Kokoro Ramen

157 Lonsdale St, Melbourne 3000
Date visited: 4th November 2013

Kokoro Ramen is another restaurant in the CBD specialising in the ramen experience.  I had a look at their impressive and intensive menu online this morning and decided we had to pay this joint a visit to satisfy my ramen cravings.

I met MerlinFan after her class today and together we headed for an early dinner.  I had to admit as we drew closer we actually wondered if the shop was even open.  The interior was darkened, black and white posters plastered and obscuring the glass Juon: The Grudge style.  This photo below was actually taken later, when the lanterns inside appeared brighter as we left.

It was reassuring when we were greeted by calls of "Irasshaimase!" from the waitresses.  The interior was actually pretty cosy and dimly lit with multicoloured paper lanterns.  Pity we were given the seat closest to the door where we got a chilly blast of air whenever the door swung open.

The ramen is based on four broths:
Tokyo Shoyu (chicken and seafood, soy sauce flavour)
Tonkotsu Shoyu (Tonkotsu pork bone, soy sauce flavour)
Tonkotsu Shio (Tonkotsu pork bone, salt flavour)
Sapporo Miso (Tonkotsu pork bone, miso & touch of spicy oil)
By the way, you can also customise your ramen by choosing your noodles, adjust the hardness/ softness and saltiness as well as removing unwanted toppings.  You can also pay extra for additional toppings like pork belly, fried chicken, spicy pork mince, egg, soft shell crab, seaweed, butter, corn, fishcake and other veges.  

We were given big menu books before making our orders at the counter around the back.  Oh, and cold drinks are in the fridge down that way as well - that we didn't know and were later told after we asked when we got the rest of our food, that we were meant to get it ourselves.  
We didn't have to wait too long before our food and drinks were brought to our table.  We had the Beppin sake. Served warm, this brought out the rice/malt aroma with fruity tones and hints of peach and melon, leaving a piquant aftertaste.  
Beppin served hot (atsukan) $12
We also had a Ramune to guzzle.

Ramune $3.50
As usual, MerlinFan and I got two different ramen to share.  We were spoilt for choice so it was difficult to narrow it down to two.  Our first choice was the Hakata Tonkotsu Shoyu with Fried Chicken.  
Tonkotsu Shoyu with Fried Chicken $11.50
The tonkotsu broth was amazing - rich, creamy and thick with a savoury, soy flavour.  It was served with hosomen, which was a thin, straight egg noodle that still had a bit of bite, and topped off with spring onion, red ginger, black fungi, sesame seed and Ajitama Egg.  The marinated egg was everything it should be, gooey yolk and all.  We liked the crispy, tender fried chicken marinated in their special Karaage sauce as well.  Now, I wished I had seen the customise your ramen sign earlier, for I would have loved not to have to pick out those pesky red ginger slivers.  Otherwise it was delicious - I polished off all the broth. 

Our next choice was the Sapporo Miso with Butter and Corn, which was the chef's recommended Hokkaido specialty.  

Miso Hokkaido Specialty $14.50
This soup also had a Tonkotsu Pork Bone base with slow-cooked miso paste and a touch of spicy oil.  I was hoping the broth was not going to be too spicy judging from the fiery red colour, however on tasting discovered it was incredibly mild.  Too mild.  I tried the Tonkotsu Shoyu first and flavour-wise, the broth here paled in comparison to the rich, creamy tones of its brother broth.  I don't have much to say about the description of it but rather bland, not quite spicy, just savoury and we didn't detect much miso flavour.  We couldn't find the stick of butter that was there for extra richness (assuming it melted away?) and for $14.50, the one slice of chashu was to be honest, a little stingy in comparison to three chicken pieces. The Ajitama egg was great, although a little sad to have half compared to a whole one, unlike at DonToo.

Overall, Kokoro Ramen had a hit and a miss.  I'm not going to bother commenting on the authenticity of the ramen by Melbourne standards, but the Tonkotsu Shoyu ramen sure was delicious and I definitely would be happy to have it again.  Being in a convenient location close to home and having so many other options on their extensive menu, I suspect we would be back.  

Date visited: 9th November 2013

Yes, we revisited only a week later for a quick meal on a windy, cold day for some hot ramen.  Noooo.... we were offered the same seat right in front of the door when the restaurant was half empty.  I had to ask for another spot inside and after a few minutes we were shown to one of four small tables - the only one that had shook like a bloody rocking horse.  @_@  I sure hope this was coincidence.

MerlinFan had the same Tonkotsu Shoyu.  No need to reiterate on that one.  And yes, we had the pesky red gingers removed.

I decided to try the Tonkotsu Shio.  It was paler in colour, but held similarities in taste to the Shoyu based one, only saltier. Naturally, as it consisted of a light salt flavour.  The toppings differed slightly too, with spring onion, shaved leek, sesame seed and yet half another perfect Ajitama egg.  Oh and the red ginger was booted out too.

Tonkotsu Shio $11.50
Overall, can't say I'm a fan of the seating and ordering system but for the Tonkotsu broth, Ajitama egg and Karaage chicken, I'll be back.

 Kokoro Ramen on Urbanspoon

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