31st March 2016
225 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I may not have a spirit animal (though I absolutely ADORE dogs), but I do have a spirit country. The moment I stepped out onto the tarmac in Tokyo, something in me clicked, and I’ve spent all my time since pining for Japan. Maybe it’s the vibrant culture, maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe it’s the amazing food, or maybe it’s just my foolish heart.
Melbourne has upped its ramen game significantly in the last few years, but there’s always room for more. After all, good ramen should be available whenever a craving hits, and that’s where Shujinko steps in. Opened a few months ago with great fanfare, this 24-hour ramen restaurant is quintessentially Japan.
Stepping into the restaurant took me sharply back to the narrow streets of Tokyo. This little ramen bar bustles around the clock – if you think no one wants ramen at 3am you’d be dead wrong. The cosy and rustic interior may be loud and chaotic, but like Japan, it’s easy to slip into your own little oasis of peace.
A lot of the snack menu isn’t available until after 9pm (though really, isn’t it always simultaneously before and after 9pm?), but thankfully the Takoyaki ($8.8, 8pcs) is available around the clock. I had my fingers crossed for takoyaki just like what I had in Japan, and Shujinko delivered. Instead of the dryer, crispier kind you get in Australia, these were soft and gooey, and entirely buried under a flurry of bonito flakes and sauce. Not sure what people used to ‘Australian’ takoyaki will think of these, but I loved every single sauce-covered mouthful.
Tsukemen ($14.8) isn’t something you can get a lot of around Melbourne, so I pounced on this opportunity. Also known as dipping ramen, the noodles are served separately from the soup, to be dipped in and slurped at your own leisure.
The deep bowl of noodles was fantastic. Thick and full of bite, these chunky strands were immensely satisfying to eat.
And to go with the noodles was a rich, heady bowl of seafood and pork soup. The deeply umami aroma was complemented by a smoky spiciness, and the thick broth meant that all the flavours clung to the chewy noodles. At the bottom of the bowl were nuggets of tender braised pork, which along with the gooey egg, added some protein to the meal.
The Shujinko Ramen ($12.8) was simply described as ‘not your typical Japanese ramen’. To be honest, this seemed like a straight-up tonkotsu ramen to me – not that there’s anything wrong with that at all! The soup was a lot lighter than what came with the tsukemen; instead, the pork-based broth was creamy and a little smoky, soaking deliciously into the springy noodles. The accompanying slices of pork had a similar fatty smokiness, which was balanced out by the shavings of scallion. Could this be my new favourite tonkotsu ramen?
I love love love Shujinko, but I have to admit up front that my adoration for Japan probably makes me more than a little biased. For example, Chris thought the food was good but not extraordinary, whereas I can’t get over just how much this meal reminded me of being back in Japan. With that said, although I recommend taking my review with a grain of salt, this is definitely one of the better bowls of ramen Melbourne has to offer.
Rating: 15/20 – new favourite brunch.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.