181 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Russell Street? More like Ramen Street, amirite? Whilst calling it Ramen Street may have been a bit of a stretch back when Shujinko and Hakata Gensuke were the only places selling ramen in the area, with the addition of Musashi Ramen to the same 100 metre-long strip, the name has become apt indeed.
Taking a little from each of its predecessors, Musashi has the quaint izakaya vibe and late hours of Shujinko, combining with the highly customisable, Hakata-styled noodles from Hakata Gensuke. And the result is a charming one, with a menu consisting of a diverse cast of ramen variations, as well as a respectable selection of izakaya-styled nibbles. The service, in true Japanese fashion, was impeccably friendly and welcoming.
To start was a cheap and cheerful serve of Takoyaki ($4, 6pcs). Although these weren’t as good as the gooey, sauce-slathered version at Shujinko, I appreciated the extra pieces of octopus inside each morsel, and they certainly satisfied the takoyaki craving.
If you were after the ‘original’ ramen, you’d be best off getting the Hakata Tonkotsu ($12.8). I was a big fan of the broth in this bowl of noodles; whilst it was rich, umami, and full of porky collagen, it didn’t fall into the trap of being overly cloying or heavy. The accompanying slab of pork charshu was sinfully tender and fatty, and the marinated soft-boiled egg entirely on point. Eaten with the tangle of thin, toothsome Hakata-styled noodles, this was a top-notch bowl of ramen for sure.
For those who like things a little hotter, the Red Dragon ($13.8) is a good choice. Although similar to the Hakata Tonkotsu, this bowl of noodles boasted a fiery red soup from the key addition of chilli paste made with minced pork and fermented beans. The resulting broth was full-bodied and earthy, overlayed with the warmth of chillies. This isn’t a broth for drinking unless you’re really into your salt, but it gave the noodles an unparalleled degree of flavour that I’ve not had from any other bowl of ramen. Even Chris, who usually has a stolid preference for the classic tonkotsu ramen, couldn’t decide which he liked better.
When I think about the ramen situation in Melbourne, it almost brings a tear to my eye with just how good our options have become, especially compared to just a few years back. Musashi Ramen is a solid addition to this list, so if the queue at Hakata Gensuke is way too long, cross the road and give Musashi a go instead – you won’t be disappointed, I guarantee it.
Rating: 14.5/20 – ramen warrior
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.