When Kevin Pak says he wants to bring Tokyo nightlife to Melbourne, he is not fooling around. His new restaurant is a game-changer. It's open 24/7, 365.
“Ramen is not just for lunch and dinner. I want to bring the culture of eating late-night ramen with beer to Melbourne,” says Pak, the owner of a new mysterious ramen shop on Russell Street. So mysterious, that it has no English name. Because a ramen shop in Tokyo wouldn’t have one.
Phonetically the kanji reads “Menya Sandaime”, which translates to “third-generation noodle shop”. You might recognise the name, it’s an established chain in South Korea and the States. Open for business in Melbourne since late May, this is the 39th branch so far, the first in Melbourne, with further expansion planned for the next three years.
The business has perfected the look and feel of a modern ramen joint. The first thing you see is the giant TV panels featuring Korean and Japanese food programs. The dark timber walls with the handwritten menu, the staff's colourful uniforms, the smoke behind the transparent kitchen wall, the collectible figurines from One Piece manga transport you to a contemporary Bladerunner-esque movie set.
The shop only seats 38 customers, but since it never closes, getting a seat shouldn’t be an issue (if you come at the right time). If you do score a seat at the bar, you have a power outlet to charge your phones, just like in Japan.
From the menu (in the form of traditional ramen trays) you have a choice of four ramen dishes – the signature tsukemen, the basic ramen, the lighter karakuchi ramen and the spicy black ramen. Whichever you choose, you will be rewarded with chargrilled, melt-in-your-mouth barbeque pork that takes 60 hours to cook.
Its signature tsukemen (for which you dip the thick, handmade noodles into the broth) leaves a deep, complex, and long-lasting trail of umami due to the combination of pork and seafood broth – a popular modern technique. It is on the salty side with a kick because this is what Tokyoites crave after a long night of drinking. The night menu has the addition of snacks such as fried chicken, gyoza, takoyaki, hotpot and more, adapting an izakaya atmosphere with nothing over $15. And just like a Japanese pub, it offers a variety of sakes and $7 beer on tap.
Perfect all year round, literally.
225 Russell Street, Melbourne
Daily, 24 hours