best noodle restaurants

Where To Find The Best Noodle Restaurants In Melbourne?

The only thing better than soup during Melbourne's famously frosty winters is a soup with noodles. It gives your bowl the heft necessary to line your ribs against the cold while the broth works its magic. 

Whether you're after the hot-numbing zing of Sichuan-pepper spiked Chongqing noodles, or the earthy depths of pho, we've scoured the city for the best noodle soups in their class, criss crossing international borders to warm you from the cockles to the crown. These are our top picks.

Noodles glorious noodles! Sometimes it feels like a huge bowl of noodles as the ultimate comfort food. What makes great noodles? We believe the best noodles are handmade. They also need to be cooked to perfection, not overcooked. Noodle dishes also need fresh quality ingredients, including decent cuts of meat. 

Here are our favourite noodle restaurants in Melbourne.

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11 Best Noodle Restaurants In Melbourne

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Bowltiful serves the Chinese-Muslim style of beef noodles, and Bowltiful keeps it as traditional as possible. Choose from nine varieties of hand-pulled noodles that vary in shape and thickness to go into any of the eight dishes available. 

Beef and lamb offal feature in the noodle soups, whereas ground bean pastes, eggy tomato and a garlic-bomb gravy top dry noodle dishes. A mark of a great hand-pulled noodle is when the gluten in the flour has been worked so hard it produces a bouncy, chewy single noodle, which is the case at Bowltiful. 

If you opt for the thickest noodle, be warned, it is excellent eating, but you will need to be deft with your chopsticks as it is as thick as a credit card, makes for messy eating and could result in a mega splash-back.

Tina's Noodle Kitchen

Tina’s Noodle Kitchen is part of the Dainty Sichuan group and owner Tina Li's CBD noodle shop. If you're at all familiar with the original Dainty Sichuan restaurants, you will be well aware that these guys don't shy away from the spice. So get that icy cold glass of water ready and prepare yourself for some delicious chilli heat, Sichuan style.

If lunchtime queues at the CBD branch are any indication, Tina's noodle soups are worth the wait. It's a quick and easy affair once you find a seat though, the giant bowls of still simmering noodles covered in chilli oil will hit the table almost as soon as you get your drink. 

Don't be scared of the unfamiliar ingredients – the ruffles of black mushroom and konjac jelly are very healthy traditional ingredients—all the more reason to tuck into their famously fiery fried chicken.

Lanzhou Beef Noodle

Melbourne has always had a love affair with a good plate of carbs, whether it be rice, pasta or injera, but the humble bowl of noodles has its time in the sun, especially with the sudden appearance of Lanzhou Beef Noodle. 

You probably haven’t noticed them, but Lanzhou Beef Noodle joints have been popping up around universities in Melbourne. Melbourne Uni, RMIT and Monash have been given an army of hard-working noodle-pullers, feeding the minds and stomachs of the next generation to enter our workforce.

The CBD location is the newest, and the décor is nothing special. You walk through the entrance to the counter, passing an open, refrigerated cabinet of delectable snacks and accompaniments that appeal to your impulse-purchase sensibilities. 

The cabinet is manned by someone diligently weighing strips of thinly sliced marinated beef, spicy pig’s ears salad, braised chicken feet, garlicky cucumbers, corn cobs and bowls of tea eggs priced per plate, next to bubble cup sealed containers of house-made drinks like sweet teas or juices with goji berries and winter melon floating about in them.

 It’s sensory overload if it is your first visit, but be sure to have your order ready when you make it to the counter, or you’ll stuff up the well-oiled efficiency of the venue in 10 seconds flat.

Menus are plastered to the front window so you can choose between braised beef noodles, spicy noodles, pickled cabbage noodles or dry noodles before you even impulse shop for snacks. 

Don’t be intimidated by all the free-flowing Mandarin, though – all the staff speak perfect English and prompt you for your noodle choice (from super thin to extra-wide), whether you’d like it traditionally spicy or toned down and if you want lashings of coriander and spring onions as garnish. 

From there, you receive a number, choose a seat (if you can get one immediately) and wait. No one lingers in this venue; the modus operandi of being a diner at Lanzhou Beef Noodle is you eat, then you leave, making room for the next hungry person to take your place.

The impersonal service doesn’t sway anyone from experience, though, as the noodles are that good. The open kitchen places the noodle puller (whose arms are chiselled out of wood and as wide as tree trunks) front and centre, and you can see him pulling noodles to order. 

With each docket, he rolls out a carefully practised amount of dough, and with a few movements, turns out a different width and shape of noodle to be thrown into a boiling pot to cook before a production line of workers builds your bowl of noodles. 

Someone adds spice, another garnish, another broth, and someone else tops it with the right protein and delivers it to your table. All that happens within five minutes.

These noodles are the best hand-pulled version we have tasted in Melbourne. They possess the perfect chew and just-cooked bite in the impossibly long string that forces you to enjoy the slurp ability. Do not wear a white shirt if you plan on dining here, even if you think you’re a chopstick expert.

Both choice and garnishes play second fiddle to the humble carbohydrate, but they are complex and nuanced in each variation. Dry noodles don’t allow you to choose your width of noodles, but there is a vegan option that is worth everyone’s attention. There is vinegar and chilli oil at the table, but trust us, you won’t need them.

Topping out at $12.80 for the most expensive bowl of noodles, Lanzhou Beef Noodle has disproved the theory of the Iron Triangle, demonstrating that it is possible to get something good, fast and cheap.

Mr Ramen San

mr ramen san

Increasingly enveloped by glassy ‘dining precincts’ and international players, we can’t help but wonder if the CBD’s remaining old-school arcades and food courts are living on borrowed time. We hope not. 

The hardy, usually family-run eateries within have long filled the bellies of CBD workers for the minimal coin, from steamy boat noodles and sour pork fried rice in the ‘90s chic Paramount Food Court to bain-maries full of legit Padang cuisine at Tivoli Arcade. 

Bourke Street’s MidCity Arcade is another stalwart, best known for dumpling institution Shandong Mama and home to the peppily named Mr Ramen San, a homey joint banging down some of the most dependable noodles in town. 

Compared to excited tonkatsu joints like Hakata Gensuke and Ippudo that sell themselves on ultra-concentrated, rich soups, the bowls at Mr Ramen San are flavourful while being restrained enough for everyday consumption. 

The 10-hour pork bone broth is soft and creamy without being heavy, sporting a level of gelatinous mess that slips rather than sticks. Thin and bitey wheat noodles, made in house, are just the right vehicle for this lower viscosity tonkatsu, while sliced spring onion, pickled bamboo shoots, seaweed and a jammy soy egg tick the customary topping boxes. 

From there, you can steer traditional with thinly sliced chashu that’s a half-and-half swirl of supple fat and char-blushed meat, or switch out for miso-simmered beef, spicy chicken mince, prawns and even a “vegan chashu” that mostly invokes the Devon ham in our primary school sandwiches. 

Delivered in sensible serving sizes, this is a rare bowl of ramen that satisfies deeply without rendering you unconscious, and free kae-dama (extra noodles) takes care of the greedy.

So Mr Ramen San indeed makes some fine ramen. But if you’ll allow us a curveball, the noodle dish you should be coming here for is maze soba, a soupless, saucy mixed noodle that fans of Zha Jiang Mian and its Korean black bean cousin, jajangmyeon, will instantly click with. 

Anchored by a rich base sauce made from soy and pork fat, a bed of thicker, chewy wheat noodles is laid with a bounty of minced garlic and chicken, roast pork, powdered dried bonito, chives and spring onion. 

Bound together with a gleaming onsen egg and a swirl of chilli oil, the result is intensely, addictively savoury – no doubt thanks to the fearless compounding of three protein sources in the one bowl. To rescue yourself from umami fatigue, you’re given a squeezy bottle of rice vinegar to zap the earthy noodle gravy into a second, equally delicious life midway.

No one goes out for ramen expecting balance. Still, you can get a modest fibre fix with sides, from scoff-able light vegetable gyoza encased in paper-thin wrappers to a cooling salad of shiitake, wood ear and enoki mushrooms marinated in sweet mirin-tinged soy.

During peak hours, it’s a strictly slurp and dash situation, but without the hurrying effect of a queue by the door, you might choose to linger over nips of sake, umeshu or ice-cold draft Sapporo. 

The décor’s gentle mimicry of a typical Tokyo ramen shop feels transported rather than cheesy, down to the wood-hugged walls adorned with coathangers, Totoro posters and vintage ads. Enveloped in this snug little cove with cheeks stuffed full of noodles, you’re likely to find a feeling of safety and comfort no striking new thing could ever provide.

Shimbashi Soba

Shimbashi is better known for their cold dipping soba, but it doesn't mean their soups aren't just as delicious. Organic Tasmanian buckwheat is ground on-site each day and turned into noodles before each service to make a perfectly chewy and nutritious noodle. 

The sansai soba is one for vegetarians, where soba is drowned in a light soy-based broth and is topped with a range of simmered vegetables like napa cabbage, seaweed and a variety of Asian mushrooms. 

Dodge Padang

Dodge Padang is a Sydney import from Somporn Phosri – the fourth store of the family. After winning the hearts and tongues of Thai locals in Sydney, he thought it was time to conquer Melbourne. Hidden in the basement of Hotel Causeway 353, off Little Collins Street, you’ll find the colourful, low-fi and community-driven 150-seater packed to the brim with Thai natives. 

That is the first language spoken here by guests and staff, but service in English is no less friendly or accommodating. Just be sure to project when ordering, as the ‘90s song-stylings of Celine, Mariah or the Backstreet Boys will be blaring over the speakers. Some nights Thai cover bands will be singing their favourite hits. We hope you like Coldplay.

The main event is the signature tom yum noodle, coming in a clean, sweetly porky, hot-and-sour broth hit with generous spoonfuls of fried garlic and topped with crispy wonton strips. Each comes with toppings ranging from seafood to soft pork bone and can be customized with a choice between seven types of noodles, such as glass, rice, instant and supersized, for those with an appetite. 

Caddies with chillies in fish sauce, chilli powder, vinegar and straight-up sugar are on every table to adjust each bowl to make it your truth. Competitive friends can be seen challenging one another on levels of heat, stomaching chilli levels up to seven – which causes the usually clear broth to turn opaque – with precautionary names like ‘devil’, ‘lava’, ‘super volcano’, and up to ‘supernova’. 

Order at your own risk and beware of the sweats, chilli hallucinations and the inevitable Johnny Cash. Staff do well to question your bold decision making, sometimes qualifying that it comes ‘Thai spicy’ and that they can only handle a level three heat themselves.

Less popular but equally addictive are bowls of rice drowned in the same tom yum broth with a similar variety of toppings. A full menu is also available all day, but it is best for those who come in groups. 

Thin, marinated slices of grilled pork neck are served next to a punchy Nam Jim jaew dipping sauce; strips of marinated, air-dried, fried beef are reminiscent of jerky; curries and son tums (green papaya salads) are up there with those you’d find in northeast Thailand and are devilishly fiery. 

Those brave enough to embrace the specials will be rewarded with dishes like gelatinous, soft-cooked tendon stir-fried with chilli and holy basil, perfect when accompanied with rice and shared family-style due to the growing hum of spice.   

Dodge Paidang is Melbourne’s answer to the growing number of homogenized, pan-Asian eateries popping up on every corner with dangerously similar menus. It follows no formulas except for being unapologetically Thai. Dodge is proud of its origins, gracious in its delivery, delicious in every bite, and we salute it for not pandering to a western palate.

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Mensousai Mugen

They may be ramen by name, but these noodle-heads are no one-trick ponies. If you’re up for a change from the usual pork-heavy ramens that sometimes leave you unconscious, this delicate soba dish is a superb alternative. 

The thick, ramen noodles are swapped out for thin, house-made wavy noodles that sit in a clear but flavoursome chicken broth seasoned with pink Himalayan salt, accompanied by tender slices of chicken breast house-made chicken meatballs, bamboo shoots and spring onion. 

Add a marinated egg for a touch of richness if that's your jam. Oishi!

Phở Nom

The usual gripe of being in the CBD is no good pho. That’s where Pho Nom has stepped in and saved the day. Not only has chef Jerry Mai opened two stores in the city, ladling out perfectly balanced broths that have been cooking for more than 24 hours, but she uses Warialda beef and Glenloth chickens as the backbone to her dishes, assuring you of the provenance of your meat. 

The Pho Saigon is built from deep and clean beef broth, slippery rice noodles, slices of soft-cooked brisket, rare beef and beef balls. A station with the freshest Thai basil, bean sprouts, sliced chilis and lemon wedges are also available for you to adjust your bowl. You can’t go wrong with that.

Grandma Noodle

Grandma Noodle is a global Chongqing chain, but the noodles are built of quality and consistency. A range of chillies and spices are fried off and added to a rich stock that builds this deceptively complex bowl of heady noodles. 

Sichuan peppercorns offer that telltale numbing characteristic of Chongqing food. This bowl does not come topped with any proteins, but the spicy and savoury broth hits all sides of your palate, and you won’t be left wanting more.

Dainty Noodle Express

Know what you’re thinking. Chitterlings (intestine) usually get a bad rap for their funkiness, but that’s because the organ isn’t purged properly (yeah, that is what you think it is). 

But these have been skillfully cleaned to produce a slippery and fatty cut of meat that has been braised in sweet spices, which complement the thick, mung bean noodles in this hot and sour broth garnished with fried soybeans. Open your mind and try something new. You might just love it.

Soi 38

If we told you some of the best boat noodles in Melbourne were in a car park, would you believe us? Well, you’ve got to try it for yourself. Soi 38 specializes in only four dishes, and you choose your noodle and level of soupiness and adjust each bowl to your preference with the condiment caddy on the table. 

Our pick is the fragrant, sweetly spiced boat noodles with beef. Vermicelli or glass noodles do an excellent job of soaking up the complex broth, but really, there is no wrong combination.

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants

There are approximately 350 different types of pasta around the world — and about four times that many names for them! For example, due to its shape, farfalle pasta is often called “butterfly" or “bowtie" pasta.

Cooks use different shapes and sizes of pasta for different purposes. For example, different shapes hold different sauces better than others.

Some cooks say thin pasta, such as angel hair, should be served with thin sauces, while thicker sauces work better with thicker, heavier pasta. People often pair flat pasta with cream sauces, while tomato sauces cling better to round pasta.

The oldest evidence of noodles was from 4,000 years ago in China. In 2005, archaeologists reported finding an earthenware bowl that contained 4000-year-old noodles at the Lajia archaeological site. 

These noodles were said to resemble lamina, a type of Chinese noodle. Analyzing the husk phytoliths and starch grains present in the sediment associated with the noodles, they were identified as millet belonging to Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica. 

However, other researchers cast doubt that Lajia's noodles were made from specifically millet: it is difficult to make pure millet noodles, it is unclear whether the analysed residue was directly derived from Lajia's noodles themselves, starch morphology after cooking shows distinctive alterations that do not fit with Lajia's noodles, and it is uncertain whether the starch-like grains from Laijia's noodles are starch as they show some non-starch characteristics.

The chemical composition, culinary and sensory attributes of the noodles were investigated. The protein, fat, ash, crude fiber, moisture and calorific values of the flour noodles ranged from 4.76 to 0.33%, 0.35 to 0.57%, 0.83 to 0.57%, 0.53 to 0.57%, 8.03 to 0.15% and 349.51 to 355.81 kcal/100 g respectively.

Noodles and pasta differ primarily because of their ingredients and the type of processing involved, Kaminska says. Noodles are usually made with flour milled from common wheat. Pasta is processed from durum semolina, which is coarser than typical flour. However, that difference is not always so cut and dried.

People get egg noodles and ramen noodles mixed up because the process of making these noodles are very similar to each other. The only real difference between their recipes is that ramen noodles use alkalised water (or kansui) to form the dough. Their color and texture are almost identical.

Conclusion

Let it be at this moment acknowledged that chow mein is dead. A gummy timestamp of early Chinese immigration, these days, China's stodgiest export is survived only by the very dankest bain maries of the very dankest food courts. RIP chow mein.

In 2019, what lies in Melbourne's ever-specialising network of Chinese restaurants is something far more thrilling, if under-publicised in English-language media: the full complement of the world's most comprehensive noodle programme, a delicious byproduct of Melbourne's new-look Chinese diaspora.

From the hand-pulled beef lamina of Lanzhou to the puckering sour spice of Guizhou's rice noodle men, Chongqing's umami-spectacular wanza mian, and everything in between, Melbourne today does the canon as well as anywhere outside the Middle Kingdom.

Resources:

Best noodle soups in Melbourne

Where to find Melbourne's best regional Chinese noodles

Best Noodle Restaurants In Melbourne

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