This hidden Japanese favourite delivers silky smooth noodle soup so creamy it could pass for dairy.
As I duck my head under the black noren (fabric dividers) rhythmically undulating in the breeze and make my way inside Beppin, I’m transported back to Japan.
What looks like a tiny ramen takeaway from its imperceptible, narrow frontage along Charlotte St in Brisbane’s CBD is actually a sprawling eatery reminiscent of the quirky hipster hangouts found in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward.
Move past the counter where diners order and the long open kitchen with stock pots large enough to stow a human, and the labyrinth-like space surprisingly extends to reveal three distinct dining areas, all with their own individual personalities. There’s the sports bar-esque main space with industrial steel elements and a large TV screening music clips; a tangerine-hued cafeteria-like zone anchored by an upholstered banquette down one wall, and a bright and white cafe-inspired room decorated with hanging faux plants and abstract artworks.
The interior at Beppin in Brisbane City will make you feel like you are in Japan. Picture: David Kelly
It’s quite the stylistic hodgepodge, yet this is almost its charm – feeling unmistakably Japanese in its heterogeneous aesthetic.
And it’s just the spot for slurping bowls of Beppin’s signature ramen.
The eatery offers both tonkotsu (pork) and chicken noodle dishes with a plethora of variations of each from a black garlic version to deluxe incarnations with black fungi, egg, mushroom and bok choy.
First to arrive is our hot chilli miso tonkotsu ($19). While it’s stained amber from chilli oil and a dusting of chilli powder, the only real heat here is with its temperature – the broth so mild it could arguably be tolerated by a toddler.
The hot chilli tonkotsu at Beppin. Picture: David Kelly
What the chilli fails to deliver in nose-running, forehead-sweating spice, however, it provides in flavour, adding an extra layer of complexity to the pork broth that’s so creamy it could almost pass as dairy.
What does come through on the spice front, though, is the mabo tofu ramen ($19.50) – a tasty marriage of the classic Sichuan dish mabo or mapo tofu with the Japanese noodle favourite.
Here pork mince and soft cubes of tofu are stir fried in a chilli paste before being scattered over the top of thin al dente noodles and crisp bean sprouts in more of that milky tonkotsu broth – though you can also have it with clear chicken broth if you’d prefer.
While it won’t quite blow your brains out like the traditional Chinese version can, it packs enough heat to make things a little exciting. And for those who want it hotter, for $3 extra, they’ll ramp up the sinus-clearing factor.
Beppin’s mabo tofu ramen. Picture: David Kelly
Alongside classic ramen, the eatery also offers a variety of soup-free ramen salads ($17.50-$28), rice bowls ($17.50-$29) topped with everything from roast chicken to their terrific blowtorched pork chashu which also crowns much of the ramen; gyoza ($8.80-$15.20) and crispy karaage ($8.20-$21) that comes in original, spicy or honey soy, with the latter two merely featuring a sauce dappled over the top of the plain poultry.
A front display case also boasts an array of house-made desserts from popular choux bun cream puffs to the love child of a classic Parisian Mont Blanc and a trifle served in a cup.
To quench thirsts, the unlicensed Beppin offers a trio of loose leaf Japanese teas, plus soft drinks and iced teas popular in the country like Calpis and Ramune.
With overseas airfares outrageously expensive at the moment, Beppin may be just your ticket to Japan – offering an authentic experience without leaving the country.
62 Charlotte St, Brisbane City
Mon-Thu 11am-8.30pm; Fri-Sat 11am-9pm;