Koji Namura has started the pop-up noodle shop that’s been winning over the locals in Coorabell, Gentlemen Noodle, but it’s far more than you’d think – it’s more like a travelling restaurant looking for a home. At present it’s in the Coorabell Hall on Thursday and Friday nights, but they also move around on the weekend, such as to Byron Market, Bangalow Flea Market, Mullumbimby’s Wandana Brewery and soon, maybe even by the end of July, they’ll be in Brunswick Heads in the Chalet Motel – stay tuned!
But first, what about the name? The name is not really about ‘Gentlemen’, explains Koji. Men means ‘noodle’ in Japanese, even the sobah (buckwheat) noodle is ‘men’ in Japanese, so the whole thing is really ‘Gentle Noodle’ indicating a warmth. ‘It’s not about blokes, and it’s not just for blokes,’ explains Koji, ‘it’s a family-minded attitude that we feel towards our food and the customers and the community we are creating, even to their dogs. In a way it has evolved naturally from the way we have started at the community hall – we’ve taken it to the community rather than starting from our own restaurant.’
But connection to the community also means that you share in its losses, as well as the good times. ‘Last week a really important person to us passed away,’ says Koji. ‘His name was Billy Wrencher, and without him and his wife Ouida we wouldn’t have started up this restaurant, because he was the manager of the Coorabell Hall. We feel very thankful that he was part of our community.’
‘The atmosphere at the hall is really nice. It’s BYO, there’s a great view and great sunset. We are Japanese of course, so we make authentic Japanese food, and in fact people are enjoying it even more than we expected. We make everything from scratch, and gluten free and vegetarian diets are also catered for, although it’s not really that easy.’
In fact, Koji explains that they have had to go back to an older style of Japanese food to cater for vegans. ‘Fish stock is a basic element in Japanese food, but in the older Japanese styles they make use of a lot of fermented pickles, and vegetable soup stock, which we use for the vegetarian and vegan food. Our motto is to serve, so we’re happy to make this change to suit our customers.’
Masa uses traditional fish stock, and seaweed stock, in the recipes. It’s not possible to buy these from food suppliers, so not only is the flavour unique, it is also an important avenue to reduce food waste, because these gentlemen share a concern to look after the environment. All the dumplings are hand-made, plus the elements such as ramen, beef balls, and pork balls, which, as Koji explains, are all readily available in Japan, but not so easy to source here.
To find out where they are, check out their Facebook and Instagram @gentlemennoodle.