There are many words that can't be directly translated from Japanese. “Senpai” is one of them, a term that exists in all facets of Japanese life, referring to someone who is a senior at your work or school – someone who you respect and honour.
For Chase Kojima, one of Australia’s most influential Japanese chefs – known for Sokyo in Pyrmont, Kiyomi on the Gold Coast and Simulation Senpai at Darling Square – the name of his omakase diner, Senpai Ramen, stems from his wish to be “like a mentor or older brother” to his staff and followers.
The 20-seat Chatswood restaurant is a one-of-a kind ramen destination, serving a seven-course omakase, which includes a bowl of ramen. With neon lights and loud music, this is no ordinary ramen shop.
Kojima’s aim is to make eating ramen a more upmarket experience. He says it’s often considered a quick and cheap option, with a typical seating of 15 to 20 minutes. Here, sessions run for 90 minutes.
Instead, Kojima and his team have created an array of snacks to build up your palate for the ramen. You might get sashimi, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), agemono (something fried) and grilled fish. There’s also an option to add a mini chirashi (scattered seafood) bowl served with Kojima’s signature egg sauce (or “liquid gold”).
There are five varieties of ramen for diners to choose from. The thick pork-based tonkotsu; the salt-based shio with a hint of yuzu; the soy-based shoyu with smoked duck; chilli miso butter; and the spicy black sesame-flavoured tonkotsu, tan tan. You can also add abalone with liver sauce for a richer flavour.
The petite space evokes the ramen diners of Japan. As well as tables for groups and couples, there are wooden booths for solo diners to knock back their meals