4/860 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Lately, I’ve been playing a mobile game called Ramen Sensei, and it’s given me a hankering for – you guessed it, RAMEN. And back in the day that would’ve been solved quickly and easily, given how much the ramen population has boomed around the CBD. These days it’s not so easy; the closest I’ve gotten to real ramen in months is Ajisen Ramen, and we all know that tastes more Chinese than Japanese, even with the recently improved egg.
So I have to say that I was pretty stoked when I heard that the best ramen restaurant (in Melbourne) – Hakata Gensuke – decided to open another branch in Hawthorn. It may not be next door, but at least it’s the right half of town.
Nothing much, if anything at all, has changed with the expansion. All the furnishings and decor are identical, right down to the enormous range of condiments. I will say however that it is more spacious compared to the original, with some nice family-sized communal tables wrapped around the pillars.
The Signature Tonkotsu ($13) is as good as ever, the soup still thick and glossy with collagen. The noodles are hakata-styled, meaning that they are thin and toothsome, slowly picking up the flavour of the broth as time goes on. A single gooey Flavoured Egg ($2) completed the picture of perfection.
A dish I overlooked on my first visit was the Shio Tonkotsu ($13), a lighter version of the signature pork noodle soup. The peppery umami of this broth was deeper and more nuanced, and just as delicious as the original; perhaps even more so, as the balanced flavour profile meant that it’s just that much more tempting to order an extra serve of noodles to add to the soup, a la Japan. The topping of menma – pickled bamboo shoots – is a bonus if you ask me.
I got this one with an additional egg because honestly, how perfect does it look? It’s no wonder that the Japanese translation for a soft-boiled egg is ‘jade egg’.
Hakata Gensuke is exactly as I remembered; although the portions are still on the small side (I prefer to think of it as Japanese-sized) and prices on the expensive side, it easily retains its crown for best ramen in Melbourne. And given how much less packed this branch is, I don’t even have the ‘it’s too busy and too far away’ excuse for not visiting more often.
Rating: 14/20 – it’s still good it’s still good.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.