186 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’ve always been a big fan of ramen, but sometimes I wonder if that isn’t a case of Grass Is Greener Syndrome. As good ramen wasn’t a thing in Melbourne until fairly recently, I spent my entire Japan trip searching for the perfect bowl of tonkotsu ramen. It wasn’t until months (if not years!) later before I realised that I spent 2 weeks in Japan without actually having any udon whatsoever.
Luckily, I could just as easily get a good (I hope) bowl of ramen in Melbourne. Udon Yasan had taken over the old arcade next to Hungry Jacks on Bourke Street months if not years ago, but for some reason, I had never found the reason to visit. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the udon bar, the concept is very simple, and almost exactly the same as Umaido before it was reinvented as an izakaya. You give your order to the udon chefs and get passed a bowl of udon within about 20 seconds. Pop that onto a tray and slide along the bench, picking up some of the tempura items along the way if you so choose, then make your way to the register to pay for your purchase. Udon Yasan also boasts a free toppings section, as well as complimentary green, oolong, and roasted rice teas.
My very standard order of Sukiyaki Beef Noodle Soup ($7.8) looked very much the part after I topped it with wakame, spring onions, and tempura flakes. The noodles were fantastic, the thick, chewy strands slippery and satisfying. The soup was less amazing, a bit too sweet and lacking in depth, but it hit the spot in combination with the excellent noodles and passable beef.
Chris’ Sukiyaki Beef Curry Noodle ($10.8) was distinctly less impressive. Despite the still-great noodles in the thick curry sauce, there was just nowhere enough, especially given what can no longer be considered a cheap price tag. I would definitely recommend paying an extra $2 for double the noodles… that is, if you insist on ordering this.
We also grabbed a few pieces of tempura to supplement our meal. The Kaarage Fried Chicken ($1.5ea) was distinctly unimpressive, being lukewarm and dry. Much better was the Chikuwa Fish Cake ($1.5ea), which I spied coming out fresh, so as a result was hot and crispy. And last but not least – that goes to the kaarage – the Pumpkin Tempura ($1.5ea), which although also lukewarm, was still a pleasant contrast between sweet-and-salty, and soft-and-crispy.
I did not find a whole lot to like about Udon Yasan. The food was average, and would’ve been below average had it not been for the good quality noodles, and it didn’t even have an easy price tag to match. The only situation I would see myself coming back is if I were craving some decent no-frills udon, and even then I would only ever order the $4.8 bowl of hot noodles with soup, with maybe double noodles.
Rating: 11/20 – unimpressed.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.