Food and Drink


Ramen Ya? Yeah, alright

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Ramen, Chinese in origin yet passionately embraced by the Japanese, is a bowl of slightly chewy noodles in broth: heavy and sticky tonkotsu (pork) and lighter shoyu (chicken and soy) or miso, adorned with condiments like egg, gyoza, and often, more pork.

In Japan roughly 5-6 billion bowls of ramen are sold per annum. That works out to be about 40 bowls of ramen per citizen a year, almost one a week. Impressive.

It’s highly unlikely that we eat as much ramen in Melbourne, but there are two Ramen Ya shops in Melbourne now and they’re both on Bourke Street. They’re pretty much identical, disregarding the size and seating arrangements and they serve exactly the same menu.

Ramen Ya number one is in the alleyway next to the GPO. I prefer the newer version, the better version of Ramen Ya (see, confusing) at the top of Bourke Street in the Paramount Arcade.

You’d be hard pressed to spend $20 per head in a sitting. Portions are generous and the service is super-speedy but there’s a bit of a franchise type feel to the place with its super minimalism and branded bowls. The lantern covered ceiling is cool.

There’s no table service. Order from the counter and grab a drink from the fridge while you’re at it. If you’re wondering, a Shika Cup is a little glass jar of sweet rice booze. They have Japanese beers and brightly coloured sweet things as well.

You come for the ramen of course, but there are other options. Bento boxes with the usual fillings: eel, chicken, pork. I wouldn’t rush in for one. It’s a bit like going to a seafood restaurant and ordering a steak — don’t be surprised if it’s crap. The tonkatsu chicken curry bento box was largely uninspiring and mostly cold.

The noodle soup is good. At around $10 a serve it’s more than enough for one very hungry person and a $14 special will get you a cup of Japanese tea, a bowl of ramen and 3 gyozas or a side salad.

I go for the pork broth usually, it’s thick, rich, cloudy sweet and salty all at once … and I do like those little imitation seafood stars they use. Let the egg yolk dissipate into the soup for added effect. The seafood gyozas taste of nothing, but the minced chicken (tukume, $10, pictured) was satisfying and the chashu (simmered pork) ramen is the house specialty. Order it.

Anyway, give it a go, if you were going to have a crack at eating 40 bowls of ramen in a year this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Ramen Ya (the newest one)
Open 7 days 11-late
Shop 9, The Paramount Arcade
108 Bourke Street, Melbourne
9662 1001
No reservations

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