Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dojo Ramen Bar - Northcote

Look, let's be frank. As a vegetarian, in many ways I really don't have a right to review ramen, phở or any other East Asian noodle dish. Tradition dictates that the broth for many such dishes is made from chicken/beef/pork/fish/some-other-deceased-animal stock, and who am I to demand a divergence from tradition just to sate my self-indulgent needs? Well, in answer to your rhetorical question, I'm a Melbournian, that's who. And I have the Greek fisherman's hat to prove it! In Melbourne, fortunately there are enough like-minded individuals to force years of culinary tradition to be cast aside and bend to our whims (ah, the joys of the market economy), and with the coolness of veganism taking hold and making even roller shoes seem old hat, there are few restaurants in Melbourne's inner north that would dare to not cater to our needs!

But before I launch into a full-on manifesto and a call-to-arms to join my vegetarian militia (let's bring nightshades out of the dark!), allow me to talk to you about Dojo Ramen Bar in Northcote. Avid readers will note that this is not my first ramen write-up, previously waxing (somewhat, but not overly) lyrical about Collingwood's Shop Ramen. Oddly enough, whilst I didn't not enjoy that establishment, I left feeling in no rush to jump on the ramen train again in the near future. Don't get me wrong, the buzz surrounding Dojo had me interested, but it was more by chance that I ended up here on Cup Day evening.

First thing that struck me was that they offered three vegetarian ramen options - miso, shoyu, and a "secret" broth thickened with nut extract and soy milk - as well as one mazesoba option, and a host of starters including edamame, 'dojo pickles', and the enticingly sounding nukazuke - mixed vegetables soaked and fermented in rice bran. On this occasion we played it conservative and went for the veg gyoza option ($10 for 5). I was a little worried at first bite by excessive amounts of dark brown in the filling, but there was really no cause for concern. These heavily gingered - in a good way - parcels of minced mushroom, carrot, cabbage with a side of vinegar/soy sauce were quite tasty and not as gluggy as gyoza I have eaten elsewhere in the city. For the ramen, I opted for the Veggie miso. The murky, salty, sesame dotted broth concealed several slabs of marinated tofu, bamboo shoots, leeks. Oh, and the noodles! 

Veggie Ramen (back) , Veggie Miso (front), and Hand Model (upper right)

Let me tell you folks, this was one tasty bowl of soup! I do generally have a favourable disposition to anything made with miso, however it wasn't just that. I also had a taste of the secret veggie broth ramen - a thicker, almost creamier variation - and it too left me with a good impression. The portion size was perfect. Not too small to leave you still hungry, not too big as to leave you feeling bloated. And at $13-$13.50, pretty reasonable value to boot. Perhaps the only knock is that I wouldn't have minded a few more veggies crammed in, but that's just me nit-picking. One thing's for sure, Dojo Ramen Bar has once again put ramen back on the agenda for this guy, and I look forward to getting onto the nukazuke and the shoyu ramen on my next visit. 


Right in the heart of hip happening High St, Northcote

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