Friday, 31 May 2013

Ramen Ya (Paramount Shopping Centre)

Shop 9, The Paramount, 108 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Ramen Ya on Bourke on Urbanspoon
Welcome to the brightest spark in the saddest shopping centre in the middle of the CBD. This is a nice set up and has a pleasant vibe. It seems Urbanspooners are unsure about this place and have been quite divided in their opinion. The score at 74% likes is relatively low. So, what is going on here? I have been there a few times and to be honest, I am not sure why there is so much hate. Yes, it's not the most authentic place and the ramen has more alkaline than I normally like it, but generally, it's pretty tasty. So - the nay sayers are probably going to not enjoy my defence of this place. In fact, this place has a lower score and number of raters than Kokoro Ramen (which I reviewed a while back), but I personally actually prefer Ramen Ya to Kokoro Ramen. Anyhow ... on with the review.
The Place
This is really a nice set up and has a very contemporary feel to it. I absolutely love the paper lanterns here - check out the photos (to the right). Mirrors and glass everywhere, and a high ceiling gives it a sense of space. At lunch time, it has a real buzz and is usually crowded. Parking is easy at the Paramount Shopping Centre parking.

This is not set up to be really child-friendly because there's not a lot of actual space between tables - so don't let the kids run about as the wait staff are balancing huge bowls of hot soup as they whizz around the restaurant. One complaint I have is that the stools are majorly uncomfortable - perhaps, the idea is to eat and run - not stay and chat.

Things to do Nearby: Chinatown is closeby and Collins and Little Collins Streets are a short stroll away - so is Bourke Street Mall.

The Food
So, there are a number of Urbanspooners who decry the quality, taste and authenticity. True, this is not the most authentic of ramens (but what are you comparing it against?) - ramen from different regions of Japan also taste different. For me, the issue is the taste of the ramen itself, there's too much alkaline water for my liking, to be perfectly honest.

However, I absolutely loved the rich Tonkatsu Soup - so tasty. Definitely tastier than some other places without being overly salty. My Tonkatsu Tsukune Ramen was very generous and overall, I would go back for more. However, that was not the real highlight for me.

See how thick the soup is in the Char Siu Ramen (Tonkatsu base)
Ok - it's not pretty but the soup is tasty - this was the Tonkatsu Tsukune (Minced Chicken) Ramen

The real highlight was the Tori Karaage. This is Fried Chicken heaven with really succulent pieces of chicken thighs, a great balance between the moistness inside and crunchiness outside. I don't care what people say but this is as good as, if not better than some of the Karaage in Japan. The trick is in the freshness of the chicken. This was good.
Just not enough of it!
The Service
The service here is excellent. At lunch time, they want you to order at the counter before taking a seat and the food comes pretty quickly. They run at a more leisurely pace at dinner time and you take a seat, and they come and take your order. Either way, they are always polite and friendly, and happy to answer questions.

Ok! One more pic of the pretty lights!
I would go back here for the Bento and for the Karaage. It's a good place for a cheap and quick meal. I don't get the nay-sayers who do one vicious review and are then gone. No, it's not as nice as some of the other places around but it's certainly not the worst.

Cultural Moment
Ok, I have been wanting to write this because I love ramen - which originated from my pre-teen love of 2-minute instant noodles. When I progressed to ramen, I thought I was so sophisticated. The truth is I used to think that if I could have these noodles every morning for brekkie - my life would be complete. And on special ocassions, breakfast in bed treats for my parents would be me cooking instant noodles for them. You get the idea! I was VERY young! My cooking abilities progressed very quickly from there.

So, back to ramen - there are regional variations of ramen (and I am not talking about the soup and protein). There is actually an excellent article on wikipedia on ramen (yes!) and there is actually some really good information there, so check it out.

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