Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe

122 Bourke St (cnr Market Lane)
Phone: 9663 2788

While I must confess I am more than sated by my ramen experience at Ramen Ya, in the interests of being thorough, and of my belly, I continue to try more Japanese restaurants which serve ramen. On the recommendation of my soon-to-be brother-in-law, I tried Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe. He lived in Japan for a year, so I figure he would know something about Japanese food. It’s funny, but I find it hard to shake the memory of that place being a 50s style American Diner, even though Ito has been there for at least 5 years.

To my disappointment, Ito doesn’t offer tonkotsu ramen on the menu, so I had the Ito Jumbo ramen with a shoyu broth, and the twin toppings of chashu and spicy minced pork (of which I forget the name). In fact, I think I ordered it with chashu and fried chicken (kara-age) but the fact I can’t remember the name of what I did order might suggest I made the error in ordering.

The noodles arrived quickly, and I was pleasantly surprised at their quality. In fact, I would venture to say the toothsome, or al dente quality of the noodle was actually better than that of Ramen Ya! The little knob of butter melted quickly, melding with the soup quite nicely, though I still wished for the porky goodness of tonkotsu.

The chashu lacked the essential fattiness which I desire/require in good chashu, which was disappointing, because Ito otherwise made quite a good showing. It being the jumbo bowl, I left thoroughly satisfied. While I think Ramen Ya still represents better value, Ito’s definitely a contender for Melbourne’s best ramen (so far).

Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Butcher’s Grill

141 Bourke St, CBD
Phone: 9639 1222
For my birthday this year, I had a rather large cocktail party. Knowing full well that I was very likely to get rather drunk, I thought it prudent to eat a substantial meal beforehand. I had been curious about Butcher’s Grill for some time, as it’s opposite my gym, and has an eye-catchingly bright red window treatment. So we stopped in for a quick dinner before heading off for cocktails.

I chose the lamb cutlets served with garlic mash and red wine glaze, which were deliciously rare (I requested them that way, because that’s usually how I like all my red meat) though a touch on the salty side. The mash was very garlicky, but in a good way, and luckily I had mints on hand for later!

My sister decided to have two entrees instead of one main course, and I have to say, she’s one wise monkey. This was the seared pepper crusted kangaroo with mustard fruits & cabbage salad.

She also had the seared scallops, potato puree and sticky pork. We did a little swapping, so I got one of the scallops, and it was cooked to perfection! Texturally, the springiness (note: not chewiness) of the scallop flesh married beautifully with the potato puree, and the sweet, salty goodness of the small piece of pork was a great accent to the fresh scallop flavour. This dish is a total winner.

The other lads had the M.S.A porterhouse steak, which was a hulking great slab of cow flesh. Both gents were most satisfied, and both gents have a great appreciation of steak in general.

Butchers Grill, Meat & Wine Cellar on Urbanspoon

Ramen Ya

Shop 25G Melbourne GPO
Cnr Elizabeth and Lt Bourke Sts
Phone: 9654 5838

Last night, a group of ramen-o-philes (brought together by their love of noodle and twitter) descended upon Ramen Ya in the city. While the turnout was somewhat diminished by the torrential rain which had lashed the city only hours before, those of us who made it were not disappointed.

I think I can fairly safely announce that the hunt for good ramen in Melbourne is over. I will stop short of saying that it is the best, but it is certainly the best I’ve tried. I ordered the tonkotsu chashu ramen, with extra noodles, because I love my carbs, and I was feeling particularly hungies last night. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint.

The chashu was melty and tender, with just enough fat to form a mystical bond with the overwhelmingly gelatinous tonkotsu broth. I know, it sounds a little gross when I say gelatinous, but trust me, tonkotsu broth – GOOD tonkotsu broth – should stick to your lips after you’ve finished each mouthful. It’s part of the goodness that comes from boiling down pork bones for six hours.

One thing I might do next time is ask for more soup, when ordering extra noodles. I couldn’t help slurping as much soup as I did ramen, and soon was running at a soup deficit. Which is never a good thing.

Another cute thing Ramen Ya has going for it (though let’s be honest, with ramen of that quality, it doesn’t need much else) is the handy provision of disposable bibs! Not entirely necessary in my book, but lots of fun and helpful if you’re a little sloppy, or wearing something fancy. I arrived early, and ramen being essentially a fast food, didn’t wait for everyone to arrive before ordering, and indeed, chowing down.

This meant that I finished before just about everyone else. Thankfully, the thoughtful folk at Ramen Ya have also provided neatly Japanese entertainment for just this situation. Little square sheets of paper, with origami instructions! Just a tip: get two sheets, because you can’t really follow the instructions on the sheet you’re folding!

I made the ‘inflatable bunny’.

I highly recommend you all go try the ramen at Ramen Ya. For $10 a bowl, you’d be a fool not to. Oh, and they also have a loyalty card, so I’ll be heading back soon, to fill out my card and get my 10th bowl free!

Ramen Ya on Urbanspoon

Braised lamb shoulder at von haus

Crossley St, Melbourne CBD

I dropped in for lunch yesterday on Xmas eve at Von Haus. It was grey and gloomy outside, and I felt the urge for something hearty. The braised lamb shoulder did not disappoint. Full of flavour, melting off the bone, with mushrooms and olives that somehow seemed to have soaked up the red wine in the sauce, while exuding their own flavour as well, this dish was almost too wintry for December. But it was just what I was after. The only thing which was a little disappointing was not having a chunk of bread with whic to mop up the sauce. Von Haus, you’re two for two so far!

Von Haus on Urbanspoon

Don don box at Don don

A reliable CBD stalwart, don don’s massive bento, with sukiyaki beef and teriyaki chicken never fails to satisfy. At $8.40, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value lunch in the city. It’s a little alarming to hear the staff speaking mandarin to one another though, as it was always Japanese owned/run.

Don Don Australia on Urbanspoon

Dinner at Spicy Fish

I’ve been here before, so this time around we didn’t order the eponymous spicy fish, nor the succulent dong po pork, and I vetoed the chilli chicken because it’s 2/3 dried chillies. Where’s the value in that?!

We had the eggplant and scallop hotpot (spicy, with a slightly sweet tang Рsuper tasty) and the fried string beans with minced pork and black bean, accompanied with the spicy Sichuan couple (ox to gue and tripe) and garlicky cucmber. All delicious, washed down with a Wirra Wirra ros̩ (not great) and an exceptional Langmeil Shiraz viognier.

Spicy Fish on Urbanspoon

Lamb rump at (um, yeah) Elephant and Wheelbarrow

94-96 Bourke St, CBD

Phone: 9639 8444

Despite the cringe factor of eating at a pub chain, this wasn’t bad. I forgot to ask for it rare, though they didn’t ask, so I guess there may not be an option. The stuffing was good, though there was altogether too much of it. Good with the chips I poached off my friends’ plates.

The Elephant and Wheelbarrow on Urbanspoon

Pho dac biet at Pho Dzung

234 Russell St, CBD

So I have this theory that regardless of what size you order, you get the same amount of pho, in a different sized bowl. This medium bowl is kinda overflowing with greatness.

Com tam suon bi trung at Pho Dzung

234 Russell St, CBD

It’s hard to go wrong with com tam (broken rice) and Pho Dzung certainly gets just about everything right. The pork chop was juicy and succulent, the bi (shredded pork/skin) was uber-fresh, and there was a goodly amount of pickled vegies on the plate. The egg was a touch over-cooked, but I do love a runny yolk, and l now I’m just being finicky. For $8.50, it’s almost the perfect lunch!

Pho Dzung City Noodle Shop on Urbanspoon