MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

Helping you add flavour to this wonderful city.

Ramen Battle – The Final

with 14 comments

Welcome back gentle reader, and apologies for the delay between this post and the last once again. It seems time has been getting the better of me lately. I’m sure I don’t need to spend a great deal of time introducing this post, particularly if you’ve been following the ramen battle going on on this blog in the past few weeks. If you haven’t, checked out the introduction here, Heat 1 here (won by Ajisen Ramen)and Heat 2 here (won by Ramen Ya). That’ll bring you up to speed.

So as noted, the winners of the two heats were:

1. Ajisen Ramen, in an upset, and since highly contested win over highly vaunted Momotaro.

2. Ramen Ya, in a comfortable victory over some fairly decent opposition.

Although this is mentioned in the introductory post, I shall copy & paste it here for you information. Here are the more rigorous scoring guidelines for our Final battle:

Finals competitors will be scored on:

  • Broth: Is the broth mouth-watering? Does it make me want to drink the entire bowl? Does it make me want to jump into it and do laps?
  • Noodles: Are the noodles too soft? Too rubbery? Do they break apart easily?
  • Filling: Is there too much of one particular vegetable or not enough meat? Is the produce of a low quality?
  • Authenticity: How authentic is it to the particular type of ramen they are trying to execute? Is this the real tonkotsu? is this a well-crafted miso?
  • Everything Else: As above
  • Overall: Final Score

We also had a guest judge, our good friend Shu Qi, along with us for our taste tests to add an extra palate to our battle. And here are the results.

Ajisen Ramen

130 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9662 1100
urbanspoon
foursquare
Ajisen  Ramen on Urbanspoon

Our return to Ajisen Ramen was not without controversy. Those that have been following the previous heats may have noticed that the decision to have Ajisen win Heat 1 was contested hotly in the comments. Our good friend Billy from Half-Eaten was particularly passionate about his hatred of Ajisen. Our position was defended by asserting supremacy over Momotaro, and I won’t harp on about it, read the post on that Heat for more info.

So bruised & battered, Ajisen headed into the final round very much the underdog. Could it pull off another stunning upset in the face of its detractors? Or would it be left runner-up, in the dust of ramen mediocrity? We shall soon found out.

Shu Qi – Char Grilled Beef Ramen:


Authenticity: 5.5.

Broth: 6. Tastes comforting after a massive day

Noodles: 4. Look more like angel hair pasta than ramen.

Fillings: 8. The beef is tender, and cooked at medium-rare as requested. (Alex: I tried Shu Qi’s beef and was also impressed with it, while char-grilled beef is not an authentic filling for ramen usually it tasted pretty awesome & they weren’t stingy with it either)

Everything Else: 6.5. Rock music playing, waiters look like part-time students.

Overall: 6.

Jess – Volcano Ramen:

The volcano ramen is my favourite ramen at this place.. MS & I frequent this place for old times sake as early on in our friendship we were in Hong Kong together and joined forces in a ramen frenzy at this chain which was dotted all throughout HK, before it arrived in Melbourne. I have fond memories of sitting there watching MS sweating chilli through his pores trying to swallow every last piece of ramen whilst I tried my best to slurp my ramen up without snorting it out of my nose in laughter. So I have a soft spot for this dish 😉

As you can see from the pictures; this ramen comes served in a large bowl with mixed vegetables and some char-shu and a dollop of “volcano sauce”, which I can only best describe as similar to the chilli-oil that you get at Chinese restauraunts.

Authenticity: 6 – I like to think of this place as Japanese fast food.

Broth: 7; tasty, but MSG-laden. Loved the volcano sauce.

Noodles: 4.

Fillings: 6.5. veggies, meats, etc. Plentiful. I liked the chashu, had about 4 pieces. I gave this a 7.5, but after tasting the chashu in Alex’s ramen at ramen-ya, I reconsidered. My god were the chashu at ramen-ya delicious.

Everything else: 7.5. Decent value. Massive bowl for the price. Had entertainment vouchers so 25% off. Table service, quick, not friendly but not unfriendly. It is what it is, it’s like a diner I guess, wait staff students just trying to earn a buck. It’s not fine dining, but you don’t pay for fine dining.

Overall: 7.

Alex: Spicy Ramen


Authenticity: 4. Quite clearly neither the menu, the decor or the staff are Japanese. And neither is the food really. They have (Indonesian-produced) Calpico though. I think that’s where the four points are coming form. And I don’t want to be mean.

Broth: 7. Included collagen, thick and fairly tasty, MSG-laden but who cares? I don’t. Also, spicy, very spicy. I like.

Noodles: 4. OK, the much maligned Ajisen noodles. Yes they are like angel hair pasta, as Shu Qi and Billy have both pointed out. They’re round not square. OK, you guys win there.

Fillings: 5. They are getting stingy with the spicy mince, the bastards. There was again, way too much cabbage, again way too much carrot. Grrr. Less spicy mince = me not happy.

Everything else: 7. Backless chairs annoy me but it’s a fairly clean, comfortable place otherwise with decent service.

Overall: 6.

Ramen Ya

Shop 25G Melbourne GPO,
350 Bourke St,
Melbourne, 3000
urbanspoon
foursquare
web

Ramen   Ya on Urbanspoon

By far the most popular ramen place around, loved universally by almost everyone, I have never once heard a bad word said about this place. So I guess, err… firm favourite status then.

Shu Qi – Seafood Gyoza Ramen in Tonkotsu Broth


Authenticity: 8. Love the wooden spoon!

Broth: 8.

Noodles: Tastes like ramen noodles from the Asian grocers.

Fillings: 7.

Everything Else: 8.

Overall: 7.8

Jess – Seafood Gyoza Ramen in Tonkotsu Broth


Authenticity: 8

Broth: 9 – delicious, creamy broth. So addictive, and didn’t get the MSG furry tongue after this like I did a bit from Ajisen.

Noodles: 8 – nice texture.

Fillings: 8  – I tasted some of MS’s cha-shu, and it was amazing. Melt in your mouth pieces of pork. Fantastic. The seafood gyoza were ok. Not bad, but not great. They didn’t pair so well with the ramen. So 9 for the cha-shu, 6 for the gyoza, but 8 overall cos the cha-shu was so damn good. My bad on choice of fillings though. Their vegies were presented nicely on top, the pickles were perhaps slightly too ‘pickled,’ i.e. vinegar-y for me, but good nonetheless.

Everything else: 7. Much better value than Ajisen. Ajisen is bigger, but the overall broth, noodles, fillings all tasted better. Service was almost non-existant, more like a canteen style. Order at counter. Noodles came quickly though, self-service for drinks. In this regard, Ajisen wins.

Overall: 8.5.

Ajisen is good in that it has lots of choice. Though, with something like Ramen, I think Ramen-ya has the better philosophy in streamlining to; broth, then filling. Rather than try and do too much, their focus is doing what they do, but doing it well. The broth and noodles were hands down heaps better. The seafood gyoza weren’t that good though. Ramen-ya clear winner for me.

Alex – Chashu Ramen in Tonkotsu Broth


Authenticity: 8

Broth: 9. Delicious tonkotsu, near perfectly executed.

Noodles: 8.

Fillings: 8 – more chashu this time! Though, in general, the produce could be of better quality but I feel like I’m asking too much. It’s ramen after all. Not gourmet.

Everything Else: 7. Backless stools, order at the counter. Points lost there.

Overall: 8. Clearly the best ramen in Melbourne

Final Judgment.

So as you can see, Ramen Ya is clearly the best ramen in Melbourne and wins points on many frontiers. The chashu ramen in the tonkotsu broth comes heavily recommended, as does their near-secret (advertised nowhere it seems) happy hour from 2:30 – 5:30 where all ramen and bento is $6.50. If you should go during regular hours, don’t forget to get your loyalty card stamped. Fifth stamp gets you a free ice cream and a tenth stamp gets you a free ramen. Bargain-a-licious!

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14 Responses

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  1. I have to say, I’m fiercely loyal to Momotaro though yes I know it’s not authentic (I might have put that in for Billy’s sake before I get a tirade as to why it’s so crap). Having never been to Japan, I don’t know what authentic ramen is like. Also, Momotaro is one of my fave solo dining spots. I have much love for it.

    Ajisen isn’t bad, I didn’t think. I too have had the chargrilled beef ramen. But yeah, Ramen Ya – I think the only ramen I’ve had that could rival it is the ramen in Ichiban Boshi up in Sydney. Ooh yeah, ramen-sex.

    Gem

    May 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm

  2. Ichiban Boshi in Sydney is indeed awesome, though I have heard from Sydneysider friends that it hasn’t been top dog ramen in Sydney for a few years now. I’m yet to check out the newly opened places.

    Momotaro, to me, seemed reasonably authentic by Melbourne standards. It wasn’t the lack of authenticity that troubled me, it was the extraordinarily stingy approach to the ramen (one slice of crappy quality chashu, one million bean sprouts), the lacklustre tonkotsu (as compared to ramen ya), the stifling hot temperature when I was there (it was a 25 degree day at 6.30pm, not warranted), the self-service, the cramped space, etc. Should I go on? Sorry, everything just came together poorly.

    Yeah that chargrilled beef ramen was a real surprise at Ajisen. Never had it before but I think it will replace my usual spicy ramen now.

    alexlobov

    May 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm

  3. Awesome write-up guys, and I heartily concur with your results. The hunt goes on, though…

    One thing I love about your format, which the ramenhunt adventure lacked, was the ability to comment on the quantity of toppings/fillings, and the overall size of the ramen dish/bowl. I did feel that we glossed over that important consideration somewhat, sharing two or three bowls between eight people at each place. Still, not even I could have eaten six bowls on the day. Maybe five, but not six.

    And Gem, my issue with Momotaro isn’t to do with its authenticity, but rather that in my experience their tonkotsu was just rather woeful. If you’re going to serve something, do it properly? That being said, I may have to give them another try, and just go for the miso or shoyu broths.

    Billy

    May 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

    • Thanks mate! Yeah, I prefer to stagger my food battles over weeks rather than do it all on one day. It’s fun to do a day’s hunt, but I’m not sure that I could look at ramen again for another week after and I don’t want to ruin the dish for myself.

      Gem, I concur on trying Momotaro again, I’m an open-minded fellow.

      alexlobov

      May 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    • Embarrassingly, never had the tonkotsu @ Momotaro. My fave is the shio-wakame and the negi-miso and have been ordering them for years, mainly because of my love for WAKAME That shit’s crack, yo.

      I also love their cold noodle salad – I guess like a tsukemen without dipping.

      Gem

      May 4, 2010 at 7:21 pm

  4. Alex – let’s do Momotaro Rahmen together. I want to try the tonkotsu now even if it will be awful.

    Oh the things us food bloggers do in the name of research and helping the public… 😛

    Gem

    May 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm

  5. Such sacrifices, SUCH SACRIFICES. Certainly Gem. And I shall try this shio-wakame, sounds intriguing.

    alexlobov

    May 5, 2010 at 4:20 am

  6. I want in on any organised group ramen eating expedition 🙂

    snarkle

    May 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

    • Well it does appear you’ve missed the boat on the last spate of ramen eating expeditions my dear snarkle, but rest assured you will certainly be kept in mind if organised ramen eating occurs in the future!

      alexlobov

      May 7, 2010 at 3:29 am

  7. Do u write this blog lobov?
    Anyway, I totally agree, Ramen-ya is by far the best ramen in Melbs, although I am a sucker for Ajisen’s more convenient location and take-away option.

    I tend to prefer the noodles at Ajisen to those at Ramen-ya, to me they are not akin to pasta so much as to Hakata style noodles, but Ramen-ya’s broth and chashu are def superior.

    I guess I’m kinda biased with my choices though as I don’t really like shio or shoyu ramen, I love tonkotsu. xo

    Alex G

    May 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    • Guppy, I presume? I do write this blog. I’m not overly familiar with Hakata style noodles but I’ll ask Billy from Half-Eaten as he’s the main man behind #ajisenrage.

      Everybody loves tonkotsu! It’s clearly superior to shoyu ramen. But I’ve tried the shoyu broth at Ramen Ya and it’s still the best in town.

      alexlobov

      May 11, 2010 at 3:28 pm

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