330 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 7113
Ah, ramen. There is seriously nothing better to tuck into on a cool Winter’s evening. Except for pho. Or braised lamb shanks. Or lasagne. Or pumpkin soup. Ahem. Given the lack of decent ramen options in Melbourne, however, it’s not surprising that ramen does not rate highly on many people’s top Winter comfort food lists. Too much MSG. Too little MSG. Crappy instant noodles. WTF ingredients (lettuce, anyone?). I think the owners of Don Too (the younger sister of Don Don) have realised this and have subsequently wanted to tap into the barely touched market of super-duper awesome ramen in Melbourne. When I first read that normally-lunch-time-only Don Too now opened its doors for dinner on tummyrumbles, I was stoked. And when I read that they had a ramen-only menu for dinner, my reaction was similar to when I found out that both my rucks scored 100+ points in Supercoach this round. No seriously, I think that is worth a ‘WOW.’
Don Too opens its doors for dinner at 5pm. Because of its relatively secluded location and because people have been accustomed to the fact that Don Too was a lunch-only venue, the early hours of a weekday evening is pretty much dead. To find yourself in an empty split-room cafe with smooth jazz tunes blaring from the speakers on a rainy night is a sure-fire way to head to the counter with reluctance but on the other hand, you can actually bag yourself a seat which is normally not the case if you come here during the day.
When the lady at the counter bent down to pour my glass of house white from beneath the cash register while trying to block my view, I suspect that she was doing the dodgy and pouring me *shock horror* cask wine. Indeed, my unidentifiable wine tasted bolder and cheaper than what a standard “house wine” at any pub would taste like. That said, when you are given a serving that is way more than a standard glass and when you are only charged $2.50 for it, why complain? And why complain about VB and Pure Blonde being two of the local beer choices available in bottles when they are only $3 a bottle? ($5 Asahi also available).
Among the limited selection of sides/entrees available were a plate of gyoza (six pieces for $4.80). My initial thought upon seeing all the black bits was, ‘ick!’ but once I bet into the crispy-bottomed and soft-topped parcels of pork and cabbage, dipped in vinegared soy, all negative thoughts disappeared. They were tastier and I guess bolder than many versions I’ve had. Tick.
The first time I came here for dinner, I ordered a charshu ramen ($13). I love that they didn’t put MSG in the broth which was very subtle but arguably on the verge of being slightly insipid. The chewy noodles (all 250gms of it), the soft, smoky charshu pork slice and the awesomely gooey soy-marinated egg halves made up for it with fresh bean shoots, chopped spring onions, a broccoli floret and a toddler’s handful of corn kernels creating prettiness and contrasting textures. Yum!
The second time I went, I decided to give the miso ramen ($9.30) a go. It is pretty much the same as the charshu ramen, just with a different broth. Oh, and the charshu was, for some reason, fattier and not as smoky as the charshu in the other one. I was surprised to find the seasoned miso broth being the more tasty of the two – perhaps a little too tasty if I want to be extremely fussy but I won’t. Having said that, I would definitely go the miso ramen over the charshu one next time.
Adam, who has a penchant for ordering the strangest items off menus, ordered a marinara ramen ($13.20) which could probably be best described as a cross between a ramen and a bowl of marinara pasta. It was weird enough seeing a ramen broth that was tomato-based, but to also see fresh prawns, pippies, mussels and calamari really did my head in. While I give props to Don Too for daring to be different, this was definitely not something that I’d be rushing to order again. Adam, on the other hand, loved it and said that it tasted exactly how he imagined it to be.
For those of you who are used to the walk in, place order and eff off routine at Don Too, you may be surprised to find that your ramen will take longer than the walk from your office down to the eatery. Just be patient though and you will be rewarded by probably the best ramen in Melbourne.*
*Pending a visit to Momotaro Rahmen.