Ramen has exploded in popularity in Australia in recent years, so it only makes sense that Melbourne – the capital of cosmopolitan cuisine – is now home to a heap of ramen eateries. Mid-winter is the perfect time to wrap your lips around some warm soup and noodles.[related_articles]49966,15033,9064[/related_articles]
The key to eating ramen is while it’s still piping hot – you don’t even have to chew the noodles. Slurping is standard practice, so don’t let your manners get in the way of a good meal.
Many of our favourite Melbourne restaurants fill up quickly, so make sure to get there early and be prepared to line up for the good stuff – that’s how the Japanese do it, anyway.
#1 Little Ramen Bar
Little Ramen Bar lives up to its name – it’s a pretty cramped space, so lines spill out the door, though they move quickly. You’re expected to wolf down your ramen as soon as you get it – which is par for the course for any experienced ramen eater.
It offers a wide variety of ramen types, and most menu items allow you to choose between shoyu, shio or miso broth. You’re also entitled to add-ons, like extra egg, extra pork or even a double-up of ramen, which is equivalent to two bowls of the stuff.
Where: 5/346 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
#2 Ramen Ya
“Ramen ya” is literally the term for ramen shops in Japan. And this Ramen Ya is a damn good one. Its ramen recipes are a bit of a departure from traditional ramen ya back in the Land of the Rising Sun – the broth isn’t as rich. But if you’re keen for a good side dish to accompany your noodles, the gyoza dumplings are to die for.[related_articles]60711,59341,40882[/related_articles]
Plus, everything is super cheap, with $10 bowls of ramen. They serve a selection of Japanese beers, too, including Asahi and Sapporo.
Where: 108 Bourke Street, Melbourne
#3 Ajisen Ramen
Ajisen Ramen began in Japan and is now in countries all over the world. The general assumption with chains is that they become like McDonald’s – the quality lessens with the mass production. But Ajisen Ramen’s five Melbourne locations all serve very good fast food. The menu is extensive and includes donburi, bento and a heap of vego options.
It also serves some great value combos – the Sumo and Samurai Combos are basically mini banquets. The closest similarity to Maccas is that the food is exactly the same every time you go, making it something you can rely on.
Where: Various locations around Melbourne
#4 Shop Ramen
When Shop Ramen popped up on Smith Street in Collingwood, you could virtually hear north-siders let out a collective sigh of relief while unbuttoning their jeans in preparation.
The shop prides itself on its hand-cut noodles and delicate ingredients, arranged in a way that resembles a work of art. Vegetarians will be comfortably provided for and they also serve a small selection of desserts, milkshakes and bao (listed as “buns” on the menu). It even does broth-free chilled noodle dishes in summer.[related_articles]49267,40338[/related_articles]
Though it’s not strictly traditional, the points of difference really work for this super simple and modern eatery.
Where: 329 Smith Street, Collingwood
#5 Hakata Gensuke
Once upon a time, it was impossible to find tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen in Australia. Japanese expats and pretty much anyone who’d been to Japan wandered the streets in sorrow, despairing over their tonkotsu-deprived lives.
Thank god for Hakata Gensuke, which has been going strong since opening in late 2014 which brought that gloriously rich tonkotsu taste Down Under. But it doesn’t just serve tonkotsu – it also serves black tonkotsu, God fire tonkotsu, shio tonkotsu, and aka tonkotsu.
The hype hasn’t died down yet, but given that it’s serving something in high demand and short supply, it’s well worth the wait.
Where: 168 Russell Street, Melbourne
#6 Fukuryu Ramen
Once you’ve gotten a handle on the traditional ramen, head to Fukuryu Ramen for a modern twist on these fab noodles. It’s located in Corrs Lane in Chinatown – otherwise known as the Land of Happy Noodle Places.[related_articles]57688,62792[/related_articles]
Fukuryu serves a selection of fancied-up ramen with new ingredients and methods. Among them, you’ll find squid-ink ramen, vegan ramen and ramen with minced pork. And we dare you to try the Red Dragon Ramen – it’s only for those with a high spice threshold!
Where: 22-26 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
#7 Dojo Ramen Bar
In Japan, a dojo is a place where martial arts are practiced. And Dojo Ramen Bar certainly packs a punch. Seriously, the ramen here has complex and intense flavours, made from ingredients imported from Japan.
Staff are also very focused on serving hand-crafted food. If you ever get there and the place is closed, it’s probably because they ran out of broth, noodles or both. But, if you do manage to get there when it’s open, stay for the snacks, which change seasonally. The JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken) is excellent.
The restaurant even oozes dojo cool, with high ceilings and hard timber everywhere.
Where: 333 High Street, Northcote[qantas_widget code=MEL]Check out Qantas flights to Melbourne.[/qantas_widget]
(Lead image: Jeremy Keith / Flickr)