25th July 2016
Midcity Arcade, 208-210 Little Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
When I write a restaurant off, I rarely give it a second chance. Given how many good restaurants there are in Melbourne, with more opening every day, I just don’t see much point in revisiting a subpar place when there’s likely a much better alternative. But when a co-worker insisted that Mr Ramen San does the best ramen in all of Melbourne, and has long-since relocated from Hawthorn to the CBD, I grudgingly went and looked it up. Lo and behold, not only has the restaurant moved, it also features a brand new, and much more authentic-looking menu. And having already tried pretty much all of the ramen in Melbourne worth trying (please please let me know if there’s any good ones I’ve yet to try!), I was convinced to give Mr Ramen San another chance.
Midcity arcade usually isn’t a very nice place, but it’s a surprisingly fitting location for Mr Ramen San. In Japan, there are massive sprawls of shopping malls under the train stations, and the low roofs in this Chinatown arcade reminded me exactly of that. And we all know I’m a sucker for anything authentically Japanese.
Aside from the location, Mr Ramen San also comes with the quintessential Japanese hospitality. The service was warm and deferential, and the restaurant itself was small and cosy, the plasterboard trimmed with wood in oriental style, and quirky posters framed on the walls.
The menu here is quite straightforward; you pick your broth, pick your main topping, to which you can add extra if you see fit. There are also some sides and beer on offer, but I was after one thing – the Tonkotsu Charshu Ramen ($13.9). This broth is really something- milky, thick, and full of collagen, this was a rich base that was nevertheless neither cloying nor heavy. The thinly sliced charshu was decent; a little tougher than the usual melt-in-the-mouth affair I’ve come to expect, but it does the job. I did however love the addition of menma (pickled bamboo shoots), and the egg was a perfect wobbly gold.
The Shoyu Charshu Ramen ($13.9) was very similar to its tonkotsu brother, but the broth had a more savoury, smoky edge to it, thanks to the addition of dark soy. The noodles, hand-made in-store on a daily basis, were fantastic. The thin noodles were firm and toothsome, each strand made for soaking up the thick broth. And you know what the best bit is? If you have soup left over, you can get another serve of noodles (150g) on the side for FREE, just like in Japan!
This new – and better – Mr Ramen San is nothing like the quiet little shop I visited almost 3 years ago. In fact, aside from the name, there is pretty much nothing left of the old restaurant, and I mean that in the best way possible. Although some may argue that the ramen hype is getting a little bit old, and the last thing Melbourne needs is another new ramen restaurant, I say, bring it on!
Rating: 13.5/20 – keep calm, eat ramen.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.