Salarymen, tradies, yuppies, weebs, influencers, couples, singles, boomers, zoomers, millennials and kids too young to hold chopsticks. They were all in line for Ramen Auru last night. Not since Caterpillar Club lit up the CBD in December has this Broadsheet editor seen a grand-opening snake that long. By the same token, I haven’t seen anything like Auru in Sydney before. In Tokyo? Definitely.

Hatena Group’s new ramen hall is little more than a tatami square with low tables, and a smattering of seats around the open kitchen where the chefs holler “irasshaimase!” [welcome] every time a new diner enters. Fluorescent lights bathe the space in harsh white light. There are Kleenex boxes and little owl-shaped toothpick holders at each setting. It’s like a time capsule from ’80s Tokyo.

It’s a beige masterpiece.

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That’s because Hatena's Chris Wu, Tin Jung Shea and Mitomo Somehara are less about Tiktok-baiting gimmicks and very much in the business of seeing how Japanese they can make their venues feel. If you’ve been to highball heaven at Nakano Darling or scoffed a plate of skewers at Yurippi, you’ll know just what I mean.

“We never wanted to go for that classy modern look. I don’t think that really suits us anyway,” says Somehara.

Here’s what it takes to be this beige.

Wu put a call-out on Instagram last year, looking for someone to build an old-school Japanese ticket vending machine (or shokken) from scratch, such was the eye-watering cost of importing one from Japan. Shokken are iconic in Japanese eateries – designed for maximum ordering efficiency and to eliminate confusion between the customer and the kitchen. Carl Joisce and the team at Sydney’s Contour Engineering heeded the call and magicked one using 3D printed parts.

Auru’s TVM-1 ticket machine is the only one of its kind in Australia, and your first port of call at the restaurant. Punch in your order (clack, clack!) and the machine spits out a ticket for each menu item, which you present to the server at the counter and pay in cash.

But what to order? Your three ramen options are yuzu-shio with chicken; a seafood soup with prawns; and a classic pork tonkotsu that you can customise (noodle firmness, soup thickness and back-fat ratio) to taste. Soon, there’ll be seasonal specials. Familiar sides include gyoza, salted karaage and kimchi. Less familiar is the Chinese-influenced sauteed liver and chives, a classic Japanese dish that slaps hardest with rice.

Auru is the second level to open at Hatena Group’s new multi-storey Japanese venue on Falcon Street. The group reopened its yakitori den Yurippi on the ground floor of the building earlier this month. In a few weeks, sports bar Ichiro’s will take the top floor.

Wu says once all three levels are open, the plan is to keep Auru open for late-night trade. (Auru is the Japanese-English pronunciation of “owl”.)

“There aren’t many ramen shops in Sydney open past 9pm. Our ideal experience is that you come to Yurippi for some skewers, maybe head up to Ichiro’s for drinks and then finish your night with some ramen. That’s kind of how they do it in Japan.”

Even with two levels open, the concept already suspends disbelief. Here’s a DM from Broadsheet photographer Chad Konik to my Instagram last night: “Legit thought you were in Japan for a second.”

Ramen Auru
Second Floor
6-8 Falcon St, Crows Nest

Hours:
Wed to Sun: 7pm–11pm

@ramenauru