by Kimiko Wilson
Japanese Curry and Miso Ramen in The Heart of Melbourne
On a typical Melbourne spring evening, I stepped outside as I finished my day of work. As the rain started to pour, the hunger bell began to ring. Being lazy to cook and indecisive on what restaurant to go to, myself and my colleague wandered down the infamous foody alley of Flinders lane to hope for the best.
It was nearing the end of the laneway when both of us hadn’t picked a place yet. We heard some chatter coming from an even tinier alley that suggested that there were more options to explore.
Walking down this dark alley with our umbrellas up, we started to contemplate whether this was a good choice. By the end of it, we found a glass door and a nice big window to a modern looking place that looked like it served Japanese food. ‘Perfect!’ I thought and opened the door to this small establishment.
As soon as we entered, the aromas of Japanese curry and miso ramen wafted towards us. Scanning the floor, the place had an open kitchen connected to a counter, which a young couple were happily slurping their noodles away.
“Irashaimase!” we were suddenly welcomed by a cheerful Japanese lady, “Table for two?” she asked. We were escorted down a stairway to the basement which was dark but displayed cool lighting with a projector playing black and white samurai movies on the concrete wall. This place, Mensousai Mugen was definitely a gem that we found.
The basement wasn’t big, probably in total could fit 15 to 20 people, so we were lucky to have found a spot here as there were 2 tables left. We scanned the menus, which had a customized ramen manga specific for this restaurant on the back. The restaurant had a very samurai and ninja feel to it – almost like a hideout cave, not to mention they were playing Nujabes music which reminded me of my favourite anime show Samurai Champloo.
I was surprised to find that they had tsuke (dipping) men (noodles) where the noodles and sauce come in separate bowls so you can dip the noodles at your choice before taking a slurp.
This was probably the first place I’ve seen in Melbourne that offered such a thing. I had to get it. I went for the curry tsukemen and we decided to order some gyu tataki and pipi clams to start off with. The pipi’s were super delicious and the gyu tataki with the daikon radish and dressing sauce displayed a great start to the dinner.
The main dish however, hit the spot. The curry tsukemen with the thick noodles and the nice piece of chashu pork, it was perfect for a wintery spring evening like today. Japanese curry and Ramen are two of my favorite comfort foods, so when combined in one dish, it takes it another notch further.
When the waiter noticed that I was done with my noodles, she brought a pot of fish broth soup to the table and asked if I wanted to drink the remainder of my curry sauce with the fish broth. It wasn’t what I was expecting her to do but the end result was delicious and it was a meal thoroughly enjoyed.
It really felt like I had just escaped Melbourne going down that stairway and teleported to the heart of Tokyo. As we finished our meals, we made our way back up the stairway and onto ground level. We were glad we came down this suspicious little alley off Flinders Lane. It definitely was going to go straight into the books of favourite little hideout spots of Melbourne.