225 Russell St Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||24 hours|
|Features||Late night, Licensed|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9654 0989|
Seasonal circumstances find many a soul at Shujinko, a 24-hour ramen restaurant on Russell Street. Epic shopping efforts can call for the kind of afternoon refuelling only noodles and rich broth can offer. Good sense may haul a person out of the office Christmas party in need of a steadying soup before soldiering home. A "let's-have-a-drink-before-the-holidays" session could require comforting calorific boosting at either end of the evening. And, of course, you might just come here because you like it.
And there's much to like. Shujinko is casual, noisy, busy and compact, with typical Tokyo tropes that make it even more fun. There's the waiting bay at front for busy times (you'll rarely need to loiter more than 10 minutes), a singsong welcome as you enter and bandana-wearing chefs in colourful print jackets toiling in the steamy windowed kitchen.
Most of all, there's a feeling that ramen is a religion and all are welcome to worship – raucously, reverently – at this open-all-hours altar. (A warning for the wobbly, Shinjuku never closes but they do stop serving alcohol between 5am and 7am.)
Many cultures have soups that offer cell-soaking succour. I grew up on Jewish penicillin and can vouch for its combination of coddling and cure. Colombia has sancocho, a slow-cooked meaty soup with corn and plantains. There's Turkish tripe soup, which I scoffed in Istanbul at 3am after dutifully inebriating myself to research its hangover-preventing properties (yep, a tick for the soup).
Among strong contenders, I think ramen is my favourite and Shujinko's is a fine example. Their house tonkotsu broth is rich, sticky and porky, cooked for at least a day so it's milky with collagen. It's poured over wheat noodles which are made here in a windowed bolthole at the back of the restaurant. Roast pork belly slices, halved egg and bok choy bob in the bowl too. For an even more powerful meal, go the black ramen, darkened with shellfish powder which adds extra depth and a shadowy hue.
There are snacks too. The gyoza are filled with sweet pork mince; they're steamed and fried so they're crispy on one side, soft on the other and melded together like a dumpling caterpillar.
Eggplant – fried until it's melty soft – is piled in a gentle dashi broth and topped with fresh grated ginger. Roast pork is expertly cooked sliced and served with a big pile of curly spring onions.
They're all great but the ramen rules, all day, every day, around 1000 bowls of goodness, offered up for your every seasonal occasion.