QV's queue-magnet for ramen junkies, Ippudo, has gained a sophisticated sibling in Fitzroy. Gogyo, which fills a handsome heritage shopfront on Brunswick Street, is one of only two outlets (along with Surry Hills, Sydney) outside Japan.
Gogyo's signature is black ramen, known in Japan as kogashi, which gets its name and powerful umami punch from a charred miso base, washed with chicken broth. This results in a dark, murky ramen flecked with ashy specks, with bouncy wheat noodles, jammy soft-boiled egg, nori, chashu pork, cabbage and a pink-swirl fish cake. It's an emoji come to life.
Non-blackened ramen broth options include tonkotsu (pork), chilli shoyu (chicken), and vegetarian porcini topped with tempura mushroom and pick-up-sticks of beetroot and sweet potato.
As at Ippudo, the menu also includes izakaya-style snacky items like guacamole with edamame, scooped up with bubbled, crisp wonton skins, sashimi, or Fitzroy-exclusive karaage tako (fried baby octopus). Or there are larger, rice-based don bowls, curry with karaage (fried chicken), wagyu beef or katsu (crumbed pork).
Behind indigo noren (Japanese doorway drapes) lies a smart, long room reminiscent of Supernormal Canteen with its large paper lanterns and timber booths. There are thoughtful touches like double counter stools for couples (like a ramen loveseat), plus under-the-counter bag shelves and disposable black bibs for the main event.
Japanese artist Kentaro Yoshida completed the curtain motifs and a cartoony mural on the corner site's exterior. Both works represent gogyo – the Japanese elements of earth, wood, metal, water and fire. The latter is certainly Gogyo's dominant force.
Open daily: noon- 2:30pm; dinner 5:30-10pm (9pm on Sunday), 413 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, phone 03 9417 7474 ippudo.com.au/gogyo