Meiji

Name: Meiji Japanese cafe
Location: 105 Little Bourke St CBD
Cost: $10-15 for pot rice, dinner menu can extend up to $20
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I come back? Yes.

paper screen

A wall partition/divide space and filter light/Tranquil ambiance

goldfish

Peace in a glass bowl/Are things going ‘swimmingly’?/They are for these fish.

Meiji is a small Japanese place with cosy décor. There are paper screens, beer flags and even a fishbowl. Meiji does something I haen’t seen at other casual Japanese places– pot rice. It’s a rustic rice dish with toppings, a little bit like a ‘donburi’ but the rice is more flavoured with the ingredients . Think of it as a cross between fried rice and donburi, with everything steamed together in a claypot. (Not that it is served in a claypot at Meiji, but the way they serve it is also charming.)

Everything else (bento and ramen) aren’t done as well as the pot rices, and frankly, there are better places for bento and ramen nearby. Go to Meiji for their pot-rices.

 
GOMOKU GOHAN (5 ingredient rice medley) ($10)
Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

gomoku gohan

Chicken, egg and prawn?/Three protein sources in one/ Oh wait, make that four.

bowlful

Bowlful with all things/Still another two bowls left/ But… so delicious

Meiji does the pot of rice flavoured with many ingredients as it is cooking. Sometimes I read up on gomoku gohan in Japanese cuisine books, and it looks like the perfect winter/autumn food. The rice servings in these pot-rices are fairly large, there 2 bowlfuls in there. For gomoku goban, there is chicken, prawn, quail egg, soft omelette slices, ginko nuts, something like beans crossed with water spinach (fern bracken?) and shiitake mushrooms.
Out of all the pot-rices, gomoku goban would have to be the best value-for-money meal. Big serve, plenty of toppings, super tasty and visually appealing.

SUTAMINA GOHAN ($14)
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

stamina gohan

Sweet oily eel flesh/Unagi makes things better/Unless allergic

bowl stamina rice

Kimchi seeped white rice/ if you know not of this joy/ kimchi fried rice, go!

Sutamina is Japanese for ‘stamina’. Stamina rice has things traditionally thought to give you energy and counters lethargy. The rice has kimchi sauce through it, and there’s also some kimchi on top. Presumably to give you a kick in the mouth? There is also some grilled eel, which is said to counter lethargy on humid hot days. Beef, because as we all know eating big animals with red meat makes you grow up big and strong. There’s also a vegetable which I think is fern bracken, and shiitake mushroom as well.
Really tasty, but not an additional $4 worth of tasty. (If there is such as thing.)

ASARITAKENORI GOHAN
Score: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

clam clam

Little clams in rice/Little bursts of umami/An elegant dish

Clams, mushroom and vegetable.

 

BUTAKAKUNI GOHAN

Score: ?

Would I order this? Yes.

Meiji butakakuni gohan

Chunks of pork belly/ Jelly-like fat, tender meat/Best of all, the sauce

Pork belly with sweet soy-based sauce.
TORIAGE TAMAGO GOHAN
Score: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Meiji chickenegg gohan

Fried chicken with sauce/ with strips of egg underneath/Chicken or the egg?

Fried chicken with soft sliced omelette. The fried chicken batter has a slight flour taste but tasty enough.

MISO SOUP
Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes

miso soup and pickles

miso and pickles/This should be compulsory/with every rice dish

Miso soup actually comes with the pot-rice, so I didn’t have to order it separately. It has wakame seaweed, spring onion and tofu in it. It isn’t too salty, and I enjoy having a small bowl of soup to go with my rice. My friend’s soup got cold after he finished his meal and the lady offered to reheat it for him. How nice is that!

PICKLES
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? – (comes with pot-rice)

I thought the little dish of assorted pickles was a nice touch. The yellow and pink ones taste the same and are pickled daikon radish, the green ones are dill pickles.

KAKI (OYSTER) FRY
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Meiji kaki fry

Battered, fried oysters/would be great in a po’boy/ not bad on its own

Small oysters, crumbed and fried. They are drained well so the lettuce isn’t soaking in oil. It’s a simple entrée, but the mayonnaise and fried seafood combination works for me. I wouldn’t order it by myself (because I don’t like oysters very much), but if someone was willing to share, then I would order this again.

AGEDASHI TOFU
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Meiji agedashi tofu

Crispy fried tofu/ Every haiku starts like this/Tofu deja vu

It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. From memory, both Ajisen and Yamato around the corner or down the street does a better agedashi tofu. Or it did several years ago. It could do with more umami from bonito or mushrooms. As it is it is quite plain.

HOTATE BATAYAKI
Score: 8/10
Would I order it? Yes.

butter garlic scallops

Butter and garlic/teriyaki sauce scallops/A hot tasty meal

Scallops sauteed in butter and garlic. Good combination. The scallops are soft and barely done in the middle, just as they should be. They taste fresh too. A bit on the salty side for me.

SASHIMI BENTO
Score: ?
Would i order it? Probably not.

sashimi bento is more like sushi bento

Sashimi bento/Not much fish, despite the name/Snacky food bento?

For a sashimi bento there isn’t much raw fish. The takoyaki (the three balls with sauce on them) are delicious, though if memory serves me right, there wasn’t much octopus. It was very soft and delicious, and had a good sauce. The scalloped round biscuit object in the bottom left-hand corner is a glutinous rice cake with sweet and savoury coating. My friend didn’t like it much, but I thought it was tasty. Maybe misplaced in a rice box. It would make a good snack or post-meal nibble.

CHASHU RAMEN
Score: ?
Would I order it? No.

anaemic ramen

Chashu, or ‘char siu’/is a delicious grilled meat/ Back onto ramen…

The ramen at Meiji looks anaemic compared to those at Ajisen or any other place that does ramen. Judging from the picture, I wouldn’t order the ramen at Meiji. I know the pot-rice is great at Meiji so there is very little that’ll steer me away from those.

MELON CALPIS
SOY MILK

drinks in cups

See drinks in glass cups/ Behold, the feats of canning/ How convenient

In conclusion, order a pot rice.
Meiji Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Ramenya Bourke St

Location: Shop 9, The Paramount, 108 Bourke St Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6.5-7/10
Overall rating: 6.5-7/10
Would I come back? Yes.

Ramenya on Bourke is part of the same branch as Ramenya @ GPO. In my opinion, Ramenya on Bourke has better ramen.

Paper lantern lights/ Look like glowing jellyfish/ Without tentacles

Cool drinks cabinet/ It’s well stocked with ramune/ Nostalgic soda

“This spoon is too big”/ Not so, ramen fiend of mine/ Good for sipping broth

 

KIMCHI CHASHU RAMEN
Taste: 6.5-7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Yay, it has kimchi!/ More toppings than GPO/ More well lit as well

Ramenya on Bourke St seems to be the superior branch for ramen. There are more toppings and the ambiance is lighter than the one at GPO. There are 3 choices for broth: Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu. Shoyu has the lightest taste. Miso is still light-tasting but can be very salty. Tonkotsu is the creamiest broth, made from pork bones. In the picture, the broth still seems thin, it’s probably either shoyu or miso.

 

CHASHU TONKOTSU RAMEN
Taste: ?
Would I order it again?

Goodness, noodle soup!/ Quick photo and we tuck in/ Slurping permitted 

This is the same as Kimchi chashu ramen, without the kimchi. This one has tonkotsu broth.

 

Ramen Ya on Bourke on Urbanspoon

Ramenya GPO

Location: Shop 25G Melbourne GPO 350 Bourke St CBD
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6/10
Overall rating:6/10
Would I come back? No.

There are two ramenyas in the city block district. One at GPO and one further along Bourke St. Ramenya GPO has been disappointing. I would rather go next door (Kenzan) and have their ramen or udon. We arrived late in the day, so perhaps that is why the gyoza were so pasty.

Sexy legs ‘leven/ Admiring typography/ Lo, table number

 

CURRY PRAWN BENTO
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Bit o’ everything/ Compartmentalised lunch box/ Dollar for the sauce

Really average. The gyoza skins are very thin and pasty, and the filling is just passable. Nothing special here.

 

SEAFOOD GYOZA RAMEN
Taste: 5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Mystery gyoza/ Its contents an enigma/ I don’t want to know

The gyoza are consistantly pasty, and the skins too thin. They fall apart easily. The seafood filling the gyoza taste vaguely fishy, I have no idea what’s inside. Aside from seafood gyoza, there’s also spring onions, pickled ginger, seaweed, pickled vegetable and naruto fishcake (the pinked and sliced fishcake with the pink swirl). The other sides are okay. If the gyoza were better, I’d come back.
Ramen Ya on Urbanspoon

Kenzan 02

Name: Kenzan GPO
Location: 350 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000. In a little laneway wedged between GPO and Myer.
Cost: $13-18
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating:8/10
Would I come back? Yes

 

PRAWN TEMPURA SOBA
Taste: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Plastic replicas/ My strange plastic-food hobby/ Look like this soba

It’s simple. Hot broth with rinsed soba noodles (buckwheat noodles), topped off with prawn and vegetable tempura and a portion of finely chopped spring onions. But so good.

 

SOBA ANKAKE
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Mushroom egg gravy/ Mixed with hot buckwheat noodles/ Topped with more mushrooms

This is soba is a thick eggy broth, with mushrooms. It’s a hearty vegetarian dish. It gets cold more quickly than the soba in more liquid broth, so consume quickly.
Kenzan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

Instameal: Nissin Teriyaki Garlic

Name: Nissin teriyaki garlic ramen
Contents: wad of noodles, 1 soup base sachet, packet of seasoning oil with minced garlic
Cost: $0.65
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: noodles 7/10, broth 7/10 (I like garlic.)
Would I buy it again? Yes

Handy english text/ Otherwise, would not have guessed/ Maybe fried chicken?

Nice green colour. I wish I had a cutlet of fried chicken.

Garlic in oil/ A meme: Eat all of the garlic/ Gotta love Ally

Usually I don’t use the oil packets, but the sake of these blog posts I make an exception if the oil has other things in it, such as garlic.

Noodles with extras/ It does not come with tofu/ Or leftover beans

I don’t have a chicken cutlet, but I do have leftover deep-fried tofu and string beans. Delicious! The garlicy oil mix make a huge difference, without it you won’t get the garlicy taste. It doesn’t taste much like teriyaki, but it a sweetish savoury flavour that reminds me of the Nissin miso flavour. Either way, it has garlic in it and garlic is delicious.

Instameal: Nissin Miso ramen

Name: Nissin miso ramen
Contents: wad of noodles, 2 sachets: 1 soup base, 1 seasoning powder
Cost: $0.65
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: noodles 7/10, broth 6/10
Would I buy it again? Yes.

Miso flavoured meal/ Many flavours of miso/ Start a miso range?

There’s a theme for these nissin ramens I’ve chosen, and that is ‘they are all Japanese flavours’. Shoyu, miso, teriyaki garlic and tonkotsu (haven’t posted that one yet, but I will soon). These caught my eye, but there are plenty of other flavours to try.

Usual Nissin set/ Ramen wad and two sachets/ No dried veggie mix

I am slightly perplexed at how there is a soup base AND seasoning powder. Usually they are the same thing, but the soup base powder is paler and presumably starts off the soup brothy flavour. Then the seasoning powder, which is quite sticky and orangey-brown, adds the miso flavour.

Full-bodied flavour/ Subtle earthy toned miso/ Not describing wine

Whichever kind of miso it seeks to emulate, it is tasty. It doesn’t taste like sweet white miso that is commonly used in the Melbourne miso ramen circles, my favour lies within darker spicier miso. White/yellow miso is very mild, and sweet. I suspect it’s used often in the Melbourne scene because it’s not overpowering and it’s agreeable with many other flavours. As a general rule, the darker the miso is, the spicier and stronger-tasting it will be. That’s not to say it’s difficult to complement it to other foods, as Eggplant Dengaku (eggplant grilled with miso) is excellent with any miso.

The Nissin Miso ramen is slightly sweet, but the predominant flavour is… smoky? Beefy? I enjoyed it. (The broth can be overly salty to some people, but miso ramen tends to be overly salty for me.) If you ever get bored of Maggi or Fantastic beef instant noodles, but still eat them because they’re famliar to you, I recommend this instant noodle. It reminds me of the fake beef flavouring, but has more dimension to it. It’ll probably be cheaper too, if you get it at your local asian grocer. I think you can find them in supermarkets now, for roughly the same price as a Maggi or Fantastic cup noodle.

 

For more about miso, read on:

Miso (fermented bean paste) is a traditional Japanese seasoning product made from fermenting soybeans with salt and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. Miso can also be made with rice and barley, though there are misos which are made from a mixture of the three ingredients. Similar to other fermented products, miso has a high nutritional value. It’s high in protein, vitamins and minerals. There’s lots of protein in soybeans, but most of it is inaccessible. The fungus Aspergillus oryzae breaks the protein up and makes it more accessable to the human body. It’s also high in salt, so don’t eat it by the spoonful as a healthfood supplement. However, you can use it for its salt content as a flavouring for other foods.
Miso is a flexible ingredient, and depending on what you’re cooking, a different miso can be used. The flavour, texture and appearance of the miso vary by regions and season, but in addition to that, the fermentation period, method of fermentation, fermentation vessel and variety of Aspergillus oryzae can also change the flavour of miso. You can think of it much like a wine. Like wine, it also comes in two main varieties– white and red. White miso is comprised mostly of rice and barley, with very little soy bean. It’s been fermenting for a short time, so it’s sweet, mild and only a little bit of umami flavour. Red miso is comprised of mostly soybeans, which gives miso its darker colour through one of my favourite chemical reactions– the Maillard reaction. Red miso is fermented for longer, and has a saltier, and more umami flavour. So, depending on your tastes you can use different misos.

Popular miso dishes include:

  • Dengaku, which are grilled items glazed with sweetened miso. I am very fond of eggplant dengaku.
  • Miso-glazed grilled mochi (savoury and delicious!)
  • Miso fast-pickles (Love me some fast-pickles)
  • Miso braised vegetables or mushrooms (Add a dollop to your vegetable stew)
  • Miso soup (The quintessential Japanese food.)
  • Miso ramen

(Aside from being high in protein, vitamins and minerals, regular miso consumption is reportedly able to ‘decrease the size of azoxymethane induced colon carcinoma in F344 rats’. What does this mean in regular English? This study used a special sort of rat as a model for human colon cancer. They were split into groups and were fed different diets, some of them had different kinds of miso. The group that were fed the miso that had been fermenting for 180 days did best, and had the most reduction in their cancer size. So far, the misos with the shorter fermentation times have the most benefit for your body. If you think back about white and red misos, you’ll remember that white misos are the short fermentation misos.)

tl;dr? White miso is better than red at decreasing colon cancer size.

But getting back to Nissin Miso ramen, it is a miso flavoured instant noodle. There are no health benefits. Go buy some real miso.

Yamato 2

Name: Yamato
Location: 223 Exhibition St, tucked into the laneway near corner Lonsdale/Exhibition Sts
Price: Mains $10-20, Dessert $4-7
Price score: 4/5
Overall score: 8.5/10
I really enjoyed Yamato’s ambiance the first time, so I came back a second time with more people. I also wanted to show you better pictures of Yamato’s interior, and here they are.

Noren cloth curtains/ A wall scroll with 'Yamato'/ We're in the right place

Does this room seat four?/ No, it actually seats six./Suspicion confirmed.

TOFU STEAK
Cost: $14?
Taste: 9.5/10
Would I order this? Yes.

Witches of Macbeth/ Double toil and trouble/ Hot tofu bubbles

It’s a vegetarian dish comprising of deep fried tofu, mushrooms and a deeply flavoured sauce. It’s a great umami hit. The tofu is sizzling in the sauce when it is plated for you. You allow it to cool just enough so you don’t burn your mouth, and the tofu absorbs the sauce to become sponges for delicious sauce. I heart sauce. One of the things that disappoint me whenever I order deep-fried tofu is how dry it can be. It really needs to be reconsituted in advance, and then drenched in sauce. But I wasn’t disappointed here, because there is sauce. The serving is quite sizeable too.

KATSUDON
Cost: $11
Taste: 9/10
Would I order this? Yes, I would order it again, but only if I had to. Not because it’s bad, but because I need to exhaust the entire menu before going back to it. There are other foods to be explored here.

Generous topping size/ But rice serving is quite small/ Up to perspective

The portions for their dons (rice with toppings) are fairly small, so beware. I wouldn’t say I have a large appetite, but this serving size leaves me -just- satisfied. But I could go a sushi roll afterwards, maybe two. But occassionally, one should only eat til satisfied. Think of it as the samurai experience.
Apart from my problem with serving sizes, their katsudon is good! The chicken is crispy, and there is egg to bind the chicken together. It’s a lot of chicken for the amount of rice given to you. But you don’t hear me complaining about that.

TENDOJI DON
Cost: $13?
Taste: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Hello portmanteau/ One of my favourite word kinds/ Many words in one

Tendoji don is a portmanteau of tenpura, tonjiru and donburi. Tempura are deep-fried small pieces of vegetables or seafood in a light batter. Tonjiru, also known as butajiru, a pork-based soup. It’s thicker than miso soup, and commonly has deep-fried tofu, tubers or a seaweed in it to make it an even heartier soup. Donburi is a rice bowl with toppings. Combine all three words together, and you get ‘tendo-ji-don’.
The fried seafood and vegetables are crisp, but I think the batter was a bit heavy-handed. To me, tenpura should only have a very thin, very crisp layer of batter. But in the Melbourne scene, tenpura seems to always be heavy-handed. This would be in the medium-thickness category of things. The thickest tenpura I have been and eaten was a tempura prawn. It had a diameter of a 20c coin, and the prawn in the middle wasn’t even 5c-coin-sized in diameter. Refer to the picture and judge for yourselves for batter thickness. It includes tempura prawn, white fish, sweet potato and green capsicum.
In the other vessel, there is a very salty pork soup with egg stirred through it. It’s so-so. The saltiness blankets over any other flavours, which is disappointing. I like eggs, but I would also like something else in the pork broth, such as sweet potato, or seaweed, or even just chopped spring onions.

DAIFUKU
Cost: $3.80
Taste: 10/10
Would I get it again? Yes.

Cut into three bits/ I can cut eleven bits/ By force of habit

I’ve already reviewed this, but here’s a better picture.

Yamato Japanese on Urbanspoon