Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe

122 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 2788

My exam studying routine goes like this: Make my way into the city to study at RMIT business library, the reason being that if I were to stay home and study on my desk, I would be distracted by 1) the computer, 2) all the junk food in my room and 3) my bed. So anyway, when I arrive at the business library, the first thing I do is grab a bunch of books from the shelves before finding a nice, quiet place to set up camp. Then 10 minutes later – and this ALWAYS happens – I have the case of the tummy rumbles.

On one particular ‘study day’, it was cold and dreary but I braved the conditions to walk up Bourke Street and into Ito, the diner-style Japanese restaurant that specialises in noodle dishes. It’s a place that I’ve walked past numerous times over the years but never really paid much attention to it until now. I had been craving ramen all week and the dreadful weather conditions made it an apt time to have ramen. It wasn’t terribly busy when I arrived just after 12pm and although the rain may have detracted diners from hibernating in their cozy city apartments and offices, it did not prevent the waitresses from serving me as fast as a Japanese bullet train – and with smiles on their faces too.

Despite it being freezing outside, I could not resist ordering a green tea smoothie ($4.80) which would have been awesome during the warmer months (not that it WASN’T awesome when I had it). The green tea taste was probably more subtle than expected but I was cool with that. I also loved that the green tea powder gave the smoothie a nice, gritty texture too.

I enjoyed a chashu ramen in a miso base ($9.80). I would have loved to have a tonkotsu base but apart from miso, the only other option was a shoyu base (which I probably should have chose in hindsight but oh well…). Aided by the slightest hint of MSG, the soup base was lovely and if there was a noodle equivalent to ‘al dente’, the word would definitely be used to described these noodles. All the toppings received a tick: the bamboo pieces, the bean sprouts, the roasted seaweed pieces and the piece of boiled egg that was still gooey in the middle. Yum! I did, however, feel that the chashu pork could have done with a bit more fattiness but on the other hand, I approved of their beautiful smoky flavour.

Melbourne’s ramens may be severely lacking, with Menya being fully-loaded with MSG and Ramen Ya’s offerings showing no signs of the dreaded E621 yet somewhat lacking in taste, however I think Ito’s ramen gets my approval by sitting smack-bang in the middle of the ramen spectrum. I’ve yet to try Chocolate Buddha or Momotaro Ramen so I cannot conclusively say that this is Melbourne’s best ramen. Still, it was good enough for me, I thought as I grudgingly walked past to the library where my books were waiting and well worth a return visit.

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  1. The first time I went to Ito was not long after I started uni – so not long after I arrived in Melbourne. I went with this guy that I had a crush on (hehe) and he ordered what was pretty much rice with a whole stack of raw salmon and salmon roe on top. It completely put me off cos it just looked REVOLTING. I didn’t go back for a few months, and when I did and had the fried chicken ramen or something I wasn’t impressed. You’re right, I have yet to find a decent ramen place!

    1. Wow, that rice and salmon dish sounds terribly odd. I don’t recall seeing it on the menu when I was there but I’m guessing that a lot has changed since then and maybe they took it off?

      In any case, this place is better than the Asijen Ramen place I recommended to you a while ago. It was not bad the first time but the last time we went, it was tres horrible. Never again!

  2. My mum and I have been to momotaro ramen ages ago and if it’s still the same, I do remember it being really quite excellent!

    And certainly can never go past a green tea smoothie…mmm!

  3. I’ve been there once for a birthday (like 4 years ago)
    It was an awful experience (not the food or the service but the people who i was with). and thus i haven’t been able to go back…
    and perhaps…

    i might..
    just to try some things out….

    1. RELATIVELY SPEAKING, it was one of the better ramens I’ve had.

      I know you’ve told me that Momotaro Ramen isn’t all that fantastic but I’m going to give it a go anyway 🙂

  4. If Chocolate Buddha has not changed in the past 3 years. I will tell you not to even bother with the ramen there. Though I have to say, I wasn’t that fond of Ramen-ya either.
    I have yet to find a place with ramen in Melbourne that I really do enjoy 🙁

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