Scott Gault and Katie Shortland have slurped countless bowls of ramen since their first trip to Japan, back in 2010. Gault's trained one-on-one with renowned ramen masters, while Shortland's wrangled approximately 35 kilos of books and magazines about the cult noodles back home from their many ramen pilgrimages. So it's safe to call the husband-and-wife duo's Redfern ramen joint RaRa a serious labour of love.
The 28-seat izakaya-style eatery takes its design cues from the plethora of Japanese microbreweries and cafes the couple have visited over the years. Think warm timber accents, a slight industrial edge and full-length windows to capture the noodle-making magic unfolding in the open kitchen.
Then menu's a testament to the pair's own ramen obsession and Gault's well-honed skills, having studied in kitchens and classrooms usually reserved for teaching only Japanese speakers. At RaRa, a special pressure cooker is used to nail that full-flavour broth without the 14-hour wait time, and noodles are made fresh each morning with a 380-kilogram Yamoto machine that's been shipped in from Japan. Those noodles have a bit more length and strength than those you might find in Japan, catering to us Aussies and our more relaxed pace of noodle slurping.
A one-time vegetarian himself, Gault has set out to pack a flavour punch right across the board, so expect to be just as impressed by the vegan soup as the signature meat-based creations. On the menu, you'll find three styles of free-range pork tonkotsu, highlighting the kitchen's nose-to-tail approach, available in shio, black garlic or with smoky, Japanese chilli oil.
The vegetarian ramen comes in either a vegan shio or a miso style, with soy milk lending a flavour reminiscent of pork. There's also a soupless noodle dish called maze soba — akin to Japanese spag bol, without the mince — plus local cans, Yulli's Brews on tap and a range of natural wines championing young producers.
Opening in early September 2018, RaRa has already proven a hit with locals. So much so that many nights you'll find a line stretching along Regent Street, with wait times as long as an hour on Friday and Saturday nights. It's certainly worth the wait, but if you'd like spend more time slurping and less time in line, we suggest heading in early.
Images: Luisa Brimble.