Tonkotsu ramen at Kenzan GPO

GPO Building, Rear 350 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9663 7767

I’m not often one to take suggestions from a cat, though I probably should, if Murakami is to be believed, but I was happy to be pointed in the direction of Kenzan@GPO by chocopaws after the initial ramenhunt. The first time I went there, I was sadly informed that they weren’t serving the ramen. But recently, I stopped in the city for lunch on an errand, and was heartened to find “Winter Special” signs up.

Not only was there ramen, but there was the king of all ramen – tonkotsu! At a hefty $15 a bowl – it sells for about $10 at Ramen Ya next door – expectations were high. Would the higher-end neighbour be able to knock Ramen Ya off their perch as the purveyors of the finest ramen in the Melbourne CBD?

Ooh, semi-soft-boiled egg. A good start! A generous serve of chashu, as well as the traditional bamboo shoots and two types of seaweed. Pickled ginger and spring onion garnishes round out what was a thoroughly impressive looking bowl.
The noodles were of a decent texture – a little past al dente but still holding enough requisite springiness. And it was a hefty serve of noodles, too.Unfortunately, that’s where the praise ends.

The broth was far too salty, and it was just as well the pickled ginger was there to offset the intensity of the broth. Yet, for its intensity of flavour, the broth lacked the lip smacking collagen hit that Ramen Ya’s broth carries. Which is the point of tonkotsu, really, if you ask me.

My other major disappointment with Kenzan’s ramen was the chashu. Yes, there was quite a lot of it. And yes, it was quite meltingly tender, as good chashu should be. But this was largely due to the fact that it was mostly fat. Now I’m not one to shy away from pork fat. Indeed, I think pork fat is one of the things the gods bestowed upon humankind, to make life on Earth bearable. But this was pork fat overkill.

To add insult to injury, when I took my first bite of chashu, it was COLD. Really!? Really, Kenzan? We both know you can do better than that. Yes, it was busy, but no, that’s not an excuse to serve cold pork fat. Perhaps I should have followed the teachings of Tampopo and caressed my chashu and stared longingly at it for a while longer, while the broth did its work to soften the fat, but I like to have some pork at the same time as I have the ramen noodle, which I can’t delay the consumption of for fear it will soften  further. Oh the painful paradox! Which could have been avoided had you only warmed the pork a little before placing it in the broth. Le sigh.

I really wanted to love the Kenzan ramen. And in the final analysis, it was much better than other versions being served around town, but it fell far short of my expectations. Especially given the price. I’ll head next door to Ramen Ya next time instead.

Broth 3/5
Noodles 3/5
Toppings 3/5
Total 9/15

The lesson here: Never listen to cats.

Kenzan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

For a comparison against other ramen in the CBD, see my original ramenhunt post.

Kenzan @ GPO

GPO Building, Rear 350 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9663 7767

It was a cold and rainy Melbourne night in April. Not exactly the perfect environs to showcase the best of Melbourne to Ms J from Adelaide, but hey, she chose to visit that weekend! Making the most of the gloomy mise en scene, we trudged down to the GPO to check out the atmospheric little eateries which run along the side. Now regular readers will know of my ardent admiration of Ramen Ya, but on this occasion, we opted for Kenzan, as Ms L who was dining with us is a vegetarian, and one of the few flaws amen Ya has is that they don’t seem to have much on offer for vegetarians.

I was hoping to add to the ever-growing list of ramen offerings in Melbourne which I’m hunting down to review, but I was sadly informed that the ramen wasn’t on offer that night. Except the cold ramen, which didn’t sound too appetising in that weather. So I ordered the unajyu. Hard to go wrong with eel. Kenzan’s version is pretty minimal, though; just rice, eel and some shaved nori. Still, it works, though it’s a tad on the expensive side for what you get.

Ms J had some sort of gyu special – beef wrapped around spinach with a teriyaki sauce and something of a chunky vegetable salad. It was quite impressive to look at, and she enjoyed it immensely.

Ms L opted for the vegetable udon, which she also quite liked. Look at her shake that shichimi togarashi! Go Speed Racer, go!

I will be back to Kenzan@GPO, but mostly just to try their ramen – there’s reportedly a Tonkotsu Winter special! There are more reasonably priced Japanese restaurants in the city, with food that is just as good.

Kenzan @ GPO on Urbanspoon