Mr Ramen San Midcity Centre
Melbourne has a stacked ramen scene, but Mr Ramen San stands out in a crowded field. That’s all down to owner Roystan Leow’s razor-sharp focus on perfecting every component of Hakata-style ramen – from the creamy, porky broth to the thin and chewy house-made noodles.
Leow isn’t Japanese, but spent years working in the kitchens of Osaka and Kyushu (southern Japan’s Hakata ramen heartland). A bowl of ramen is only as good as its broth, and Leow’s is note-perfect. It’s made over 10 hours from slowly boiled pork bones and shiitake mushroom. The result is umami-laden and deeply savoury, with a creamy thickness that comes courtesy of the collagen in the pig bones.
The broth is combined with Hakata noodles – which are made daily in-house – then topped with the usual ramen suspects: chashu (braised pork belly), chopped leek, bamboo shoots, wood-ear mushroom, nori and a soft-boiled, seasoned egg.
Elsewhere on the menu, a Hokkaido-inspired bowl with miso-marinated sliced beef recalls Japan’s northern flavours, and the teriyaki chashu ramen with spicy tonkotsu sauce follows an original recipe from Kyushu.
Vegetarian ramens are in good supply, but Leow recommends the soup-less, fully loaded mazesoba (a dry ramen dish with sauce instead of broth). Extra noodles are free across the board – simply ask if you need a top up.
Japanese beer giants Sapporo and Orion are on tap to fill your tankard, but there’s Asahi and Kirin by the bottle too. The most intriguing (and potentially dangerous) items on the drink list are the “cocktail draft beers”. Choose either watermelon, pineapple or grape, each made from a house mix of fruit liqueur and beer. It’s a popular concoction in Japan but rare here in Melbourne. Also on the menu is the izakaya classic, Japanese highball cocktails – which you can order with soda, tonic or ginger ale.
You’ll find Mr Ramen San inside the Midcity Centre shopping arcade on Bourke Street. It’s an inconspicuous and cosy little spot with dark timber tables, floorboards and finishes. Japanese movie posters and vintage beer ads hang from the walls.
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