Ramen. So simple yet so delicious, a timeless pairing of noodles and broth, not to mention various accoutrements. Chewy noodles that have been cooked to the exact level of firmness requested by the diner, broths varying from a light and salty profile to one made by slow-cooking pork bones for hours to create a rich, creamy, intense soup base. Toppings that vary from pork that's been braised in soy sauce, sake and sugar until it's meltingly tender, to soft-boiled eggs marinated in a mix of ingredients that are often a closely guarded secret…
Okay, ramen is decidedly not so simple after all, but it is undeniably appetizing. With everything from creamy Tonkatsu-style to a lighter Shio-based broth, we’ve assembled our definitive list of the best ramen in Melbourne for 2023:
The team at Mensho are all about the five essential components that are paramount to creating the perfect bowl of ramen - soup, tare, noodles, toppings and oil - and all have to be perfectly balanced. Everything from the broth to their bouncy noodles is made in-house, marrying authenticity with locality. As for the menu, their signature dish is the Toripaitan Ramen; a thick, creamy, chicken-based broth topped with pork Chashu.
If you want something a little off the wayside, the Matcha ramen has a fittingly bright green broth with duck Chashu, and for an extra flavour kick, the garlic blaze packs a truly strong, garlicky punch. Vegetarians and vegans aren’t left out either, with vegan Tantanmen available, along with vegan variations of the Shoyu and Shio broths.
Yeah, there may be a line outside when you rock up, but that’s just a testament to how good the ramen is in this CBD joint. Musashi’s recipes are informed by Rikisai Miyajima, a ramen school in Japan with a reputation spanning over 25 years. If you’re looking for something a little different, their Wagyu Yakuza ramen is a concoction of a delicate soy broth topped with M9+ Master Kobe Wagyu, which is then torched at your table. Talk about luxe. Of course, you can opt for the more traditional route with a Tonkotsu-style ramen for something thick and creamy, or a Shoyu-based broth for something light and salty.
A dark wooden interior and shelves lined with Asahi bottles give way to some truly great and authentic ramen. The portions at Tokyo Table are more than generous, so you won’t be leaving hungry, and they’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Their Nagasaki Champon is a spicy seafood concoction, served with vegetables and a traditional broth, or they have a spicy beef ramen with a Nori-based broth and special house Tare. Make sure to try their Gyoza and Takoyaki sides, as well as their Okonomiyaki (a savoury cabbage pancake).
Amongst the classic Japanese curries, karaage, tempura and gyoza, you’ll find Neko Neko’s signature dish—vegan ramen. From Tokyo to Melbourne, this special ramen has travelled far. It’s got a healthy homemade 20-ingredient broth and eggless noodles of authenticity you can taste because the owners and chefs are all Japanese. It may be plant-based but it’s hands down one of the best ramen in Melbourne.
From a lockdown business to a full-fledged restaurant, Gomi Boys have made a name for themselves by serving up pipping hot, flavoursome bowls of ramen. With an ever-changing menu informed by a more seasonal approach, there are a few constants with several versions of ramen always included, made from local ingredients. The current menu includes a duck Shoyu Ramen, topped with duck breast and duck rillette, as well as preserved orange and grilled spring onion. For vegetarians, there’s an almond and mushroom ramen, made with housemade Ponzu, Jerusalem artichoke, oyster mushroom and leafy greens. Also available are dry-ramen options, in case you’re not feeling particularly slurpy.
Shyun Ramen Bar
Some of the best ramen Melbourne has to offer can often be found outside of the CBD. From the cheerful Japanese greeting called out by every staff member when you walk in the door, to the open kitchen facing ramen lovers in the long, narrow dining area, Shyun Ramen Bar is a slice of Japan transported to suburbia. A simple industrial fit-out puts the focus on piping hot bowls of some of Melbourne’s best ramen, soba and udon. The Karaage ramen is a marriage of Japas and ramen—bite-sized pieces of deep-fried chicken sit atop a mound of tender noodles in a Shoyu or miso-based broth, and a handful of corn kernels and spring onions to add texture to the dish.
Little Ramen Bar
According to the crew at Little Ramen Bar, the traditional accompaniment to ramen is—apart from the sound of slurping—a plate full of gyoza. The juicy, porky dumplings go as well with a crisp Sapporo as they do with what could be the best ramen Melbourne has in the CBD. Take your pick from the classic ramen (with a slice of tender pork, seaweed, and a choice of broth) or the spicy tan-tan men. The latter is a hearty, rich version of ramen, with loads of noodles in a chilli-infused broth that's so full of minced pork it's more like a stew than a noodle soup—perfect for dunking gyoza into.
CBD, GLEN WAVERLEY
While we’ve got a cheeky midnight kebab, there’s ever-growing room for more late-night dining options in Melbourne. That’s where Shujinko Ramen, comes in. Although it’s no longer open 24 hours, you can find piping hot bowls of tenderly-cooked ramen, gyoza and takoyaki being served here late at night. Their signature collagen-rich Tonkotsu Ramen is guaranteed to bring you back to life no matter what state you’re in. The broth is poured over a soft halved egg, roast pork belly and wheat noodles which are made in a windowed bolthole at the back of the restaurant. For sharing dishes, don’t miss the crispy croquettes, chicken Karaage and pan-fried gyoza.
MOONEE PONDS, CBD
What started as Parco Project, a secret pop-up at Shujinko back in lockdown, has now manifested itself into some of the best ramen in Melbourne. Just like you would imagine an authentic Tokyo restaurant, Parco Ramen is a small storefront on Hall Street that sits only 19 people at a time, creating lines of noodle enthusiasts that swell the entrance. Although small in stature there’s a variety of menu options from the signature Tokyo signature, dark-miso vegan ramen, as well as a rich lobster and koji-based broth with Australian lobster tail alongside all the trimmings including dashi egg, spring onions, nori and sesame seeds. They’ve also got venues open in the CBD and in the North Melbourne food hall, Ezistreat.
Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen
Ikkoryu Fukuoka hosts ramen that is most dearly beloved by the prefecture of Fukuoka, a port city. Nestled away in a corner of Russell Street, Ikkoryu Fukuoka is one of the city’s hidden gems that boasts some of the best ramen in Melbourne. Starting with a broth base, you’re invited to customise your ramen to exactly your liking, from how rich you like your broth to what noodle texture you prefer. If you’re looking for a unique flavour, their Yuzu Kosho Tonkostu has a citric twist that may surprise you.
Mr Ramen San
In the belly of Mid-City Arcade, you’ll find Mr Ramen San tucked away, usually with a line outside, although they’ve recently opened up another venue on Little Burke Street. One of the oldest ramen joints in Melbourne, and certainly some of the best ramen in Melbourne, this eatery is known for its 24-hour tonkatsu broth and housemade noodles. Mr Ramen San offers up different ramen variations such as spicy chicken ramen, seafood ramen, family-style hotpot with pork broth and most impressively, an entirely vegan ‘Charsu’ ramen.
A relatively new ramen Melbourne is offering is Shizuku. It's all charcoal walls, big blonde wood light shades and terrariums at this modern outfit that specialise in ramen and craft beer. The drinks list runs from the usual Asahi right through to the less common bacon maple ale and delicious rum-infused umeshu (plum wine), and the ramen menu is just as diverse. For ramen newbies, the classic Shoyu ramen—wheat noodles and pork in a slightly salty soup—is a good place to start. But for ramen diehards, we recommend the Tonkotsu Shio ramen, with pork belly and noodles that start out springy but become more tender and flavoursome the longer you let them swim in the pork bone broth.
FITZROY & PRESTON
The ramen Melbournians often favours in the inner-north can be found at Shop Ramen. While the chicken miso ramen is a favourite, and it's hard to go past the gooey soft-boiled egg and luscious pork in the classic ramen, it's the clever vegetarian version that's become a cult favourite. The cashew milk broth is as tasty as its porky counterpart; broccoli and zucchini add crunch and flavour, along with the handful of nuts and seeds adding textural interest. Whether it be Fitzroy or Preston, Shop Ramen is a red hot contender for the best ramen in Melbourne.
CBD, CARLTON, HAWTHORN
The Melbourne CBD, Hawthorn and Carlton Hakata Gensuke outposts seem to have been uprooted from Japan and plonked down in Melbourne, complete tick-sheet ordering system and customisable noodles. Some of the more authentic ramen Melbourne serves up, here you can choose not only your ramen's toppings and level of spiciness, but also just how al dente you'd like your noodles. It's worth coming back and experimenting until you find your perfect mixture, but if you're not sure where to start, go with something like the black tonkotsu ramen, which includes black sesame and garlic for an extra layer of intense, smoky flavour.
Forgive us, for this joint doesn’t necessarily specialise in ramen per se, but instead does some of the best Tsukemen in Melbourne. Tsukeman, similar to ramen, has chewy noodles and an umami-rich broth, but they’re separate, meaning you get to dip your noodles in before every bite. On offer, there’s Goma Tsukemen, a sesame soy broth served with Chashu pork and bamboo shoot, as well as a Curry Tsukemen, a curry-flavoured Dashi Broth with thicker noodles. Mensousai Mugen also serves what they like to call ‘Japas’, aka Japanese Tapas, where you can find all the regular fixings like Gyoza, Waugh Tataki salad and Tebasaki, Japanese deep-fried chicken wings.
Tamura Sake & Jazz Bar
Fumi Tamura is bringing modern, casual Japanese dining to Fitzroy with Tamura Sake & Jazz Bar. the dishes are paired with classic highballs, shochu and sake while the fresh salmon sashimi and Japanese fried chicken (JFC) that adds to some of the most authentic and best ramen in Melbourne, all served up in a charming, authentic atmosphere.
The Japanese-founded franchise, Ippudo, has established what they call “Global Standard” ramen. The brand was founded in 1985 in Hakata, Japan by Shigemi Kawahara and now has over 200 locations worldwide. With awards piling high, the ramen served here is definitely worth the calories.
The signature Akamaru Shinaji Ramen with Tonkatsu broth is a must-try if you are a first-timer here. The pork broth is textured, creamy and seriously heart-warming, and comes with pork loin, bean sprouts, black fungus and thin noodles cooked to a density of your choice, plus a perfectly cooked, flavoured egg if you want it.
Since 2015, Tokyo Tina has been a staple of Windsor, What was once an old bong shop on Chapel Street is now the home of some of the best ramen in Melbourne. On offer at the diner is a hefty bowls of umami-forward broths from a classic Shoyu ramen with Char Siu pork, soy egg and spring onion, to a miso-based vegetarian ramen with mushroom corn and bamboo.
As far as the best ramen Melbourne has to offer, Gogyo is worth a look in. Their signature charred miso ramen dish is like nothing else found here, and their spicier dishes pack some heat (try the karaka-men bowl for a real punch in the tastebuds). Gogyo is owned by IPPUDO, a large chain that have been doing ramen back in Japan for years, so you know you're in good hands when you order a bowl of the good stuff.
Along with the rest of this list, Yoku Ono is easily a contender for the best ramen in Melbourne. The menu is fresh, inventive and plays to the seasons; there are however several staple ramen dishes that you can't go past, like their take on the miso chicken ramen and signature Yoku Ono ramen—it’s the ramen Melbourne goes to if you’re on the south of the city.
Still hungry? We've got Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants over here.
Image credit: Shop Ramen (supplied)