Even in Melbourne's packed ramen scene, Mr Ramen San stands out from the crowd. That’s all thanks to owner Roystan Leow’s razor-sharp focus on perfecting Hakata-style ramen – from the silky pork broth to the thin and chewy house-made noodles – at this noodle house and its older sibling in the Midcity Centre mall, off Bourke Street.

Though Leow isn’t Japanese, he spent years working in kitchens across Osaka and Kyushu (southern Japan’s Hakata ramen heartland). A bowl of ramen is only as good as its broth, and Leow’s hits all the right notes. It’s made over 10 hours from slowly boiled shiitake mushrooms and pork bones. The final product is a savoury, umami-laden flavour bomb, thick and creamy from the collagen in the pig bones.

The menu here is slightly smaller than at the Bourke Street mothership, but just as solid. In the signature chashu ramen, the broth is combined with Hakata noodles – which are made in-house daily – and topped with chashu (braised pork belly), spring onion, bamboo shoots, wood-ear mushrooms, nori and a seasoned soft-boiled egg.

Elsewhere on the menu, a Hokkaido-inspired bowl with miso-marinated sliced beef recalls Japan’s northern flavours, and vegetarian ramens are in good supply. Leow recommends the loaded, broth-free mazesoba. Extra noodles come free across the board – just ask if you need a top-up.

Japanese beer giants Sapporo and Orion are on tap, and there’s Asahi and Kirin by the bottle too. The most curious (and potentially dangerous) items on the drinks list are the “cocktail draft beers”. Made with fruit liqueur and beer, they come in flavours like watermelon, pineapple or grape. There’s also the izakaya classic of Japanese highball cocktails – a concoction of Japanese whisky with your choice of tonic, soda or ginger ale.

You’ll find Mr Ramen San’s younger sibling on Little Bourke Street, just off Elizabeth Street. It’s an inconspicuous, laid-back joint with basic timber tables and stools, and colourful Japanese posters hanging on the walls.

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Updated: April 26th, 2023

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