330 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne 3000

Two Trips in Ten Days

Visit One
Date visited: 7th November 2012

We used to frequent Don Don in our good ol' uni days (who could forget that Teriyaki Chicken and the bowls of leftover rice on the tables outside being fed upon by hoards of vultures pigeons and sparrows), but haven't been back for years as it was always hard to find a seat during those busy lunch hours.  When I heard that Don Don's sister, DonToo, had opened on Little Lonsdale St, I was keen to try it, especially when I found out that they served a pretty good ramen.  Why did it take us so long to get here then?  Well, because DonToo only serves ramen after 5pm, that's why, and I usually don't like doing dinner reviews because of crap nighttime pictures.

Anyway, Spring has rolled in and our days have become longer and sunnier.  MerlinFan and I decided it was the perfect time to visit, and at 5pm on the dot too XP

For those people like me who like browsing through the menu before visiting any restaurant here is a copy of their ramen menu (that I, in disappointment, couldn't find anywhere online). It's also now been added to the Urbanspoon DonToo menu.
Click to enlarge

Admittedly their range of ramen is pretty limited, however they do give you the option of a regular (250g) or large (300g) serving for no additional price.  We put in our orders and paid at the counter, then found our seats.

The interior was dimly lit, so we chose a table by the window where the sunshine could stream in.  The decor was a mishmash of stiff backed chairs, wooden and rattan stools.  
I did like how they tried to maximise the space they had with these halved, triangular tables - they gave the place quite a kooky, interesting effect.
There was a limited array of drinks, so we just got a bottled Lemon and Lime sparkling mineral water.

Our ramen was served with some condiments.  I didn't end up using them and if I'm not mistaken, they were ginger, chilli and pepper.

DonToo's ramen broth is cooked for hours with multiple ingredients including chicken, pork, shellfish, carrots, onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic and seaweed to produce a thick, rich base stock.  This is then flavoured with specific soy sauces before adding their homemade ramen noodles and various toppings.

I had the Kuon Ramen, which had charshu pork slices, vegetables, seaweed and seasoned egg.
I loved the broth, which was thick, rich, and not too salty.  Totally slurp-worthy.  Their homemade noodles were bouncy, although I found several of mine stuck together - this was negligible though.  And the soy marinated egg - OMG the gooey yolks.  The real star of the dish was the charshu pork.  Melt in your mouth tender, salty and sweet with a beautiful smoky flavour that I adored.  And they were generous with it too - I had lots of pork chunks beneath the soup too, so for me, I think ordering a Charshu Ramen (Kuon ramen with extra pork slices) would have been superfluous.  The only thing I didn't enjoy was the crunch of beansprouts (which I detest) and the oddity that was cabbage in the ramen.

MerlinFan had the Miso Ramen.
Their uniquely aged miso broth was delicious, although much saltier than the broth of the Kuon.  It had the strong flavours of soybeans coming through not unlike the Chinese equivalent, tauchu.  MerlinFan really enjoyed it though, and washing the saltiness away with the sparkling lemon and lime was quite refreshing.  The toppings were the same, except that there were corn kennels as well, which MerlinFan found went quite nicely with the ramen.  

Did DonToo live up to our ramen expectations?  Most definitely.  

DonToo is the place to be when you're craving delicious charshu, gooey marinated eggs and a rich, tasty broth.

Visit Two
Date visited: 17th November 2012

MerlinFan and I enjoyed our ramen so much that we headed back down to DonToo early this Saturday evening and ordered exactly what we had the other day.  Hey, it was great, why not do it all over again?

After my glowing review the other day, I thought it would be unfair to people looking for an honest review not to post this.  Did DonToo not live up to our great ramen memories?  I'll let you be the judge of that.

It was just before six, and we were the third customers in the shop, so it wasn't busy at all.  However, the food still took a little prep time to get to our tables.

Like before, I had the Kuon Ramen.  Now, the ramen was still as bouncy, the broth as tasty, the eggs as golden and gooey, the charshu was still every bit as smokey and to die for.  Remember how I gushed about how the Charshu Ramen (Kuon with extra charshu) was superfluous because of how generous they were with the charshu?  Well, I lied.  Sort of.  Today, what you see in the picture below was what I got.  No, it wasn't two slices of charshu... it was one slice with a stump arranged very nicely on top of it so to the non-discerning viewer, appeared like two.  I was very surprised when I fished the stump out, picked up the big slice and dug around... this was it?

Kuon Ramen
MerlinFan's Miso Ramen was not as salty and the broth not as rich as it was the other day. She had three huge chunks of smoky charshu (which made me feel a little bit cheated!) but look at the dish.  Do you see anything a little off?

Miso Ramen
 Look closer.
The egg!  What happened to the beautiful gooey egg?  <Sob!!!>

The egg was hard-boiled!  Seriously, I don't think anyone can slice an egg in half and not realise that one egg is gooey a.k.a medium-cooked and another is hard-boiled.  The lack of care and attention to consistency really irks me, but we were brought up not to waste food so MerlinFan ate it anyway.

Sigh.  So much for our new favourite ramen haunt fantasy - crushed in the span of a mere 10 days.  I absolutely hate playing Russian roulette with the quality of my food.  I still think DonToo has the best charshu around, however the inconsistent portions makes me wonder if I should go for the Kuon or the Charshu Ramen (Kuon with extra charshu) next time.  And no doubt, they have amazing marinated eggs with the gooey yolks - of course, only if the chef remembers to take them out of the boiler at the right time.

DonToo on Urbanspoon
<a href=""><img alt="DonToo on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px" /></a>


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