I have never been to Japan. It’s appalling really given how much I love Japanese food. It’s usually my go-to option whenever we dine out – from sushi and ramen to donburi and yakitori, I love it all.
Until I finally manage to make my way to the land of the rising sun, I’ll just have to content myself with visits to cosy laneway restaurants like Mugen Ramen & Bar, offering quick and dirty ramen on ground level for those who want to eat and leave, or basement level dining for those who want to linger over tapas and drinks.
K and I went one evening after my usual plasma donation appointment as it’s located close to the donation centre. While it was late-ish on a Monday evening by the time we got there, it was still quite packed with young hip students and yuppies sharing drinks and bar snacks.
K and I opted for a drink each – a heavy dark lager Coedo Shikkoku for K and a more refreshing CAPI Blood Orange Soda for myself. I’m biased, but I think mine proved to be the better choice as it helped to cleanse the palate after some of the stronger flavours of the meals we ordered.
Rather than choosing one of the heavier tsukemen dishes, we chose to go with the Tori Soba with a rarer chicken-based broth rather than the usual rich pork-based broth. This worked particularly well as the dish was much lighter overall, meaning that you weren’t left feeling too over-full with an overly savoury palate. The clear and clean broth was a real highlight, as were the springy and soft chicken meatballs and tender chicken breast. This is definitely one dish I would recommend.
We chose a heavier meat-based dish to share as well – an Aburi Chashu of thinly sliced slow-cooked pork served with delicious creamy potato mash. As tender and flavourful as the pork was, I think my highlight was the buttery and creamy potato mash. Overall, the dish was probably over-dressed with Kewpie mayonnaise – sometimes less is more.
We finished our meal by sharing the Matcha Roll, a beautifully light and fluffy Swiss roll. There was just the right amount of cream in this cake. There was just the right amount of matcha powder both in the sponge and as a topping, creating the right balance between the slightly bitter matcha flavours and the sweeter cream cake flavours.
Mugen Ramen & Bar is the type of place where you can drop by for a quick and easy bowl of ramen, or linger over a few drinks and nibbles with friends. In short, it offers a fairly reasonably priced menu in an atmospheric near-traditional Japanese setting but with a modern Australian touch. Its close proximity to my workplace and yoga studio means that I’ll probably be dropping in a few more times in the coming months!
Mugen Ramen & Bar is located at 11 Bligh Place, Melbourne CBD.