Finally, a ramen place in Melbourne that saves me from pining after Ichiban Boshi’s amazing tonkotsu broth. Located on the eastern end of Lonsdale St, Kokoro Ramen is authentic as it gets. Walking into this diner took me back to the noodle houses of busy Tokyo; lantern lights warmly illuminating wood-paneled walls and steaming hot bowls of ramen delivered from behind a らーめん emblazoned noren curtain, the only differences being the presence of actual dining tables (space!) and the absence of a ramen ticket machine.
The mix-and-match ramen menu features 4 broths; classic Tokyo Shoyu and 3 variations of a thick, creamy tonkotsu broth, prepared by cooking pork bones for 10 hours to deliver depth of flavour and an almost gelatinous consistency. An additional option is the chef recommended ‘true’ Sapporo Miso; a mix of chicken, seafood and tonkotsu pork broths that delivers a real flavour hit.
Noodles are made in-house; curly chijiremen (akin to the ramen noodles Melbournians are most familiar with) and (the drawcard IMO) thin, chewy, buckwheat hosomen. $8 will get you a ‘Super Cheap Basic’ topped with finely sliced pork belly and soft-centred ajitama egg for a penny-pinching stomach-filler. Additional toppings include lightly battered, deep fried chicken karaage, succulent, thick slabs of slow-cooked pork belly, deep fried soft shell crab, spicy pork mince and Hokkaido’s specialty, butter and corn.
Two things that you probably wouldn’t find in a Japanese noodle house – a vegetarian ramen featuring an 8-hr cooked vegetable broth and rice noodles for a gluten-free option. Only in Melbourne 😛
Other than noodles, the menu also includes home-made gyouza, a variety of small sharing dishes, donburi and Japanese curry. My advice would be to stick with ramen. With all the different variations on soups and toppings, there’s easily enough for you to try something different on every visit.