There’s something about ramen that seems to inspire almost fantatical devotion.
If I hadn’t eaten truly good ramen before, I wouldn’t understand it. Because if you break it down, ramen is just noodles in broth. But it seems to be more than the sum of its parts. It can be amazing: nourishing, comforting, and filling. In particular, tonkotsu is fantastic – it’s made by boiling pork bones for hours, and results in a creamy, salty pork broth that’s also sticky and creamy and full of flavour.
So when the guys from doublecooked advised that a new ramen joint had opened on Lonsdale Street, I took Alastair and Bro down there quick smart.
There’s a big ramen menu: three tonkotsu soups with varied toppings, such as vegetables, charshu, pork belly, soft shell crab, fried chicken, spicy mince and butter and corn. Also on the menu for those who don’t like tonkotsu (do those people even exist?) is the option of a broth made with chicken and seafood.
If you like, you can customise your own bowl by selecting your broth and adding your own toppings (the price of toppings range from $1 – $8). And I only gave it a mere glance, but on the back page of the menu there was a selection of rice dishes for those not into noodles.
But back to the ramen!
Alastair had the tonkotsu shio (salt base, pork and chicken stock) with pork belly ($14.50)
I had the tonkotsu shoyu (soy sauce base, pork and chicken stock) with pork belly ($15)
Bro tried the tonkotsu miso (soybean paste, pork and chicken stock) with pork belly ($15.50).
All the bowls came with a decent slab of tender pork, half an egg, pickled bamboo and seaweed. Mine also had wood ear fungus.
Naturally I had to taste all three soups and after sticking my spoon into the boys’ bowls, I decided that I liked the tonkotsu shio broth the most. The tonkotsu miso came a close second – it had a touch of spiciness that was really enjoyable. For the tonkotsu shoyu, I found the soy sauce too distracting – I preferred the cleaner flavour of the shio.
All the soups had that lovely creamy porkiness but they were also quite salty and would be much, much better if the salt levels were pulled back. I think mine (the shoyu) was the saltiest – it was very much a salt bomb. Not that it stopped me from drinking all the soup. :p
The noodles were thin and made on site. They were pretty good – nicely springy.
Is it as good as ramen in Japan? Not quite. However, it was still enjoyable (tho salty) and with every new ramen place that opens in Melbourne we inch closer to ramen perfection, so Kokoro is a very welcome addition indeed.
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157-159 Lonsdale Street
Phone: (03) 9650 1215
Web: Via Facebook