out had been done with a lot of love … We started negotiating in early May and we moved in on the 29th, so it was a quick process.”
Akimoto has retained much of the previous fit-out, its exposed brick and wooden features giving it the feel of a cosy hideaway. In future, he plans on introducing tablet ordering and booth seating similar to his South Brisbane restaurant.
Still, it’s the ramen people flock for and Taro’s remains the Brisbane bowl by which all others are judged. Particularly Akimoto’s tonkotsu broth. It’s prepared with house-made noodles, Bangalow pork and organic eggs. Broths are carefully pressure-cooked and Akimoto continues to fine-tune his recipe.
“We’ve gone from oven-baking our pork to sous vide, to koji marinating and then sous vide, and now we’re doing koji marinating plus charring and sous vide,” he explains. “We never stop [evolving] in that regard.”
That happiness to innovate stretches to other parts of the business. In its final weeks, Akimoto ran his Edward Street outlet with an entirely vegan menu.
“We’re carrying that across to [Stones Corner],” he says. “South Brisbane already has the basic vegan ramen … and we’re bringing it to Queen Street. With Stones Corner we’ll be doing a few more vegan options such as cold noodles.”
Stones Corner is currently running BYO drinks – $3 per person for wine, no charge for beer – but expect Suntory Premium Malts and Orion on tap once a liquor licence comes through.
Taro’s Ramen Stones Corner
16 Old Cleveland Road, Stones Corner
Daily 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–9pm