Located on Bourke Street inside the Mid City Arcade (Chinatown precinct), Mr. Ramen San is easily one of Melbourne’s best ramen restaurants.
Mr. Ramen San has a rather unpretentious exterior and can be a tad difficult to spot if you aren’t familiar with the Chinatown precinct. The best way is to look out for the Mid City Arcade on Bourke Street and you can find the restaurant on the ground floor. But trust me; it will be well worth the effort!
The moment you enter the restaurant, you will be greeted with a smile and ‘Irasshaimase’ (welcome in Japanese). Customer service is taken seriously at Mr. Ramen San and the staff is extremely friendly and willing to help out all the time.
We were seated immediately and the menu cards were bought out promptly. The staff took time to explain the menu and how to order the ramen customizing it to your taste preferences. The first step is to choose the main topping; you have five selections – Charsu, Teriyaki Charsu, Beef Miso, Spicy Chicken and Fresh Seafood. Next you choose the soup base and the selections for this are Tonkotsu, Spicy Tonkotsu, Shoyu and Miso.
The signature dish at Mr. Ramen San is the Charsu Tonkotsu Ramen and what makes it so unique is the intensely flavourful white cloudy broth that is obtained from slow cooking pork bones and collagen for ten hours. The charsu is again stewed for several hours that it becomes melt-in-your-mouth (and I can vouch for its tenderness). No MSG, no artificial stock in the stock but the purest of ingredients cooked with expertise and passion by Head Chef Roystan who has exclusively trained with Japanese ramen masters.
The style of ramen that is served here comes from Kyushu, the picturesque southwestern most island of Japan. While I have always been a fan of ramen, I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the different types of ramen or the geographical differences. So I asked the staff to explain this bit to me which they gladly did. Indeed wonderful customer service.
Another unique feature of the ramen here is that the noodles are made fresh each day in the restaurant. The noodles are thin and have a wonderfully soft and chewy texture which makes it a rather unique experience. The ramen comes with a generous quantity of noodles but if you want more, just ask away; it’s totally free!
The drinks menu is limited but the perfect match for the food. You can choose from some great Japanese beers, cocktail draft beers or sake. For the non-alcohol drinkers, try the Japanese rice tea. While the hubby went for Sapporo draft beer (on tap), I went for a bottle of sake. The ice cold sake and the hot, delicious ramen was a match made in heaven.
There is a small selection of side dishes but carefully thought of Japanese classics, all of which are easy on the palate preparing it for the ramen. It was a tad bit difficult to choose as all my favourites like Japanese gyoza and Edamame was on the menu, but the assorted Japanese mushrooms stood out. This is a cold side dish with an assortment of mushrooms cooked to perfection. My hubby who is not too fond of mushrooms loved it. A dainty looking dish with delicious texture and flavour, it worked as the perfect palate cleanser for the main meal. Totally recommended.
And now it was time for the glorious ramen.
I had to try out the spicy Tonkotsu Charsu ramen; if it’s got spice in it, I need to have it. And I wasn’t disappointed at all. All the painstaking work and love that went into making that broth worked wonders on my palate. It was rich, intense, packed with flavour and spicy, oh yes. Fresh noodles, perfectly cooked eggs, greens, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and the charsu which just melted on my taste buds. I loved the spicy flavour and totally recommend this one to all those who love that kick of heat.
The hubby, also wanting to try out the Tonkotsu went for the Spicy Chicken Tonkotsu Ramen. The broths were similar, the only difference being the ‘spice’ in mine. The chicken was light and delicious, a great non vegetarian alternative for those who do not eat pork or beef.
While the mum and dad were going gaga over the tonkotsu, the little fella decided to order on his own. He pointed at the menu and said he was going to have the Tsukemen ‘dipping’ ramen. I tried dissuading him as he wouldn’t do justice to the quantity of ramen served but he remained staunch. Well, the good thing was that I got to sample the much acclaimed Tsukemen but felt a tad bit guilty that he was able to only eat half.
Now are you wondering what is Tsukemen? Well, the main difference from the ramen is that the noodles and accompaniments are served in one bowl and the dipping broth in another. The broth is more meaty and intense than Tonkotsu. The staff also bought over a bottle of dashi and we were advised to pour some of it into the broth once he was done with the dipping. Then the broth gets thinned out and can be enjoyed as a light soup.
Vegetarian and vegan options also available.
So make this your weekend project; especially recommended after a day of Christmas shopping in the CBD.
My rating – 8.5/10
Mr. Ramen San
Shop 12, 200 Bourke Street
Tel: (03) 9042 1588
Timings: Open every day; 11am to 3pm, 4pm to 9.30pm
Disclaimer – We were guests at Mr. Ramen San but all the opinions expressed are entirely mine.