329 Smith Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065
|Opening hours||Wednesday to Sunday noon-2.30pm; 5.30-10pm.|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
Where and what
Ramen is looming on the trend-o-meter, with Melbourne giving indications it's finally catching up on Sydney's lead. One of the latest additions is Shop Ramen, which started life as a pop-up earlier this year before deciding to grow up and get a lease. Just near the corner of Johnston Street, artistic foodie Pat Breen and food-loving artist Lydia Wegner have made a laidback spot with a short and snappy specialists' menu.
Where to sit
Black ceiling, white walls, mint-green tiles and filament globes and open kitchen action: Shop Ramen is aimed ruthlessly at the design jugular of its Smith Street habituees and does it rather well with a casual mix of deshabille and shmick. A blond-wood communal table dominates the room and there are clusters of twos along the wall and a couple of fours at the window. Come summer there will be kerbside seating as well.
The liquor licence is on the way. Instead of booze try organic coconut water, Japanese lemon soda or a salted caramel coconut shake.
Shop Ramen keeps it simple: ramen, buns and pie make short work of the short menu. The buns are steamed fluffy numbers in the bao tradition; flapped over a slice of smoked tofu with pickled carrot, coriander and toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a good measure of sticky brown sauce, they're $3.80 well spent. The ramen noodles are rolled through a pasta maker and hand-cut on the counter; they're wheat-only at the moment although there are plans to start experimenting with rye. The pork-based tonkatsu (pork bone) broth commonly associated with ramen has been shelved in favour of a healthier, cleaner base of long-cooked free-range chicken and dashi. It makes a good foil to the fatty beef brisket with crunchy sticks of celery, radish and boiled egg, in a cloudy slick of sesame seeds and peanuts with a slosh of black vinegar. If you like it hot, there's Sriracha on the table. The one sweet seems based on an ever-evolving riff on an Arnott's gingersnap biscuit base with oats and popcorn; at the moment it's caramel with nashi pear.
A bunch of lunchtime singletons hunched over their iPhones listening to Madonna's greatest hits.
Health-conscious ramen with a touch of pizzazz.