For a culturally ‘mish mash’ dish, ramen is unrivalled in its ability to gain fans. Talk ramen and its converts will espouse the beauty of their favourite bowl, not to mention their preferred ramen house.
Among its lovers is former Japanese professional rugby player Hiroshi Takeyama, whose dream of opening a ramen restaurant in his wife’s homeland came true in November 2019. Teaming up with Chef Noriyuki Sato, Hiroshi and his wife Sarah have brought the flavours of backstreet Tokyo to the Gold Coast with the opening of Goukai Ramen in Burleigh Heads beneath Ambience.
“When people love ramen, they really love it,” Hiroshi tells us, explaining that as ramen is ‘having a moment’ in Australia it was a great time to capitalise on that interest by opening their restaurant.
The Goukai team have transformed the moody space (formerly filled by Bondi Grille) with splashes of Japanese pop culture. Their signature trademark bowl stands out on the wall, while kewpie dolls share a display cabinet with other collectables, the chefs on display in open kitchen hard at work over steaming pots.
Post-lockdown, Goukai has reappeared, refreshed with a new coat of paint, Hiroshi and Sarah now sole owners of the restaurant.
Goukai Ramen specializes in authentic Japanese Ramen noodles, offering seven different varieties priced at $15 – $16, adding extra pork, noodles, bamboo shoots etc at an extra cost. They’re all available as takeaway or dine in at the licensed venue accompanied by a variety of Japanese beers, sake, whisky and cocktails.
“There are two things that make our ramen stand out,” Hiroshi says. “Firstly, we want our broth to be really authentic, just like it would be in Tokyo.”
Based on a traditional tonkatsu broth, Goukai’s bowls are built from there with additions of black garlic, spices, miso and extra meat. We try the miso ramen bowl with its rich creamy broth and find it delicious. There’s even a kid sized ramen offered for $9.
The signature dish combines prawn, pork and chicken adding extra flavour for ramen diehards.
“Another difference is that you’ll find our pork belly cha-shu is sliced thickly. It’s really tender, flamed to finish in aburi style so that you get a smoky flavour.”
The menu too has benefitted from time out. It’s not all for meat lovers, with lots of great veg options, such as a bright vegetable laden thick and creamy ‘veggie’ ramen and a couple of vegan options added.
Also on the menu are pork or vegetable gyoza ($9), now made entirely in house to Hiroshi’s mum’s recipe.
Other new dishes include Maze soba, a thickly sauced bowl of soba with toppings to mix in together, adding to the existing braised pork chashu, karaage chicken or vegan donburi bowls, and Karaage Chicken NanBan with a house tartare sauce, an enticing alternative to a plate of house-made karaage, tender and juicy to the bite.
“And what does the restaurant’s name mean?” I ask.
“Goukai means ‘dynamic Australia’,” Hiroshi says.
All the more dynamic after a bowl of ramen!
3/1837 Gold Coast Highway Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 2104 8303
Open: Wed – Mon 11.30am – 3pm & 5.30pm – 9pm Closed Tues
NOTE: This is an updated review first published in 2019. GFGC was a guest of Goukai Ramen.