It’s official. I have just renamed a restaurant, formerly known as ‘I Like Ramen’ to ‘I Love Ramen’.
After recently dining again at Australia’s first and only 100% plant-based ramen restaurant, any words short of superlatives would be understating the facts: this is one exceptional place!
Begun by Bobby Douglas as a stall at Miami Marketta where he was joined by Dominic Benjamin, the duo gained a regular following through their popups at Bine before opening their first permanent store as part of The LC, no longer operating.
Now, after a year in Brisbane, the guys have brought I Like Ramen home to where it all began, taking up residence in the high profile Surfboard Empire building at the northern end of Nobby Beach.
A larger kitchen and permanency have brought an expanded menu of new favourites. OK, so we were already sold on the Shiitake Mushroom ramen for its rich and earthy umami flavours, as well as the Panko mushrooms served with garlic aioli, but now there’s even more to love.
Just like a toddler let loose in the lolly shop, we made (vegan) ‘pigs’ of ourselves discovering an array of punchy Pan-Asian influenced dishes: ‘Fish’ fragrant Tempura eggplant in a sticky plum sauce loaded with fresh basil ($13), the texture sensational Roasted lychee salad with chili tamarind jam and whipped local organic tofu ($12) and a trio of bao ($22) sitting pretty. Here’s looking at you, kiddos, all dressed up with fillings of Holy ‘Duck’ with plum glaze and pomegranate mayo, Karaage jackfruit with gochujang and cos, and Panko mushroom with kimchi and sriracha aioli (our favourite ‘shroom with a coat on). Dancing on our tastebuds, each dish is bursting with colour, flavour and texture. Sheer delight!
Of course, we also try the cult favourite ramen, their earthy rich umami broths built on kombu and other seaweed, shitake mushroom, soy, spicy kimchi and white miso (plus lots of secret ingredients, we’re sure). Choose your toppings including bok choy, fresh sprouts, fried tofu, vegan chick’n and housemade kimchi loaded up with sliced mushrooms, chopped spring onions, fresh sprouts, fried shallots, roasted seaweed, chilli threads and black sesame. There’s no end to the goodness.
We dined on Loaded ramen with mushroom broth and Mean green ramen with gluten-free noodles. We’ve noted the creamy cashew-based Tonkatsu to try on our next visit.
For dessert I’d be up to try the slow-cooked spiced pineapple with coconut ice and pineapple sorbet or a scoop of black sesame ice cream, but after the savoury wonders I doubt that I’d ever have room for dessert.
Funky and relaxed with a killer menu, each dish we tried is an absolute knockout. So how could I Like Ramen possibly get any better than this, we ask Dominic.
“With vegan wines, local and imported beer on tap and by the bottle, a full cocktail menu and fine Japanese whiskies on offer, our goal is to be known first and foremost as a cool, trendy establishment that you go to for a good time…but it just happens to be vegan.
“Our market has grown. We know that people like our product, so now it’s about advancing in that space.
Using tablets to order food, we have lots of flexibility with the menu,” Dominic tells us. “It means that we can tweek items by the season and make small changes rather than having a full menu change. Zac Taylor (Head Chef, ex-Rick Shores and Little Valley, Brisbane) has so many ideas and so much experience with Asian food!”
“We see so much of a future for us at this venue,” says Dominic. “Already we’ve had shaping nights and board talks, film releases and meet and greet with greats like Mark Richards.”
Oh yes, we know that the restaurant is called I Like Ramen, but this is a love affair…and it’s all plant-based. But love comes first, people, and we LOVE everything about it.
I Like Ramen, 2251 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby’s Beach Open: Wed – Sun 11:30am till late
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of I Like Ramen.