It’s crazy to think that not that long ago, it was near impossible to get a good bowl of ramen in Melbourne. The situation is definitely a lot loss dire now, with ramenjoints popping out all across town. Fukuryu Ramen was, however, one of the first decent restaurants that specialises in ramen, and I was interested to see how it fares against the newcomers some years later.
Wanting something with some kick, I went for the Red Dragon Ramen, which is said to be the spiciest ramen on offer. The noodles were slightly curly, and had a good bite to it. The soup was indeed, quite spicy, definitely capable of making you sweat as the heat builds up. Besides the spiciness though, the soup base was also full of umami, and quite thick, benefiting from a long and slow simmer of the pork bone broth. The trimmings of chashu were fatty and satisfying, and the egg was also cooked perfectly.
I’m happy to report that Fukuryu Ramen has stood the test of time, and is a reliable place to visit for a good ol’ bowl of ramen, especially now that we’re finally getting some cooler weather!
How to get here: Fukuryu Ramen is located on Corrs Lane, which is just off Little Bourke Street; a short 7 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.
The friedchicken search continues, and today we find ourselves in 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken, a fast food chain that’s headquartered in Singapore.
Both the decor and service were nice enough for a fast food restaurant, after ordering from the counter, we sat down waiting with a buzzer in hand.
Wanting to try out the classics, I opted for the 3 Wings and 1 Leg option, adding $6 to make it a meal with a side of sweet potato fries and a can of sprite. The chicken were indeed, very crispy. Benefiting from a dry batter, the texture remained even with the addition of the soy garlic and hot sauce. The hot sauce was actually pretty spicy, and the soy garlic had that addictive balance of salty and sweet.
The side of sweet potato fries fared well too. 4 Fingers has clearly mastered the use of the deep fryer, and these fries were light and crunchy, with a fluffy interior.
Fried chicken by itself may not be all that exciting, hence why 4 Fingers has ventured out into a range of burgers and rice boxes for variety. My overall experience at 4 Fingers was quite pleasant, and I would be keen to return for a quick meal and try out some of the other food on offer.
How to get here: 4 Fingers is located on Bourke Street, seven minutes walk away from Parliament station.
A Mexican wine bar may not be what you’re expecting to find in Chinatown, however, this is Melbourne, and stranger things have happened.
The lowly-lit Bodega Underground is enigmatic to say the least, I can definitely see it as a place that all walks of life would be seen in. We visited the restaurant for lunch, and as always, food took priority for us over the drinks.
The chargrilled corns were coated generously in a layer of cotija cheese, although it lacked the smoky flavour that I look for. With a fresh squeeze of lime however, each bite was bright and delightful, albeit messy to eat.
Fried chicken is another must-order for me when it’s on the menu. The chicken itself were popcorn-sized, although crunchy enough from the batter, I didn’t find it particularly Mexican. The chipotle mayo did have a bit of a kick, and helped to add some flavour to the chicken pieces. The serving size though, was pretty small.
The questionable serving size continues with the mushroom quesadilla. The presentation was not what I was expecting, rather than the traditional quesadilla, being two tortillas stuffed with mushroom and cheese and grilled, it was sort of like a mushroom salad or stew of sort, with two tiny pieces of tortillas thrown on. Flavour wise, this was also quite average, with everything sort of blending in together, but not in a good way.
We ordered two servings of tacos, with sweet potato being the first choice. The pickled beetroot and vegan jalapeno crema meant that the taco had layers of flavour, however it would have really benefited from some crunchy pieces of sweet potato instead of the soggy ones present.
Crunch was not an issue with the fish tacos, fortunately. In fact, I really liked the contrast between the fresh cabbage slaw and the fried fish, and the green pea guacamole and soft tortilla.
I was rather underwhelmed by Bodega Underground. The menu seemed interesting enough, but I found it to be quite overpriced, even by both Melbourne and Mexican food standard. The high price were not redeemed by the lack of oomph overall in the dishes we had tried.
The meal cost $10 more than a similar spread I had at Mesa Verde, but we still left hungry, and therefore do not see ourselves returning.
How to get here: Bodega Underground is located on Little Bourke Street, two minutes walk away from Parliament station.
I went back to China for a month at the beginning of 2018, and that’s when I realised that Malatang has taken over the world by storm. Combined with meal delivery apps and ride-sharing services, those three things helped me in surviving one of the coldest winters in Nanjing, with more snow than the city had seen in decades.
Malatang joints started popping up in the suburbs with a high concentration of Chinese population first in Melbourne, before taking over the city, to the point where there are pretty much a Malatang restaurant every 50 metres in the CBD.
The idea of malatang is quite ingenious really, I like to think of as hot pot for one. After grabbing a large bowl and a pair of tongs, choose from fresh ingredients including vegetables, meats, seafood, soy-based products and all the balls you can think of are. Once you’ve put in way too much food in your bowl because you want to try a bit of this and a bit of that, walk to the counter where you’ll be asked whether you want everything served in a soup or have it dry, and choose the appropriate spice and tingle level (the sensation that Sichuan peppercorn leaves on your lips), pay for your goods by weight, and then settle back at a table, and before long, a bowl of piping hot Malatang will be set in front of you.
Tanghuo Kungfu hails from China, and was one of the first Malatang restaurants in Melbourne, having opened its Box Hill location in 2017, and expanded into the city last year. The city location is sleek and a lot larger than other Malatang restaurants, complete with a sauce station and self-serve water dispensers. There is no shortage of food selection, and the service was very friendly, with staff greeting you at the door.
Tanghuo Kungfu has an additional tea station, which makes a lot of sense, as Malatang can be on the heavy side due to all the spices, and sipping on green tea throughout the meal helps to lighten things up. The bottles are also cute and portable, meaning that you can take it with you once you’re done and use it as a makeshift water bottle!
Regardless of variety, everything goes for $3 per 100 grams, with the minimum spending of $12 per bowl, making the maths quite easy. I chose the traditional Malatang, with high spice level and medium tingling level. The soup is what differentiates each Malatang restaurant for me, and the version at Tanghuo Gongfu is quite good. It has clearly been boiled for hours, resulting in a complex depth of flavour, and there is a sweet after taste. My favourite toppings to add to malatangs include tofu puffs, seafood money bags, Chinese cabbage, crown daisy, sliced lamb, pork and mushroom balls, bamboo shoot, quail eggs just to name a few. It’s always fun to pick and choose from the selections available, but watch out, as things can get out of hand really quickly!
We also tried the Malaban for the sake of variety. The dressing that all the goodies are doused is primarily made of sesame and chilli oil, and the sweet after taste that I really liked in the soup rendition did not fare as well here, being overly sweet to the point of cloying. We both agreed that Malatang was the better choice in this case.
Malatang is great both as a quick lunch or a late night meal, its versatility being its biggest selling point. You can make it more substantial by adding in some noodles, or keep it light by choosing mainly vegetables, the choice is completely yours. With Tanghuo Kungfu opening from lunchtime to the early hours of the morning daily, it is definitely somewhere worth trying out Malatang at!
How to get here: Tanghuo Kungfu is located on Elizabeth Street, a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.
There’s a lot of good stuff sprawled across the floors of Curtain House, and Mesa Verde is one of them. The drinks menu here is endless; it’s a no brainer then for the restaurant to be a popular choice for after work drinks, but we were here for the food.
Mesa Verde appears to have had a menu change since I’ve visited a couple of months ago, apologies in advance if you see something that you particularly fancy that isn’t on the current menu!
The house made tortilla chips is much better than the supermarket variety, with some added thickness that ensured it wouldn’t crack even when you’re scooping up an obscene amount of guacamole with it. Speaking of, the guacamole was creamy with a zing, and there was more than enough to go around with the chips.
Tostadas are great, first of all, it’s just a fun word that rolls off your tongue, and secondly, it’s essentially a crunchy taco, need I say more? The tostadas at Mesa Verde were topped off with the creamiest avocado, that had a mousse-like consistency, which went really well with the plump and fresh slices of salmon. Although this was messy to eat, the flavours meant that it was worth it.
I love charred corns, especially when they’re smothered in morita mayo and cotiya cheese, all lightened up with a squeeze of lime. Again, messy to eat, but well worth it.
The school prawns were coated in an addictive layer of spicy seasoning, and would have definitely went well with a margarita. The pickled green chilli hiding behind the prawns had more than just a kick to it, so eat at your own risk.
To finish things off, we shared a couple of tacos. First up was the pork taco. the shredded pork lacked the oomph that I was looking for, but the chilli salsa did help it out, and the pickled radish gave it some texture.
The baja fish taco was my pick of the night, although it took a ridiculous amount of time to pick off all the corianders. The fish itself was cooked in a light batter, and was perfectly tender inside. The herb aioli was quite mild, I think I would’ve preferred the smoke marita mayo here instead.
Given that drinks takes centre stage at Mesa Verde, it was nice to see that the restaurant did not neglect the food either. The bill does add up with tacos here and charred corns there, but it did have a groovy vibe (is this still a thing? asking for a friend), and I can certainly see myself returning and trying out some of the drinks.
How to get here: Mesa Verde is located on the 6th floor of Curtain, on Swanston Street, just a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.
Hidden away from the foot traffic, Delhi Streets lures diners in with a tentalising selection of Indian street food. Despite its location, diners were pouring in and out of the restaurant throughout the night. Being the keen beans we were and arriving just after 6pm, we safely secured some bar seats, and were excited to sample what was on offer inside the colourful and contemporary space.
Being known for serving up street food, it should be no surprise that Delhi Streets had an extensive selection of entrees, some of which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Wanting to try a bit of everything, we opted for the chatt platter, which came filled with four types of chatt, ready to be devoured.
The pani puri is something has quickly become a must-order for me. The novelty of pouring in the spiced water never seems to wear off, and the combination of the crunchy shell and soft potatoes is a great way to get your tastebuds excited for what’s to come.
The aloo tikki was light and fluffy, the curry spices bringing layers of flavour to the potatoes.
Smothered in tamarind chutney and yoghurt, papri chaat is the Indian counterpart to nachos. The flour crackers did the heavy lifting for the chickpea and potatoes, and it was a light and refreshing change to the traditional nachos.
Bhel puri is reminiscent of a grain salad, and it was seriously texture city, with its combination of puffed rice and sev, i.e. small pieces of fried noodles. The tangy flavours come from the bhel chutney, rounding it up to be a salad not to be missed.
The Special Thali is a good dish to order if you can’t decide on one curry to settle on, as you’re given the option to choose three of the available thalis. The butter chicken was thick and creamy, and was really taking comfort food to the next level. The lamb vindaloo, on the other hand, had a nice kick to it, and the chunks of lamb was extremely tender. The vegetarian option came in the form of lentil curry, which was mild and flavoursome. The accompanying naan was soft and pillowy, and were great for soaking up the various sauces. All in all, this was an extremely satisfying platter to share between two.
Taking on a refined and contemporary approach that doesn’t compensate on flavour, it is easy to see why Delhi Streets is loved by many, of which now I am one of. I will definitely be back to try more things on its extensive menu.
How to get here: Delhi Streets is located on Katherine Place, a short six minutes walk from Southern Cross Station.
Gukbab literally means soup with rice, which is a way that some Korean stews are meant to be had, by mixing the rice through the soup and eating the whole thing together, almost like an instant version of congee. I had the dish a few times when I travelled to Korea (blog posts coming in March!), and was excited to see a restaurant in Melbourne that specialises in it.
It’s easy to miss the restaurant, with no clear signage and being scattered in the same building with a few other restaurants each with bigger signs. However, once you enter through the glass doors, the strong scent of sizzling bulgogi and Army stews will let you know that you’re in the right place.
The free banchans consisted of a pasta salad, pickled onion, and your obligatory kimchi. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and they were all fun to munch on after we placed our order.
Despite there being plenty of soups and stews that were harder to find in other Korean restaurants, we ordered the classic kimchi jiggae on this occasion. I make kimchi jiggae quite often at home, especially during Winter, but this was definitely better than my homemade version. It had a great depth of flavour in the soup itself, that’s made up of more than just kimchi and gochujang, which made for a great base for the sweet potato noodle and pork in the stew.
Japchae is a common Korean dish that is essentially stir fried sweet potato noodle with thinly sliced veggies, including capsicum, carrots, black fungus, mushrooms and beef. The slippery sweet potato noodles were sweet and salty, with a strong sesame flavour from the ample use of sesame oil, a staple in Korean cuisine. Despite this being a quite pedestrian dish usually, I actually really enjoyed it.
The fiery colour of the stir fried chicken caught our eyes first, and this was actually quite spicy. The chicken pieces were quite tender, and the cheese toned down the spiciness slightly. The strong spicy flavour meant that it was a great dish to have with a plain bowl of rice, but if you can’t handle a lot of heat, I’d say give this a miss, or be prepared to be drinking plenty of water after every bite.
Everything that we tried at Gukbab was quite authentic, and the restaurant is great for a bigger gathering, given the extensiveness of the menu, ranging from stews, fried chicken, bibimbab, hot plates and even bingsu!
The byu-dagi guk bab is said to be the signature dish of the restaurant, and I definitely look forward to trying it out on my next visit, just gotta wait until the 40 degrees days are over.
How to get here: Gukbab is located on Little Lonsdale Street, just two minutes walk away from Flagstaff station.