With great excitement, we saw on pamphlets in the original Runcorn store that Genkotsu Ramen would have another branch in Upper Mount Gravatt. The Runcorn store is often packed, being quite the hole-in-the-wall space, and having another option not too far away was an appealing idea.
Located in the Village Shopping Centre, along with Coles, and not too far away from Westfield Garden City, it is easy enough to find along the row of shops. While the signage doesn’t jump out at you (it’s not their style), it is easy enough to find if you keep your eyes open. Another plus to them being at the compex is that there is plenty of parking, and you don’t have to play musical chairs with car spaces, unlike at the Runcorn location.
The Genkotsu Ramen store in Upper Mount Gravatt has a similar largely wooden interior, with a rustic feel. You duck under red noren (Japanese curtains) as you pass through the entrance, white characters printed on red announcing “Ramen” in Japanese characters. We learned to recognise these well on our trips through Japan.. At the other end of the store, across from where you enter, is the service counter, hut-like in appearance, with faux roof, and with wooden slats on the wall beside it.
The menu, with pictures, is displayed above the service window. This has the same offerings as at the other stores, original tonkotsu ramen with one of four bases (shio, shoyu, miso, or gyokai), more tonkotsu ramen with other additions, such as black garlic, or the spicy karamen, again on one of those four bases. There are also other special ramen options, like vegetarian ramen, and soft shell crab ramen. They also offer sides, like gyoza and chicken karage.
You order and pay at the counter, and are then given a number and holder to take back to the table. Note that they are cash only. As mentioned, there is more room at this store than at Runcorn, and the seating here works better than both the Runcorn and Toowong stores, which have small benches as seats, which are slightly awkward in height, and require you to have an agreed seating distance from the table with the person beside you, as they are paired seats. Here, they are more conventional black metal stools with wooden seats. The wood-topped tables will fit up to four, but prepare for that to be quite cramped with bowls, utensils, and cups of water.. There are also counter seats along one of the walls and near the service counter, more in keeping with what ramen shops in Japan do, catering for the solo salarymen diners.
To the side of the service counter are chopsticks, spoons, condiments, and tissue that you help yourself to as you require. There is also a large ceramic water dispenser to get water from, and a stack of disposable cups for you to ferry the water with.
The decor is quite simple, with cherry red walls divided by dark wood strips, making a shoji screen-like pattern. A couple of large red lanterns hang from the wall, providing both a source of light, and thematic decoration. If you have an eagle eye, you might also spot Totoro hiding.. Japanese pop music played in the background, but patron voices masked it most of the time. It was air conditioned to a comfortable temperature. A hot environment doesn’t really suit the eating of a rich ramen.
We didn’t have to wait too long before our bowls of ramen were brought to the table. Between us, we had a tonkatsu ramen on a gyokai base, one on a shio base, and one on a miso base.
We often get the miso, shio, and shoyu tonkotsu ramens at the other branches. The broths are rich and creamy, with different notes, shiyo a cleaner saltier flavour, shoyu a rounder flavour, and miso an umami finish. It’s a little hard to explain, and one really just has to sample them for the comparison. These ramen bowls come with slightly different toppings, to complement their bases.
The miso tonkotsu ramen comes with bamboo shoots, sweetcorn, spring onions, and half an onsen egg, in addition to the char siu slices and noodles.
The shio tonkotsu ramen has similar, but without the sweetcorn.
The gyokai base was something we had not tried before, being wary that it might be too fishy. There is an opportunity cost involved when you order something new instead of just having what you know is good..but then you miss the chance to discover something even more delicious. This turned out to be a worthwhile risk. The gyokai tonkotsu ramen is topped with bamboo shoots, spring onions, an onsen egg, and bonito shavings. There is a deeper seafood note to the broth from the fish stock, adding plenty of umami flavour. Those after a ramen with strong flavours will find this satisfying.
The pork slices were tender and supple, just the right thickness at about 2mm each. The onsen egg halves were well-cooked, with yolks that were golden and gel-like in the centre. All of the bowls of ramen had thin noodles, with just enough springy chew. They held the broth well. You can also get a free full or half serve of extra noodles (kaedama) with each order of ramen to make the most use of any broth you might have left over.
Despite it being a counter service eatery, waitstaff were polite each time we went (we were there a couple of times in just the first week of it opening), and were profusely apologetic and quick to fix it when the smallest things were off, for instance, there not being enough water in the ceramic jar. Their enthusiastic greeting of “Irasshaimase” as new customers enter the store is also a great welcome, and makes the experience feel more authentic.
Genkotsu Ramen is one of the consistently good ramen places in Brisbane, and the new store in Upper Mount Gravatt certainly continues to deliver deliciousness. We would recommend this as a place to get your ramen fix, and if you get in in these early days, you might be able to get your food without too much of a line up..at least until everyone else discovers it. (Note though, that they are closed on Mondays.)
Price point: Original tonkotsu ramen on any of the four bases, $11.50. More special ramens $11.50 to $14.50. Sides $6.50.
Value: Very good.
Address: Shop 4, The Village Shopping Centre, 1974 Logan Road, Upper Mount Gravatt
Phone: 0416 292 167
Website: Genkotsu Ramen Upper Mount Gravatt