My food-loving, Japanophile parents are visiting at the moment so there was no doubt where we’d be heading for lunch once I told them about Shop Ramen.
The specialist ‘Ramen + Buns + Pie’ shop opened up on eat street Smith Street just over a week ago and the word has already spread about this place’s incredible, freshly-made noodles. (Note that their address says ‘Collingwood’ but in fact they’re on the Fitzroy side of Smith Street. Very confusing.)
Ramen is not really food which you linger over and the shop fitout reflects the eat-and-go nature of the dish. The walls are whitewashed with exposed brick, subway tiles and simple Japanese decorative features on the walls. The room is dominated by a long communal table with low, bum-numbing wooden stools and which is so wide that it’s awkward have a conversation across the table but which is comfortable for solo diners who don’t want to slurp their noodles in a stranger’s face. (If you are going there with others I suggest sitting at the square 2-person tables or the prime 4-person round table by the window).
Shop Ramen makes their wheat noodles fresh every day using a manual pasta roller. And I think the texture of their ramen is very akin to fresh pasta – slightly springy, not overly doughly and with the individual silken strands floating in the broth and not clumping together in a mass.
Their noodles are currently served in three different broths – a classic cloudy pork bone tonkotsu ($13.50), spicy red miso ($13) and vegetarian version using cashew milk ($13). Then they’ve taken traditional combinations and given them some interesting twists. The pork tonkotsu comes with a slice of fatty pork belly and some minced pork, springy black fungus which is not something you see often on Japanese menus and some very thinly sliced leek to replace to traditional spring onion.
The spicy red miso comes with chicken and a meaty King oyster mushroom and it’s actually not very spicy, so feel free to add some extra chilli that’s available in shakers on every table.
The vegetarian broth was particularly well-balanced and soothing, with equal parts salty, sweet and sour flavours creating a harmonious dish. My mum reckoned that the vego broth was even better than their tonkotsu, which is really saying something.
Each of the bowls came with a large fan of nori, a tasty garnish, and a googly boiled egg marinated in something salty (soy?) and with the oozy yolk found in traditional ramen in Japan. Many places in Australia simply cut corners and include a hard-boiled egg.
Besides ramen, I urge you to try the soft-as-a-pillow buns – meat eaters go for the pork belly and pickle melded together in sweet tonkatsu sauce, vegetarians try the smoked tofu ($3.50 each).
The ‘pie’ part of the equation comes in the form of an apple gingernut pie with liquorice cream ($8.50). It was a curious dessert – I couldn’t really discern the flavour of the set filling as the apple element came from the green sauce drizzled on top, plus parts of the pie filling were frozen cold and reminiscent of ice cream in texture. I’m not sure whether it was supposed to be like that or it whether it was being stored frozen and hadn’t been thawed properly. The liquorice cream is foamy in the mouth and given that I don’t really like aniseed flavours or foam I didn’t enjoy it at all. My view is that if you want to top of your meal with something sweet, order the incongruous but delicious salted caramel and coconut shake from the drinks menu instead ($7).
Shop Ramen, 329 Smith Street, Collingwood +61 3 9123 4567
Wed to Sun noon–10pm