Chocolate & Spice

chocolate, spice and the other pleasures in life

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Comfort Food on a Cold Night

Some weeks ago, A and I made a trek to the heart of Richmond for one of Melbourne's well-known cheap eats along Bridge Road. It was a trek indeed, being a time when we were car-less and before we drove A's car down from Sydney, as although Richmond was the next suburb to ours, it still entailed a 45 minute walk in the cold. A friend asked in an email "isn't that why trams exist in Melbourne?" and I secretly agreed with her (right about 30 minutes into the walk) but A and I thought it would be a good way to work up an appetite for one of our favourite Japanese dishes. There's also something in walking all that distance on a cold dark winter night, anticipating the meal ahead before emerging into a cosy café with the steamy aroma of freshly cooked ramen.

Momotaro Rahmen is one of those tiny café with nondescript furniture and a small menu which one on a cold night, might easily walk on by; this would quite likely be the case in Richmond where there is a plethora of good food from the many Vietnamese outlets on Victoria Street to the venerable Richmond Hill Café & Larder at the beginning of Bridge Road. But having read that this café served up great ramen at very reasonable prices (and therefore thoroughly deserving the tag of Melbourne "Cheap Eats"), I decided that we would have dinner there one Saturday night.

Ordering at Momotaro is quick and simple. Make your way to the cashier and read your order off the huge menu hung on the wall above to the nice lady at the counter, pay and take a number.

We both decided to order the Negi Miso Ramen which is a classic ramen with a miso soup base topped with roast pork and leeks with hot chilli sauce. One word of caution! Momotaro serves up the biggest bowl of ramen I've ever eaten; I had earlier dismissed the comment by one reviewer that the bowl in which the ramen is served was as big as her head until a bowl was set before me. When I leaned over to bathe my face in the steamy aroma, I realised that there was truth to that statement! On our first visit, both A and I made the mistake of ordering one bowl each (in addition to an appetizer and dessert to share) and paying for that moment of greediness when we pried ourselves from our chairs to face the 45 minute walk back home. Needless to say, the next time we visited, we shared a bowl of ramen instead, which, together with an appetizer and dessert, was more than sufficient for 2 hungry people.

It doesn't look as impressive here but trust me that it was a BIG bowl!

After a short wait, the ramen was brought to our table and we turned to the serious business of slurping up some goodness. With my first mouthful of noodles from the steaming bowl on that cold winter night, my thoughts were that nothing comes quite close to this. The serving of ramen was definitely value for money at A$10, given the size of the serving. I leave more than half of my ramen untouched as I was stuffed! That's probably because we had a delicious starter to begin with which was on the Specials board that night – gyoza which is a part pan-fried and steamed dumpling. I had earlier read a very enlightening post by J of Kuidaore on how gyozas are prepared and Momotaro's version was true to the method (I could see Reiji, chef and owner, cooking each order of gyoza in the open-plan kitchen).

The special gyoza for the night - see the squid-ink pastry?

The special gyoza (A$8 for 6 pieces) for that night was a nice variation on the classic Italian dish of squid-ink pasta – the gyoza wrapper was made with squid-ink pastry and came with a filling of hot chilli prawn & squid with bamboo. I'm not a big fan of squid ink pasta for various reasons; not only does it use the ink sacs of the squid for its colour and was therefore very 'fishy-tasting', it is also truly difficult to eat this dish with company with any semblance of dignity (witness ink-stained teeth and lips). This time however, the gyoza wrapper was a lightly-tinged grey (probably because not as much squid ink was used) so I thought I would chance a bite. I was glad I did as each mouthful was a sensation of tastes - salty with the tang of the ocean from the prawns and squid, slightly spicy from the bite of the chilli and crunchy from the bamboo shoots. We had tried the regular gyoza on our first visit which was definitely good stuff. But the special definitely blew our minds. Our dish emptied itself magically within the next couple of minutes and A and I didn't speak further after the first "mmmm" until we had polished all 6 gyozas off.

A enjoying a bite of the crepe layer cake

After such a huge bowl of ramen and the gyoza, you wouldn't think that we'd be able to squeeze in any more food. But I had my eye on the crepe layer cake with green tea custard (A$3.50), and had taken the precaution of ordering it upfront with our ramen. I had missed trying it out on my previous visit when someone nicked the last piece before me and had to settle for the green tea icecream (wonderful still as it was chockfull of green tea flavour). This dessert intrigued me when it was served – layer upon layer of crepes were sandwiched with a thin spread of green tea custard such that it formed a 'cake'. Served with a generous wodge of vanilla icecream on the side, A and I fought over every last bit of this dessert.

Momotaro Rahmen comes out tops for good hearty comfort food and all for around $25 for two. A and I have definitely marked this on our favourites list - it is definitely worth the 45 minute walk anytime!

Momotaro Rahmen – Japanese Noodle Bar
392 Bridge Road
Richmond Vic 3121

Phone: (03) 9421 1661

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