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.
Mr Miyagi is probably one of the most talked about restaurant in Melbourne. Ever since it graced the inaugural Night Noodle Market with the now infamous salmon tori taco, the restaurant has gained a more-than-loyal following. The wait can be hour long at times, and the only way to avoid this was to stand by the door around 15 minutes before the opening time.
The Frose train is here to stay, and the pretty pink drink was exactly what you’d expect, rose in slushie form, perfect for those who prefers a sweeter drink.
Although tempted to order the Tori Taco that I enjoyed from Night Noodle Market, I decided to instead venture out and try the eggplant rice paper roll instead. The presentation of the roll was spot on, and the sweet miso glaze reminded me of nasu dengaku, one of my favourite Japanese dishes.
We ordered the tempura broccoli at the recommendation of our waitress, and the lavish shavings of buffalo ricotta looked quite promising when it was laid down on the table. The tempura batter was almost too light though, and the broccoli was overcooked to the point where the florets were on the mushy side. Although sounding great on paper, the execution could have definitely been improved for the dish to shine.
Wanting something a little more substantial, we ended the meal with a box of fried chicken. Japanese fried chicken is typically known for its light and crispy batter, with extremely tender meat inside. The deep-fryer was certainly put to the task in this case, but unfortunately the chef was heavy-handed with the seasoning, resulting in salty chicken pieces.
I seriously don’t get the hype around Mr Miyagi. Admittedly, I went in sceptical after reading the pricey menu and the atrocious wait, but I was open to be wowed by the food, but that just wasn’t the case. Every dish was lacking in one way or another, and the overall atmosphere at the restaurant was also a little strange.
Good Japanese fusion is not hard to find in Melbourne, thus I will not be joining the line outside Mr Miyagi’s door anytime soon, and I wouldn’t recommend for anyone else to do so either.
How to get here: Mr Miyagi is located on Chapel Street, just two minutes walk away from Windsor station.
After a quick meal at a tonkatsu restaurant near Shin-Fukushima Station, I caught a shinkansen to Kyoto!
Although this was a chain restaurant, the tonkatsu were quite tender, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was also unlimited rice, which were delicious in itself, with each grain separated, just the way I like them. I may or may not have had three bowls of rice, which was actually great planning on my part, considering that I didn’t eat my next proper meal until around 9pm.
The Kyoto Shinkansen station was located in the middle of my hostel and Kinkakuji, so instead of heading to my hostel first to drop off my backpack, I decided to go straight to Kinkakuji to save some time.
Kinkakuji is probably one of the most iconic temples in Japan, known for its gold leaf covered exterior. The temple was definitely stunning in person, but it was also kind of hilarious as to how many people gathered by the lake to get some identical snaps, myself included.
Regardless, it was quite serene walking around the different areas in the temple. Located near the exit was where you could grab some omamori, which were basically little charms that are said to bring luck. I don’t necessarily believe in it having those powers, but they were very cute, and made for great gifts for family and friends back home, especially given their size. Some people went crazy over them though, buying up to 20!
My hostel was located by Kamo River, and was only a short walk to Kiyomezu-dera, there was plenty to see on the walk too.
The architecture of the temple is stunning, with great amount of details throughout. I’m not an architecture buff by any means, but I was left in awe by various parts of the temple.
The hillside location meant that you could get a great view of the city of Kyoto. I was there during the golden hour, and the view left me speechless.
Another popular souvenir in Kyoto is the Melabranche matcha white chocolate biscuits. I wasn’t planning to go out of my way to buy them, but they were actually on the road that leads directly to Kiyomizu-dera, so I bit the bullet and bought a box on my walk back. And let me tell you, although pricey, they were so good! It was truly a struggle to save some to take home.
A bowl of warm ramen was exactly what I needed after that walk, and I went into the first ramen restaurant that I spotted. Piled high with green onion, this went down a treat.
The river looks even more serene at night time, and I had an early night, in preparation of a day trip to Naoshima the next day, exciting times ahead.
Brim CC is a no-frill Japanese restaurant that serves up a range of home-cooked comfort meals, including their famous curries, which you can have paired with a salad or a soup; omurice, udon and the like.
The decor is minimal to say the least, with tables that could fit around ten to fifteen diners. Although simple, it was very welcoming. There was bookshelf to browse through, and a Japanese map made with stuffed cloth, highlighting some of the attractions you could find in different prefectures of Japan.
It was quite a humid day, which meant that I had to pass up on the curry to prevent myself from sweating up a storm, and settled for the titular bento box instead.
The bento plate, rather than box, reminded me of how versatile Japanese food can be. The plate was filled with Japanese potato salad, rice balls, meatball, tofu topped with a sweet miso sauce, and a carrot salad.
Everything was cooked with love and care, and I especially enjoyed the miso sauce. It was a nutritious meal that left me feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Brim CC is nothing fancy, but the food here reminds me of dishes that can only be cooked by a mum, delicious and nutritious. Maybe it’s not a great place to impress a date, but on nights that you’re not quite feeling up to the task of cooking yourself, this is the perfect place to be. Oh, and the fact that most dishes cost under $15 definitely doesn’t hurt either.
How to get here: Brim CC is located on Little Collins Street, a short 5 minutes walk from Southern Cross Station.
Local gems are some of my favourites, especially when authentic food is found in unlikely places. Murasaki Tanuki certainly falls under both categories, being a small Japanese eatery located on a inconspicuous shopping strip.
Sure, the interior may seem quite bare when you first enter – tables scattered around, with minimal decoration. However, the restaurant was filled with diners even during lunch hours on a weekday, which sort of hints at the quality of food that can be expected.
Takoyakis are some of my favourites, although they’re usually pretty good – think gooey batter containing octopus bits, and topped with a mix of takoyaki sauce (what I think of as Japanese BBQ sauce) and kewpie, and what could go wrong? However, it has also been truly difficult to find ones that stand out from the rest, especially after having tried some of the best renditions in Osaka.
The Kanto population are said to prefer a more textured take when it comes to takoyaki, and this description matched the version served here at Murasaki Tanuki; being quite different to the Kansai rendition that I had become accustomed to. They were a lot crunchier, which of course, highlighted the soft interior.
Given the weird humid yet cold weather that Melbourne is currently experiencing, a bowl of warm curry udon was in order. The soup was very thick and boasted the milder and sweeter flavour of Japanese curry. The thickness can be attested in this photo, as there were pieces of tender beef and slippery udon hidden beneath the soup too!
There were plenty of bentos to choose from, and they each come with miso soup, sashimi, an array of side dishes, takikomi gohan, i.e. rice that’s cooked with the addition of scallops and vegetables in this case, and the main dish of your choosing, which in this case, was the daily special of king salmon with miso.
The salmon was grilled perfectly, and the sweetness of the miso enhanced the freshness of the fish. It even had crispy skin!
The extensive menu at Murasaki Tanuki covers all of the standard Japanese fares depending on what you’re craving on the day coupled with the reasonable prices, especially when taking the high-quality of produce into consideration, it is easy to see why the restaurant has become a local favourite. Whether you live nearby or not, Murasaki Tanuki is worth a visit!
How to get here: Murasaki Tanuki is located at the Studfield Shopping Centre, catch the #901 Frankston to Melbourne Airport bus, and get off at Studfield SC, and the restaurant is a short two minutes walk away.
Japanese food is one of my go-tos in the warmer weather, given that fresh sushi and sashimi is refreshing as it can get. Kuu has been on my radar for a while now, and I managed to pay it a visit before the cold front crossed Melbourne all of a sudden.
9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box – $17.50
I made sure that we went to KUU on a weeday morning so that we could order the 9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box, truly a breakfast fit a king. KUU tends to change up the variations quite regularly, and on this occasion, I particularly enjoyed the crunch of the chicken karaage, the sweet and sour fish tofu, and the spam onigiri, combining two of my favourite things.
Although a lot of thought had clearly been put into the construction of the bento box, it was a bit too frilly for my liking, and the content left me feeling underwhelmed.
KUU had what seemed like a winning formula on paper; attentive service, quirky interior and a Japanese inspired brunch and lunch menu. Although I didn’t enjoy the meal much, my dining partner quite liked her order of the Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken, so maybe I just got the short end of the stick this time round.
How to get here:
Catch tram #1 and get off at Moray Street/Park Street, and the cafe is a minute walk away. Alternatively, catch tram #12 and get off at Park Street/Clarendon Street, and the cafe is two minutes walk away.
My second day in Osaka was dedicated to one activity only – Universal Studios. I was excited beyond words. I had bought the ticket online the day before on the Universal Studios website, the Japanese version, you actually can’t buy tickets from the English website. The process was all done in Japanese, and being a non-Japanese speaker, it would have been near impossible to navigate. However, there are a number of useful tutorials floating around the internet, and I followed this one to purchase the ticket.
I arrived at 9.30am, and the theme park was already filled with people! I knew where I was heading into though – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You have to first get a numbered ticket, which assigns you a time to enter WWHP, I’ve heard that if you get in late, you may not be able to enter until 5 or 6pm, which is not ideal, because waiting for the ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – alone takes two hours. I was lucky enough to have gotten the early-ish ticket, and the line entering WWHP wasn’t too bad either.
After walking through some hedges, the Flying Ford Anglia is waiting for you at the corner. The feeling of entering WWHP is indescribable. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter, it being the first series that actually got me into reading, and then patiently waiting for each movie to come out every year. It definitely felt like I was entering somewhere magical.
You can choose to have the Butterbeer hot or cold, in a plastic cup or in a collectable mug, I chose the latter, because it was definitely one of the cheaper memoraphilias.
After a quick browse around, I joined the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and although the wait was two hours long, there was plenty to see every time you entered a new area, making things interesting throughout.
The ride was incredible, hands down my favourite experience in Universal Studios. I’m not going to say too much about it because I think it’s better to go in blind, but trust me, it is worth the wait.
There are plenty of shops to browse through in WWHP, including Honey Dukes, Ollivanders, Zonkos’, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Owl Post and Owlery, Dervish and Banges, Gladrags Wizardwear and Filch’s Emporium of Confisticated Goods. The souvenirs do get repetitive after you’ve entered a few shops, but it was fun nonetheless. The one thing I was set on buying is the knitted jumper that Mrs Weasley handmakes for all of the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione, but it unfortunately was unavailable in Japan. I settled for a Ravenclaw scarf.
Some other fun things to do in WWHP include the life demonstration at Ollivanders, it was interesting to hear the American man perform the scene from the first Harry Potter movie in Japanese. There is also a live performance of the Hogwarts Choir in the square.
I bought food from 7/11 in the morning, knowing that dining at the theme park itself would be extremely pricey, and there wasn’t any place I wanted to try in particular. However, I couldn’t resist the $5 minion bun, but hey, that’s not too steep for a solit photo op.
Besides WWHP, Universal Studios is divided into seven sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Amity Village. Water World and Universal Wonderland; with rides including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D, Hollywood Dream. Jurassic Park. Jaws, Terminator 2: 3-D and Backdraft.
There are obviously plenty to do and see, and you’re not going to be able to go on all the rides in just a day, especially with long waiting time for each ride, so it is worth planning your day ahead, and decide where you want to spend your time. You also have the option to purchase the Express Pass 7 or Express Pass 4 to shorten your wait time significantly. However, keep in mind that these passes can cost as much as the ticket itself.
I went on a couple more rides in the afternoon, and just walked around different areas, soaking everything in. Given that I visited Universal Studios in mid-January (yup, January 2017), the Christmas light show was still on every night, and that was spectacular in itself.
After spending the entire day in Universal Studios, I was tired, hungry, but filled with joy. There is a plaza-like area just outside of Universal Studios, with plenty of dining options available. I settled for some udon with fried goods. The handmade udon is better than any that I’ve had in Australia, with various toppings available, and you have the option to add soup from the soup dispenser. Unfortunately, because the fried goods had been sitting there for a while, it was not as crispy as I had hoped. The meal was satisfying nonetheless.
Osaka provided me with some of the most amazing experiences, and I picked up some takoyaki on the way back to my hostel to commemorate my last night here. Onto Kyoto we go!