1 December 2010
Ramen Ya @ Melbourne GPO, 350 Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne
Ramen Ya is a Japanese noodle house centrally located in the GPO building on Bourke Street. As the name suggests, the focal point of this café is ramen – Japanese wheat noodles. While the quality of the ramen offered by Ramen Ya may fall short of the noodles offered in Japan, in Melbourne it compares favourably. Ten dollars will buy you an amply sized bowl of above average soup noodles, making this ramen-centric establishment a suitable haunt for economical lunch seekers.
Ramen Ya allows you to customise your own ramen. You begin by selecting a broth - soy, miso or tonkotsu (pork bone) – before proceeding to select your topping - chashu (roast pork), gyoza, seafood gyoza or minced chicken. Tonkotsu broth with either chashu or gyoza has, thus far, proved to be the most satisfying combination.
On this visit, I partnered the tonkotsu broth with gyoza. The slender noodle strands were firmly cooked, as usual, and were pleasantly garnished with nori, boiled egg, bamboo shoots and spring onion. The accompanying dumplings possessed a soft and silky pastry, but they were heavily reliant on the tonkotsu broth for flavour. The broth is the most vital component of any bowl of ramen as it provides flavour to the noodles. Ramen Ya’s broth is pleasant, but a far cry from the tonkotsu broths found on the streets of Japan.
The tonkotsu broths in Japan are a thick, cloudy and somewhat creamy concoction of decadently rich, unadulterated pork flavours – the end product of intensely boiled pork bones and more notably, pork fat. The thick, gleaming layer of liquid pork fat that forms on the surface of the broth is the key to an authentic and robust tonkotsu broth. As the strands of noodles are pulled through the surface, they are coated with the unctuous liquid which ultimately provides the noodles with its indulgent flavours. Such decadence is certainly not for the health conscious, but then, dishes that make your mouth water are generally not.
In comparison, Ramen Ya’s pork broth, albeit tasty, incontrovertibly appeals to weight watchers. The thin consistency of the pork broth and the absent traces of fat are telling of its relative insipidness. Further, as a pork-based broth, the rich pork essences should not be obscured by foreign flavours, as is the case here. Although Ramen Ya’s tonkotsu ramen cannot contend with true Japanese varieties, it is nevertheless a sufficiently tasty blend of ingredients and may in fact be the closest thing Melbourne has to authentic artery-clogging Japanese tonkotsu ramen.
The noodles at Ramen Ya are not phenomenal, but they are of a consistently higher quality than most Japanese noodle places in Melbourne. Ramen Ya is definitely worth checking out if you have not already.
As a side note, Kenzan GPO next door offers a delicious Tantan Ramen which contains minced pork laced with chilli, bamboo shoots, nori and soft boiled egg in a miso broth. It is a few dollars dearer than the ramen dishes at Ramen Ya, but it is certainly a far tastier alternative. Be wary of the cold Tantan Ramen though; it is the hot variety that you are after.