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FOOD & DRINK

Where to Get the Best Ramen in Melbourne

From tsukemen to black tonkotsu, these are our favourite porky (and vegan) bowls of noodles around the city.
By Kat Hayes
July 07, 2021
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By Kat Hayes
July 07, 2021
  shares

WHERE TO GET THE BEST RAMEN IN MELBOURNE

From tsukemen to black tonkotsu, these are our favourite porky (and vegan) bowls of noodles around the city.

Soup team, assemble. The weather of your people is back again. We've made it through the endless summer and now it's time for a big ol' bowl of hot, steamy ramen. The classic Japanese dish has become a winter warmer of choice here in Melbourne, with restaurants across the city serving up quality renditions ranging from the traditional to the inventive. With slurp-worthy noodles swimming in a rich, nuanced, silky broth, this soup is a surefire tastebud pleaser that'll warm those cockles in an instant.

So, here's a handy list of what we reckon are the best ramen joints around town — from buzzy CBD spots, to suburban restaurants well worth the trek.

  • 10

    Ippudo blitzed into town in 2018 with the first Melbourne iteration of the cult-favourite ramen chain joining numerous outposts across Japan and the US, and five other Australian branches. The buzz was heavy and the queues even more so. And for good reason: the signature ramen here is supremely laudable.

    It’s a creamy tonkotsu number, slow-cooked over the best part of a day and served with all the trimmings (pork loin, spring onions, bean sprouts, black fungus) for only $16. Made in the Hakata style and easily worth a wait in line, Ippudo’s calling card will have no trouble luring you in on a cold winter’s night.

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  • 9

    A ramen and sake bar is just the ticket for cold weather. Why? Liquid dinners abound — in both forms. Nothing warms you up quite like a hot bowl of ramen and a tumbler full of sake; it’s as if this beautiful pair was made especially to heat your cold and tired bones. Here, pick from one of five different sake varieties, then move on to choosing your ramen. The speciality at this Prahran restaurant is the chicken broth ramen ($25). Cooked over eight hours, the base is rich, creamy and, as it turns out, could be the magical health remedy you’ve been searching for your whole life. No big deal. It’s then topped with chicken thigh or pork belly — or, if you like it spicy, with a chilli-heavy pork mince. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for, too, with the restaurant’s signature meat-free broth made using 20 different vegetables, mushrooms and herbs.

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  • 8

    Japanese-born Gogyo has landed in Melbourne following the success of its Aussie debut, which launched in Sydney’s Surry Hills in 2018. It’s also from the same minds behind internationally revered ramen chain Ippudo which, as you might know, equates to some serious street cred in the world of Japanese noodle soup. Gogyo sets itself apart from the pack with its burnt ramen creation dubbed kogashi ($18). A smoky, sweet and intense dish crafted on a charred miso or shoyu base, it’s then loaded with chicken broth, pork belly chashu and half an umami egg. While it’s the Fitzroy restaurant’s headline act, the black (but not bitter) soup is backed by a strong supporting cast of alternative ramen varieties and izakaya-style snacks. To match, there’s a tight list of Aussie wines, Suntory brews on tap and a handful of elegant cocktails, like the whisky- and bitter orange-infused Salaryman.

    Image: Julia Sansone

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  • 7

    Shujinko is one of those hallowed places you’ve no doubt discussed with friends vaguely in the past — “Yeah, that ramen place on Russell?” The service is bright and cheerful, and the place is always busy no matter whether its 7pm or 11am. Head in and be greeted with a hefty bowl of glorious pork belly-topped soup of your choice — the black ramen ($16.50) is our pick. You’ll be staring lovingly into its oily depths and whispering arigatou, we’re sure of it. You’ll find a slew of extra toppings available to add on. Plus, there are now multiple Shujinko locations in the CBD and one in Glen Waverley, so you’ll never have to go without.

    Images: Julian Kingma, Visit Victoria

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  • 6

    Global ramen chain Hakata Gensuke has legions of Melbourne fans thanks to its long-standing Russell Street digs, and things have only grown since it extended itself to the QV, Carlton — and Hawthorn. Glenferrie Road might be thick with eateries but Hakata is a welcome and busy stop, opening in 2015 and quickly carving out a reputation for some of the city’s best ramen; with queues to match the bold claims. It’s industrial in setting but welcoming in service — and warming in soup — with the pick here being the black tonkotsu ($15). Chock full of fried garlic, black sesame paste, black fungus, house-made noodles and spring onions, the beauty is in the balance of the garnishes.

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  • 5

    Smith Street’s Shop Ramen is a cult institution of Fitzroy that has its regulars patiently lining up along the road on any given night, stepping up to the plate to play the long game that’ll get them one of the few tables in the small, no-bookings restaurant. Here, the handmade noodles are springy, the broth is rich and there’s even a vegan miso-based option ($18) for lovers of the hot nood soup who don’t eat animal products. Who says you need pork belly ($18.50) or roast beef brisket ($18.50) for a good time? Our tip is to get the ‘chilli bomb’ add-on ($1.50) to garnish – and maybe finish with the week’s ice cream pie special ($9.50) to cool that mouth down.

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  • 4

    This cosy venue is the work of a former punk rock singer and his hip hop DJ wife, both originally from Japan. So you just know it’s going to be a good time all round. It’s an intimate space with a friendly vibe and one heck of a vinyl collection. And, while the menu’s largely devoted to small bites and yakitori, it also features a trio of top-notch contemporary ramen iterations. Pull up a stool at the central bar and dig into the likes of the signature ramen, crafted on chicken broth and fish dashi, and finished with a classic pork chashu ($25). If you can, leave time to linger — the quality jazz-infused soundtrack insists upon it.

    Images: Kate Shanasy.

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  • 3
    Shyun Ramen Bar

    Carnegie might be a bit of a hike away, at 12 kilometres from the CBD, but just think of it as a pilgrimage; or another couple of steps along the path you’re taking on the necessary journey that is your ramen life. Shyun Ramen Bar — named after the Japanese word for ‘season’ — follows its own instructions carefully, and uses only fresh and seasonal ingredients in its bowls. The broth is simmered for the many hours necessary to refine really good soup and the umami score is off the charts — we suggest you try the pork butter ramen, or the chicken karaage version featuring crispy marinated chook. Another reason for you to make the ramen trek is the incredibly affordable price of Shyun’s soup — most options range between $11 and $14.

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  • 2

    Mugen Ramen is something a little different to the quick in-and-out hustly bustly ramen restaurants that line the CBD’s streets. In true Melbourne style, this one is located down an alley just off Flinders Lane and has a basement vibe (you’ll likely be sitting downstairs). There’s also a punchy, pop-culture feel to the décor — the menus are designed to look like comic books and Japanese films project silently onto the walls. Come for the tsukemen ramen ($17 for a regular size), where the noodles and broth are served separately before you lovingly combine them by dipping the former into the latter. Two become one; you become full. But a word of warning, this ramen can be dangerous for those who wear white.

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  • 1

    The name translates to ‘cat’ in Japanese, but there’s nothing aloof or fickle about Neko Neko. The Fitzroy ramen joint is dishing up solid doses of goodness that will love you and never leave you (and will let you love it, too). A mostly plant-based affair run by a vegan Japanese native, Saori Kawasaki — along with husband Tomoya — Neko Neko has no less than three vegan ramen offerings, the soups finished with additions like tofu and soy-based mince meat. It could well be the most dietarily inclusive ramen joint in town. For you coeliacs out there, it also offers up the holy grail of gluten-free noodles. Go for the creamy tan tan ramen ($25) and you’ll not even be remembering the fact that its vegan — just that it’s ultra tasty and very pretty to look at, loaded with brightly coloured garnishes.

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Top image: Gogyo by Julia Sansone.

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