It was still summer technically and Melbourne had one of those out-of-nowhere rainstorms. Billy from Half-Eaten had organised a ramen fest and it provided me with my first meeting of some fellow food bloggers. It promised to be quite a dinner. Ryan’s car had failed him and many others had not turned up due to the inclement weather, but I most certainly wasn’t going to let the bloody rain get in the way of my very first visit to Ramen Ya in the CBD. It’s a bit tricky to get to – you can enter from Bourke Street, next to the GPO and walk through the adjacent restaurant, or you can get to it via Little Bourke St if you skilfully avoid all the building work and maintenance in that spot.
This also marked the first time I got to try the fabled tonkotsu. All this time I’d been eating ramen and never tried? For shame, foodie Gem, for shame. Behold – the self-proclaimed Ramen Ya house specialty – the chashu tonkotsu ramen.
Tris was also losing his tonkotsu virginity – to a gyoza tonkotsu ramen. Hel-lo nori squares. Wonder whose origami handiwork is in the background?
While you wait for your ramen, you can help yourself to the origami paper with built-in instructions. Handy! I recall Billy being quite proficient with these. I preferred to save what little dexterity I had for the ramen eating and chopstick wielding, which seemed to be not much…
It was here that I first got introduced to Penny of Addictive and Consuming – rather embarrassingly by dropping a morsel en route to my mouth which caused a ramen broth tsunami. Thank goodness Ramen Ya has dentist bibs for you to wear and keep your clothes dry! Sorry Penny, my chopsticks skills were sorely lacking that night and you suffered for it greatly, sigh.
Penny was on the quest to find the best tonkotsu ramen Melbourne had to offer. I wish I had ordered extra chashu like Penny and her partner. Billy ordered extra noodles – I am in awe of the man’s ramen prowess. Incidentally, it’s very common for people in Japan to request extra toppings and noodles. Lucky things, they even have hot rocks to reheat your broth if it gets cold. Sadly, Melbourne is not quite up there in the ramen stakes to offer Melburnians such thoughtful things. Not yet. In fact, fellow diner Joyce of Mel: Hot or Not predicts that ramen could gain popularity here. If so, then it means more decent ramen eateries, which would be terrific!
More recently, I stopped by Ramen Ya again to grab a quick bowl and get those stamps on my loyalty card (your tenth bowl is free!). Alex from MSG saw we were in the area and dropped by with mate Jillian. Impromptu ramen date, yea! On this occasion, I ordered the chashu shoyu ramen.
Tonkotsu is a broth that takes a very long time to make and consists of pork bone. It’s very rich and fatty, and as a result very flavoursome. I wanted to try the shoyu broth as that is lighter, soy-based and more subtle in flavour.
It’s not easy to see, but the broth is clearer than the tonkotsu. I giggle slightly whenever I see the pink and white naruto (or kamaboko, a type of fishcake) because it reminds of the scene in Japanese cult film classic Tampopo where a truckdriver starts a fight in a ramen bar by flicking his naruto slice onto a rival diner. Pugilism ensues. If you love ramen, you need to watch this film – what could be better than a spaghetti-styled Western about two truckdrivers searching for the perfect bowl of ramen? It’s what led me to try ramen in the first place.
Tris had the tsukune (minced chicken) tonkotsu ramen. As you can see, there is a slight skin on the broth. Yummy, fatty goodness!
Make sure you order a Japanese beer (Yebisu, Sapporo or Asahi) with your bowl, or some Japanese green tea. My personal fave is genmaicha – roasted rice green tea. In any case, now that the winter really is on its way in, I highly recommend warming up with a bowl of Ramen Ya ramen. A bowl will set you back $10, a little more if you order extras. I find myself full to the brim after an entire bowl and have a fairly hearty appetite.