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19 Bowls of what in 5 hours? Noodling around Melbourne for the best Ramen

Submitted by Adrian on May 20, 2010 – 12:39 pm30 Comments

What do you do on a public holiday? Well, for a group of hungry bloggers, we decided to set upon a mission to find Melbourne’s best Ramen.  We had prepared ourselves with a 24 hour fast prior to the event and started the day with early morning Tai Chi. Do you believe me? I hope not! It really just started with a morning of twitters via #ramenhunters.

After some discussion, we decided not to take the restaurant’s atmosphere/decor into consideration – purely focusing on each bowl of comfort filled ramen.

Now, you know I love my obsessive culinary hunts as featured in my Food Battles posts, but never in my life have I ever eaten my way though so many bowls of noodles in one day. By the way, did you know that prior to the 1950’s, Ramen was called Shina Soba which translates into Chinese Soba?

My fellow Ramen Hunters were:

Agnes from Off The Spork and partner

Billy from Half Eaten and friend

Maria from The Gourmet Challenge and partner

Penny from Addictive & Consuming with Th0i3


DSC02416Gyu Ramen at Chocolate Buddha

Menya header

Details: Shop 146a 211 Latrobe St Knox Lane, Melbourne Central

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The hunt began in the bustling laneways of Melbourne Central, we were seated in two separate tables. Being the last one to arrive, I grabbed a seat and popped my Ramen cherry for the day by digging into the Menya Ramen. The first thing I noticed was the generous amount of ingredients here. Amongst the rest of the seafood, there were a few scallops (my fav) as well as a split yolky egg. The broth was tasty enough for the price paid. The noodles were good but not al dente.

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Filled with  Chashu broth , the second bowl consumed was the Sapporo Ramen. I preferred the Menya Ramen, mainly due to the toppings.

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Zee Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

2                  3                      4                   9

Menya on Urbanspoon

Hanaichi header

Details: QV Square, 210 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD

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Now, this stop was not part of the original schedule, however @cloudcontrol proposed we add it to the list. With no objections, we gathered around the communal food court styled table and ordered two bowls of what the menu described as: Ramen. Just one word. Already, we were giggling in anticipation of the arrival of this ‘Ramen.’

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Served in what I’d call branded take away large disposable cups, the egg noodles were surprisingly fine. But, the broth was flooded with generous amounts of MSG and the toppings were nonexistent. I noted down two pieces of chashu. The meal was dirt cheap at under $7 a bowl. But oh dear.

Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

1                  4                      1                   6

Edoya header

Details: 138 Russell St, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9654 7358

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I hadn’t eaten at Edoya for some 7 years prior, so it was good to be back. I remember the sushi and sashimi being well prepared and fresh, but had not yet tasted their Ramen. The service here is always friendly. We had initially planned on Meshiya as the third stop but to our disbelief, they had ran out of  Ramen! We were mortified as we had already sat down and moved the outdoor tables to fit all 13 of us in!

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A few of the members of the team were getting hungry after only consuming liquids thus far, so a few items outside of the ramen domain were ordered as the complimentary Edaname wasn’t doing much.  Only one type of Ramen was available: Sapporo ramen. Variety, no. The broth deserved some mention with little to no MSG –  it was tasty and complimented by the sesame seeds. However, in terms of the meat the bowl on my on my side of the table was on the dry side with little chunks getting in between our teeth. The other side of the table had some tender slices though. Where was ours homeboy?!

Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

2                  3                      2                   7

Edoya Japanese on Urbanspoon

Ito header

Details: 122 Bourke St, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9663 2788

DSC02374Make me some Ramen!

Like Edoya, it was a few years since I’d been back at Ito. Their Beef Tataki is done well and is great for the price you pay. @jeroxie recommended the Tonkotsu but was not available– a pattern that seemed to follow us throughout the day. Again, a few of us digressed from the menu and set upon some rice dishes.

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We decided upon three: Tori Kari, the good old Chasu Ramen and Tonkatsu (above).The noodles here were the best to date- not too soft, not floury and provided the right thickness fit for slurping. I preferred the egg and bamboo shoots at Menya but the pork cutlet in the Tonkatsu came nicely crumbed presenting a succulent centre. The shoyu and miso broths were tasty, well flavoured setting a benchmark for the day. All three bowls were demolished along with the perfectly bitter sweet Green Tea smoothie I gulped down with @th0i3.

DSC02382Tori Kari. You can’t go wrong with fried chicken

Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

4                  4                      4                   12

Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ajisen Ramen header

Details: 130 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD Phone: 9662 1100

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By this stage of the journey, we were feeling the pain. I felt like I was high from the unhealthy dosage of MSG and a belly full of liquid and flour.

I immediately put my hand up for the Chargrilled Beef Shoya Ramen. This is my usual favourite at Ajisen which rarely disappoints. The beef strips were succulent and perfectly cooked medium rare, with the charcoal flavours seeping into the broth.

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The Spicy Pork Ramen came with a serving of chili reddened mince pork. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as spicy as we all expected it to be. As a consensus, we all felt that the noodles were slightly on the undercooked side. No real concerns over the Chasu Shoya Ramen (below) with the meat being quite tender and quite generous in serving. Some may count Ajisen out as it is a chain, but with a variety of menu options on offer and a sociable atmosphere, I’d recommend at least trying out their Chargrilled Beef Shoya Ramen and bento boxes. Oh, and thier Green Tea Ice-cream is a stonegroove. Check out mt review here.

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Zee Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

4                3                      4                   10

Ajisen Ramen on Urbanspoon

Ramen Ya header

Details: Shop 25G Melbourne GPO 350 Bourke St Phone: 9654 5838

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Hidden deep within the GPO building’s laneways, Ramen Ya was the most highly regarded and anticipated within the group. As we are walking down Bourke Street Mall, all I kept thinking about was their Tonkotsu soup base. The kind of broth that makes you lick your lips in unsuppressed satisfaction as you look around in paranoia that someone is going to take away your meal.

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Not meaning to be biased, I felt some sense of relief that everything was going to be ok from this point onwards. Even the Tsukune (minced chicken) ramen with a miso broth was like a warm hug as I closed my eyes whilst slurping down several chucks of juicy mince and nicely cooked noodles. The Chasu in Tonkotsu and the other in Shoyu broth was comforting filled with fatty laced pork pieces. If we didn’t have another pit stop to go, I would’ve had a bowl all to myself.

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Zee Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

4.5                4.5                      4                   13

Ramen Ya on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Buddha header

Details: Federation Square, Swanston St, Melbourne CBD Phone: 9654 5688

DSC02420

At this stage I was thinking, MSG, please be gentle on us. Chocolate Buddha, located in the heart of Federation Square, was definitely the most scenic with a backdrop of the CBD but also the most expensive. Out of the three Ramen choices, we ordered two. Even if we wanted the third which was seafood based, our tummies say no. The Tori Miso Ramen broth was on the sweet side which I actually really liked. It was a different alternative and worked well with the sesame seeds and further complimented the nicely poached chicken. The Gyu Ramen (pictured at the start of this post) was also good with the noodles not being too soft, the fresh addition of bok choy along the tender meat cooked rare.

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We did have a bit of a beverage dilemma with poor Maria going in and out with our requests. I opted for the Iced Coffee which was on the watery side with the majority of the group sipping on sweet iced Plum Wine.

Zee Scores:

Broth    Noodle    Toppings    Total

3                 4                    4                   11

Chocolate Buddha on Urbanspoon

Final Tally

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and the winner is

Ramen Ya. Due to their consistency over several visits and a killer Tonkotsu soup base, I would definitely recommend you delve deep within the GPO laneways for this slurp worthy bowl of noodles. Also a rarity, the Ramen master is actually Japanese which had separated Ramen Ya far away from it’s contenders that day.Running behind by 7.5 points is Ito who were also a favourite on the day due to their Pork Katsu.

I’m thinking of hitting up Japan in the upcoming months where I’m sure I will find more than a few more Ramen joints to add.

Thanks to my fellow assassins, we were able to defeat 19 bowls of Ramen in 5 hours. It was an bellyful day and was great to catch up with you all.

Till the next hunt…

p.s. I still haven’t brought myself to gulp down a bowl of ramen since. Eek!

UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 2010): WE HAVE A NEW WINNER….

A few months later, I found myself at Don Too. To see why I think  Don Too steals the crown, check out my review here

Is there another Ramen joint you would recommend? Happy Kappa is pending a visit.

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