On a cold night during our stay in Melbourne we started craving something soupy to kind of take the edge off and after thinking about it for a bit, I realised that I haven’t had a decent ramen since moving from Sydney to Canberra. With that in mind, we decided to ask for some ramen recommendations from some of our more local Melbourne friends and they insisted that Ramen Ya would be the ticket to satisfy our cravings.
We actually had a lot of trouble finding this place, which honestly seemed to be a bit of a theme in Melbourne. All our sources pointed to the store being inside the GPO building but after walking up and down that little alley next to the GPO with a couple of times, we figured that H&M probably swallowed up the stall and no one had said anything! Anyways, we persisted and found out that they had a store down the street so if you ever think “why are there two maccas 100 metres from each other?” It’s for situations like this, and I thank them for it.
First up, we decided to order a side of Takoyaki ($6.50). These were pretty nice, though fairly average as far as takoyaki goes. We were served six plump balls that are nice and squishy with minced octopus throughout it, though we had an inkling that these were frozen balls (though I’m no octopus expert). On top there was a generous amount of Japanese mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce, fish flakes and some shallots on top. I really think the addition of these condiments makes a big difference because outside of those few special and awesome places that make real takoyaki on the spot with actual big chucks of octopus in it, all other places use this frozen stuff, which I still like but I guess it’s the condiments that really make a difference at this point since they all taste so similar, so plus points on the value for money side of it. The takoyakis came out nice and warm so the fish flakes wriggle away for a while which is always entertaining. Not a bad little treat before our ramen.
For our first ramen, we grabbed the classic Charshu in tonkotsu broth ($10). The reason I call this classic is because at least for me, this is the ramen I’ll get to see how they are. Everyone does Miso or shoyu ramen broth with karaage chicken or teriyaki or pork bone etc. None of that really matters to me too much. Every time I go to a new ramen place, I’m all about the sliced pork in thick tonkatsu broth. If you get that right, then I’ll start going for your other options because at that point I’ll trust you with anything.
For this ramen? Well, it was pretty good. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was definitely worth finishing. The charshu itself was sliced paper thin and had a nice little sliver of fat on them, not too much to make it sickening, but enough for a good flavour. Ramen Ya did not hold back on the pork, which I’ll always appreciate, combined with the condiments of the takoyaki, definitely some good signs for people who want the best bang for their buck. The broth wasn’t very thick at all, and due to this, I felt that it wasn’t very strong or flavourful. It had some nice pork overtones to it and you could tell it had been infused, but it was a really mild broth, good for people who prefer it that way, though I’m not really one of them. This was a pretty clean ramen that didn’t leave me feeling horribly guilty afterwards (unlike Gumshara) so it was nice in that respect, all in all quite decent!
For our second ramen, a Seafood gyoza in miso broth ($10). A similar theme to our tonkatsu broth ramen, fantastic toppings though kind of let down by the broth. The gyoza was extremely tasty, and full of diced real seafood. I guess I was being a bit of a pessimist when I expected seafood extender, but I should do that more often because these were a huge surprise! Really great they were, and Ramen Ya was really generous with them, giving us four quite large gyozas.
The noodles are something that are probably worth a mention, they were quite silky and had a bit of a bite to them which was pretty nice. Nothing worse than overcooked noodles in a ramen, or worse yet, 2 minute curly noodles. Unfortunately, as with the tonkatsu broth, I found the miso broth was quite weak and didn’t have much flavour to it at all, both ramen were so weak that I started to think that maybe I’m the problem here. Luckily the gyoza were flavourful enough to make the ramen enjoyable for me. I must say, for $10 these ramen are really affordable, the bowls were pretty large and Ramen Ya was really generous with everything that went in it. It’s a shame the flavours just weren’t quite there for me, but your mileage may vary. I know for sure I couldn’t pay $10 to get a ramen in Canberra. I’d be looking at around $15 or more and in Sydney, I’ll be looking at around ~$12-14 as well, so any bargain hunters would do well here.
Regardless of how cheap and affordable the ramen was at Ramen Ya, I was a little disappointed, I think it might have been the hype. Ramen Ya was rated really well and is meant to be one of the top ramen in Melbourne plus I had a couple of mates recommend it as well! Then we went and it was just a bit of a let down. I mean, when I hear something is fantastic to Melbournians, I get pretty excited because I expect it to be as good as or comparable to the best places around Sydney, this didn’t really get me like places such as Ichi ban boshi, Gumshara, or Menya to name a few local favourites in Sydney. This made me really sad. Though, if you don’t mind a mild ramen, and I’m sure there’s a market out there, then this is honestly a pretty fantastic place, because outside of the broth, everything was firing on all cylinders.