"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." ― Mark Twain
Ramen (Japanese noodle soup) is a big part of Japanese cuisine and is rapidly gaining traction with Melbourne foodies. Fukuryu Ramen is the latest addition to the foodie capital's growing list of Japanese eateries. Fukuryu means crouching dragon. Recently I paid a visit to this establishment in response to an invite. Hidden away in a shabby lane in Chinatown, I was directed to Fukuryu Ramen by a huge billboard advertisement on the streets.
As I tentatively climbed up a flight of stairs, I found a door that led to a big room bustling with activity. One wall was covered with a big menu boasting all that was on offer. Jeff Tsao, the manager, came out to greet me. After the initial chitchat he explained that Fukuryu Ramen is only 5 months old and specialises in authentic Japanese cuisine. Jeff has years of experience in cooking Japanese delicacies and owns the restaurant in partnership with friends.
The menu has been intentionally kept humble and remains true to its Japanese origin. The menu incorporates a collection of ramen, small plates and drinks. The bowls come in kids ($7.90), regular ($11.90) and large ($15.90) sizes. The small plates , priced from $3.90 to $7.90, have been designed for sharing. Fukuryu offers a small selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Japanese beer, sake and other options are available. Each bottle of sake is priced at $8 and comes in 3 varieties.
The ordering system is simple and involves choosing food from the wall menu, making payment at the counter and getting a tracker. The tracker enables the wait staff to deliver the food to the table of the designated customer. There are self-serve options for hot water, still water and sparkling water! A novel concept indeed!
The restaurant is big, clean and modern. The spacious sitting area is dotted with wood furnishings. The simple setting is enhanced by a mural of the lucky dragon showcasing the proper usage of chopsticks. The partially open kitchen enables patrons to catch the live action as staff busy themselves with conjuring up delicious Japanese fare. Lovely background music, spirited conversations, laughters and aroma of food impregnated the air. Young people (mostly uni students) seemed to make up the bulk of the customers. I was impressed by how busy FuKuryu was on a Monday evening. Writers are usually very perceptive!
It was not long before our orders started making their way to our table. The pork belly plate was the first to appear on our table. The pork belly was slowly braised for 3 hours, covered in spices and then pan fried. The thin strips of meat were tender and tasty.
Next came the chicken karaage which was one of the highlights of the evening. This simple Japanese dish incorporated boneless chicken pieces coated in a mixture and deep fried. Served with mayo and shredded lettuce, this dish was a treat for my tastebuds. The non-greasy, crunchy exterior gave way to succulent meat that saw me scooping off some more pieces in quick succession.
The ramen appeared with a flourish. I did not realise how big the 'large' ramen would be. The 2 large ramen we had ordered were in one word massive.
I started off with the signature tonkotsu ramen which was made from pork broth loaded with noodles, tender pork meat, spring onion, bamboo shoot and beautifully garnished with seaweed and boiled egg. I found the piping hot ramen rich, flavoursome and filling. The pork bone broth was thick and gelatinous and had an oomph that infused my soul with rejuvenation. The gooey egg was beautifully done and was aesthetically placed on top of the ramen. The noodles soaked up the soup to deliver the well-rounded and highly satisfying ramen experience.
The red dragon ramen was visually pleasing and inviting. The creamy chicken broth was loaded with noodles, pork belly, spring onion, fresh red chilli and crowned with gooey egg. The pork belly was moist and butter-soft while the spring onion was crunchy. Oozing with extremely hot chilli flavour, this dish is not for the faint-hearted. If you will like to challenge your tastebuds with the red dragon ramen then make a mental note to keep some water handy. You will thank me!
The menu included other small plates such as tebasaki chicken wings, edamame, pork belly rice, nori tofu and fukuru salad. Other selection of ramen incorporated miso ramen, silver tonkotsu, shoyu ramen, shio ramen, dry oil ramen, vegetarian miso ramen, tam tam ramen and chicken tonkotsu.
The sake was quite nice. It was a generous serve at $8 and seamlessly complemented our meal. The friendly and attentive staff made sure our plates were cleared in a timely manner.
Jeff explained that some ingredients are sourced from Japan but there is a great emphasis on local produce. All dishes are made on site. The arrival of summer will bring new changes to the menu to cater for the warmer temperatures.
Important titbits of information: - Fukuryu Ramen seats 80 people.
- It is fully licensed.
- Vegan and vegetarian options are available.
- Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.
- The establishment is not wheelchair friendly.
- Happy hour on Monday entitles patrons to $5 beer.
- Every Tuesday students can enjoy traditional ramen for $9.90.
- Patrons can take a photo with their food, share on Instagram and claim free ice cream on the spot. Ask staff for more details.
The sumptuous ramen, scrummy sharing plates, fun vibe, attentive service and simple setting are the hallmarks of Fukuryu Ramen. The spick and span state of the restaurant with space to move around - big plus. Good location is a bonus. I really enjoyed my dining experience and will certainly be returning for more.