There’s something oddly attractive about a line outside a restaurant. I know those who don’t pursue food like a hunter might completely disagree, but in my world, a line signifies there might be something worth waiting for.
Often it is a façade. It is great marketing or PR, a huge following of friends of the owners, or something intangible that makes others want to partake. Equally it can be a sign of greatness, amazing food at the right price-point, or a unique quality that captures the imagination of the population.
When we walked past Hakata Gensuke a week ago on the way to HuTong, we were intrigued by the crowd out front. Some research and a bit over a week later we were one of those waiting in line for the ramen shop to open at midday. Getting there by about 11.40am was good enough for making the first sitting.
The staff, the chefs in particular, shout their Japanese greeting at you as you walk in, which is traditional. Throughout the meal you find that the energy of the floorstaff and the chefs from their greeting sparks the atmosphere in the restaurant. You are presented with a piece of paper, and a pencil, and have a number of choices to make on the type of ramen, the noodle texture, its strength, and additions you can make.
Being our first time, we both chose the signature tonkotsu ramen, normal textured noodles, normal strength, spring onions, and I had an additional flavoured egg. Tonkotsu is made from pork bones and this makes for a rich broth, that in this case, is completely divine. Throw in some noodles, that from my experience, are very high quality in taste and texture; some thinly sliced pork (cha-shu), black mushrooms, spring onions, and a deeply flavoured egg; and you have one of the best Japanese noodle soups that you could hope for.
Japan is one of the many countries that I haven’t travelled to yet, but know I’ll experience at some stage soon. If I can find ramen better than you find at Hakata Gensuke around Japan, then that would be the only reason I need to buy the plane ticket. For now, I’ll have to settle for some amazing soup on Russell Street in the city.