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

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

Momotaro Rahmen

392 Bridge Rd Richmond VIC 3121 – (03) 9421 1661
Open Tue-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm

Still searching for good ramen in Melbourne. The ramen at Momotaro wasn’t bad; the noodles were pleasantly springy, and the chashu was well-flavoured, if lacking a little on the fat, but the tonkotsu soup was rather a let down. When compared to that of Ichiban Boshi (in Sydney), Momotaro’s tonkostu seemed thin, lacking the gelatinous goodness of pork bones having been boiled for hours until the cartilage had melted into the stiock, and seemed instead to have been merely a pork stock lightly thickened and coloured by adding milk. My lactose intolerance response doesn’t back me up in this theory, but nonetheless that’s what it tasted like.

The hunt continues… next up, Ramen ya.

Momotaro Rahmen on Urbanspoon

Karaage Raamen at Toki Japanese Restaurant

88 Grattan St Carlton
Phone: (03) 9347 9748

I’m grudgingly coming to the conclusion that you can’t get good ramen in Melbourne.

My main gripe with the ramen at Toki is that it doesn’t even make any pretense of freshness. Pre-cooked vegetables some what let the team down, even with nicely fried chicken pieces. But then again, the soup was overly salty, and the ramen, while obviously not from an instant packet, lacked the springiness and ‘toothsome’ quality which separates good ramen from the noodle rabble.

All this said, the Chef’s special platter that the couple on the next table were eating looked amazing!

Toki Japanese on Urbanspoon