Nao is a not-too-big Japanese restaurant located on the East side of Perth city's Murray Street pedestrian mall that has been around for several years. Nao serves a range of dishes in line with its advertised "sushi and izakaya" (or otherwise its menu contains dishes such as sushi, teriyaki, Japanese curry, and typical Japanese side dishes varying at around $4-7 for sides and $9-15 for mains). However, Nao is also commonly known for specialising in soup based ramen (a type of Japanese noodle). Given its specialisation, I really find it hard to go past choosing their ramen especially on a cold night to give me that warm kick to help me get by.
As I mentioned in my review of Arigataya (which also sells ramen), the “art” of making ramen comes with training and experience. In common, Nao produces a ramen made with the principles of a flavoursome and properly made soup base, a varied and variable choice of stock base and toppings, and well prepared and home-made ramen. Not so in common would be Nao's more diverse menu, as well as the taste and feel of the final product - and in particular the ramen.
The Chasu Pork Ramen was the rolled pork option. The ramen was topped with five slices of rolled pork, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and cooked green leafy vegetables (perhaps spinach?). As far as the optional components are concerned, you have a choice of stocks such as soy sauce, salt, miso, and spicy (chilli), as well as the type of noodle such as normal egg based, spinach infused, and chilli infused.
The base price of this dish was $12.50, with a 50c additional charge for the Green Jade or otherwise spinach infused option. The soup base I chose was the soy sauce option.
Though this ramen was the spinach option and did in fact look green in colour, I could barely taste the spinach in the ramen which though I thought was a bit disappointing, probably is right considering this is a soup based ramen and not a vegetable soup. Perhaps the flavour of the soup and the whole dish also help mask the spinach taste.
The soup broth itself was quite light and even though it had the colour of a stock was quite clear, with a small amount of clear oil on top. The taste of the broth matched the colour and clarity of the soup, but was still packed with ramen stock flavour. Most ramens tend to have a high sodium content and whilst this one didn’t break the tradition, it didn’t seem excessively salty.
The pork was rolled, with distinct layers of meat and fat and skin rolled into a round slab, cooked and sliced thinly. Its taste was also quite moderate, and the texture was quite soft and light but matched into the saltier soy sauce based soup broth well.
Spicy Chicken Ramen with Green Jade Ramen - $11
Similar to the ramen above, this dish had the green spinach ramen option. The difference was in the topping (this ramen had chicken pieces in it) and the soup base which was the spicy option (for an additional $1, making this ramen $11, or $9.50 base cost plus $1 for the spicy soup base and $0.50 for the green spinach ramen).
The spicy soup broth was reasonably spicy as far as Japanese food goes, with a chilli like flavour and colour running through the soup. The chilli wasn’t overpowering though, allowing you to still taste the soup stock base under the chilli flavour. I found myself wanting to keep drinking more of the infused flavour soup broth and if you like chilli based broths, this was quite a nice option to go with the ramen.
Being the chicken option, the ramen was topped with chicken – which was pretty standard chicken (perhaps teriyaki chicken) and not a great deal of chicken at that. However, as an overall dish, the spicy option made for a good spicy change to the “standard” ramens.
In summary, Nao is a great little Japanese restaurant offering authentic Japanese cuisine at reasonable casual meal dining prices. Specialising in ramen, but also offering other Japanese dishes, Nao is a great option for a quick affordable Japanese meal.
Given everyone’s taste is different, I will try and avoid categorically rating one restaurant against another unless clearly necessary. However, I found the ramen at Nao to be lighter than Arigataya in its stock, serving size, and price. In my opinion, both venues make great ramen though so it’s up to personal preference which you prefer.
Points to note: This is a casual restaurant which specialises in home-made ramen - from the soup base, through to the ramen noodles as well as the toppings. I found the serving size to not be too great so if you're hungry you may want to order some other things to go with your meal.
Go for: Trying out their home-made ramen, and the different varieties and combinations available.
Nao Japanese Restaurant
117 Murray Street
PERTH WA 6000
(08) 9325 2090
Monday to Thursday - 11:30am to 6pm
Friday - 11:30am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday - 12 noon to 5pm