392 Bridge Rd
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9421 1661
I can honestly say that I’ve been to quite a fair few ramen eateries around Melbourne. Ramen Ya, Don Too, Ito and Ajisen Ramen to name a few. But my hunt for Melbourne’s Best Ramen was never going to stop until I finally tried Momotaro Rahmen. Named after a demon-slaying boy hero from Japanese folklore that came to earth in a giant peach, the restaurant is supposedly the king of ramen eateries. Well, in Melbourne anyway.
Situated on the quiet end of Bridge Road, Momotaro Rahmen is a tiny cafe that does not accept bookings. Although it’s a virtually spartan place, it is decorated by various Japanese trinkets and tables are adorned with local and Japanese magazines and newspapers for a homely touch.
The first time Adam and I visited this place for lunch on a Tuesday afternoon. He ordered a tonkotsu ramen ($11), which typically consists of a milky white broth, the result of boiling pork bones over high heat for several hours. It was topped with slices of roast pork, bean shoots, half a not-quite-hard-boiled egg and garnished with chopped spring onions and sesame. It looked good. And it looked MASSIVE. Like one of those L-sized pho bowls you get at those pho joints that allow you to choose your bowl sizes. To be honest, I’m not sure if I liked the broth – it was probably a bit too delicate for my liking. Adam’s reaction was more negative. He declared it ‘bland’ and in a desperate attempt to add more flavour to the dish, went on to pour half the contents of the chilli oil bottle sitting on the table which made it inedible in the end anyway. Silly kid.
Other cons? They advertised the tonkotsu as consisting of ‘mixed vegetables’ but there was NOTHING apart from the bean shoots. The pro? The noodles. Oh yeah, they were FANTASTIC. Springier than Springy the Springfield Spring and deliciously chewy, I can honestly say that these were the best ramen noodles yet.
I ordered the gyoza combination which consisted of a bowl of shoyu (soy) ramen and three pieces of gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumplings) with salad and rice ($16). Plonked unceremoniously on a Larissa Dubecki review (lol), my bowl was not as big as Adam’s. Thank goodness though because I would not have been able to finish it. After tasting Adam’s rather disappointing (but for the noodles) ramen, I was glad that my shoyu ramen was amazing. The broth was still delicate but more robust and more tasty. A lone, fatty piece of char shu competed with a handful of corn, bean shoots, spring onions and half a not-quite-hard-boiled egg for attention but it was the The Most Amazing Ramen Noodles and the broth that overshadowed them all. Delicious.
Momotaro’s gyoza are pretty good too and they deserve as much praise as their (non tonkotsu) ramen dishes. Presented with crispy bottoms, they were filled with a succulent pork, cabbage, garlic and chive filling. On equal footing was the refreshing cabbage salad that came with a lovely, tangy daikon and ponzu dressing, topped with a sprinkle of black sesame for prettiness. Yum.
The second time we came here was last Friday night, for a farewell dinner for Adam’s sister, Jen, as she was flying back home to the States the very next morning. While I’ve heard that the dinner rush at Momotaro is usually a St Kilda FC-worthy nightmare, it wasn’t overly busy on the night we went – thank goodness for office Christmas party season, hey!
Our friend gyoza made an appearance along with a plate of takoyaki ($7 for six). It was served on a (rather excessive, I might add) bed of cabbage salad with a dab of wasabi on the side. The takoyaki were really nice – crunchy skins and a creamy filling that had generous bits of octopus. We liked.
Adam decided to play guinea pig for the night and choose a non-ramen dish. Given that not much has been said about the rice dishes at Momotaro, he was taking a big gamble. He ended up choosing a pork katsu curry ($13), a Japanese-style mild curry with crumbed pork cutlets and rice. Although the dish was generous in size (no surprises there) and the pork nicely cooked, I can’t say that I really enjoyed the curry. It was akin to eating a robust version of the sauce that comes in canned of baked beans. Give me Don Don, any day.
For some strange reason, Adam’s dish came with the cabbage salad that I had with my gyoza combination above. Indeed, it was a pretty generous salad too and in fact, I can bet that most people would be more than happy to pay $8 for it if it was actually a separate item on the menu but whatever, everyone on the table eagerly grabbed some salad for themselves while they were waiting for their own dishes. I really need to know how to make this for lunch, stat.
The thought of eating a ‘normal’ (read: MASSIVE) bowl of ramen made me quite queasy so I asked if it was okay to have a childrens-sized ramen ($8) which is available in three flavours: shoyu, shio and miso. For some reason, I expected them to say ‘no’ to me but my eyes lit up when they said that, yes, they were able to do it for me. I guess crouching down on my chair and being all “PAY ATTENTION TO ME, ADAM, DAMMIT!” worked like a charm, heeeh.
I chose the shio ramen, a mild salt-based ramen. It was the same size as the shoyu ramen I enjoyed during lunch and consisted of exactly the same trimmings minus the egg but PLUS the mushrooms (ooh wee!). I did notice that the roast pork slice was not as fatty though which was a shame. And while all the trimmings were fine (and the noodles ZOMG FANTASTIC), I can’t say the same about the broth. I know it is supposed to be a mild broth but it was way too mild for me and frankly, eating it was just as boring as listening to one of Adam’s ASX podcasts. The pro? Despite its smaller size, it still filled me up and for only a fraction of the price of a regular (MASSIVE) ramen.
Given all the glowing reviews about this place, I was expecting mind-blowing awesomeness but I didn’t really get it. Sure, the service was great and the food (when you ordered correctly) was fantastic but it wasn’t miles ahead of Don Too or any of the newer places in the ramen market. That said, we all know that authentic ramen is practically non-existent in Melbourne so if I were to recommend a ‘good’ ramen eatery that doesn’t completely suck, it would be this one and Don Too. Momotaro’s ramen ain’t gonna shake the world but it’ll do for now. Next time? a children-sized miso ramen and a plate of takoyaki. Or a children-sized shoyu ramen and a plate of gyoza.