Hakata Gensuke CBD

168 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Not that it’s anything to be proud of, but I would openly admit to not thinking very much of the restaurants along the main strip of Lonsdale and Russell Streets. To me, everything there screams pedestrian pedestrian, thriving only from its optimum location. But then Hakata Genuske Ramen turned up almost overnight, and being forever optimistic when it comes to ramen, I faced the jovial cries of ‘irrashaimase’ with high hopes. 
With a shiny downstairs and an upstairs section devoted to tsukemen – Japanese dipping noodles – to come, Hakata Gensuke dripped with potential, from the Japanese speaking staff to the menu devoted entirely to ramen. The noodles are fully customisable, from the toppings and quantity, right down to the texture of the noodles and the spice level. JUST LIKE JAPAN. On each table sat a buffet of house-made sauces, pickles, fresh garlic, and grind-your-own sesame seeds. JUST LIKE JAPAN. Even the ordering is done on nostalgic little tick sheets. JUST LIKE JAPAN!
Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs)
Chris had passed his driving test earlier in the day, and then had proceeded to eat a celebratory cheese pie a couple hours before dinner. So we didn’t so much as order the Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs) as we were coerced into it, but it didn’t turn out to be a bad idea. Bite-sized and wrapped in a delicately smooth skin, these pan-fried morsels were a dainty little appetiser that was twee in size, but yo ho ho in flavour. 
Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)
The owner had my interest sniffing the air hopefully, when he said that his goal was to bring the real taste of Japanese ramen to Melbourne. And the Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)? It was perfect. Thick and gelatinous, the soup clung to the noodle with a coat of porky, umami goodness. The slices of charshu were a little lean for Japanese, but the flavour of the soup absolutely blew me away, all the way back to Tokyo. 
Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)
And though I prefer my noodles curly and bouncing all the way into my stomach, these Hakata-styled noodles were a gem, chewy and resilient with just the right amount of bite. 
Black Tonkotsu ($14)
The Black Tonkotsu ($14) is something a little different. Whilst it retained the similarly sticky pork broth, the soup is emulsified with a dark slick of ground black sesame and garlic oil, resulting in an intensely rich and nutty experience. Though less porky than the signature tonkotsu, it is nevertheless packed with flavour, albeit along a very different vein.
I was fortunate enough to be treated to a quick tour backstage after we slurped up the dregs of our ramen, and here’s where the whole production really shines. Not only did the Hakata Gensuke group originate in Japan, but they also imported their noodle making machine, noodle master, and head chef from Japan too. The prices may be a bit steep, and the portions may be a bit small, but there is nowhere else I would rather go. That is, if I can get in – when my work friend (hi Amelia!) tried to visit on opening night, she found the line long enough to rival Chin Chin’s; so much for getting in before the word gets out!
Rating: 16/20 – JUST LIKE JAPAN!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Hakata Gensuke Ramen.

Hakata Gensuke Ramen on Urbanspoon

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