Ramen has undeniably made its mark on the Australian culinary scene over the past decade, with new stores and franchises regularly emerging across the country. Eric Chan, chef and owner of Kazando Ramen, which recently opened in the heart of Sydney's entertainment district, says he wanted to provide an experience that was truly “distinctive” from the many ramen establishments we are already spoilt with.
In the Event Cinemas complex on George Street, Kazando offers a variety of spicy dishes, including its signature gekikara, or super spicy, ramen.
The gekikara ramen comes in three levels of spiciness, ranging from the mildest, ichi-kara, to medium-spicy, ni-kara, and the ultra-hot oni-kara. Oni is a demonic character in Japanese folklore, symbolising the fieriness of the soup. If the ramen alone doesn’t satiate your appetite or fulfil your spicy desires, other dishes such as spicy karaage, spicy gyoza and spicy edamame will amplify your experience. To finish, indulge in the irresistible chilli-salt sundae.
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“I’m a quirky person, so is our menu,” Chan tells Broadsheet. “I wanted to create a store that people will remember and would want to visit once in a while – how a ramen shop should be.”
While the concept may be daring in the current competitive market, Hong Kong-born Chan is no stranger to the industry. He has been sharing Japanese cuisine with the Australian community for more than two decades, from humble beginnings at Sushi Train in the early noughties, to starting his ramen franchise Ramen Kan, and opening numerous izakaya, sushi restaurants and Japanese bistros.
Getting here wasn’t easy for Chan, says Miki Chan, Chan’s wife. Landing a job in the Japanese hospitality industry was difficult without Japanese heritage or fluency in the language, “but his desire to work in the industry was so strong,” [she] tells Broadsheet.
After living in Japan for four years, Chan was heavily influenced by its cuisine and dining industry. It was a matter of getting his foot into it. “Not many people know, but he took on a tour guiding job just to polish his Japanese language,” Miki says.
While there was always a handful of people who were quick to criticise Chan as “inauthentic” due to his heritage, those criticisms have motivated him to evolve and improve continuously. Having succeeded in many ventures and earned the respect of the close-knit Japanese hospitality industry, Chan is now at the stage where he wants to focus on one thing: ramen.
“Ramen Kan was his very first independent venture. He is going back to his roots,” says Miki.
The seasoned chef hasn’t forgotten about those who aren’t particularly fond of spice. Yuzu truffle ramen is just as popular as the signature gekikara, and Kazando has also continued Chan’s famous tonkatsu from his restaurant Chidori Japanese Bistro in Crows Nest, which closed in 2021.
Kazando draws inspiration from Japan’s cosy ramen bars to make the most of its compact space. Its walls are adorned with retro Japanese cinematic posters, and there are plenty of counter seats for solo diners, as well as tables for groups.
Cinema Complex, Shop G4A/505 George Street, Sydney
Sun to Thu midday–9pm
Fri & Sat midday–9.30pm