After the roaring success of their takeaway ramen during the 2020 lockdown, the team behind Adelaide's Shōbōsho have set up a permanent eatery dedicated to the Japanese noodle soup.
At Shōmen – located next door to Shōbōsho's Leigh Street premises – don't expect ramen that's tethered to a particular style or region of Japan. Rather, the menu draws from Japanese, Korean and Chinese culinary traditions. The soundtrack that is ramen, after all, is constantly being remixed in its homeland and abroad.
"In Japan, dishes like tempura, sushi and soba are seen as traditional and it's generally frowned upon if you don't make them a certain way," says co-owner Adam Liston. "[But] ramen is seen as new-aged. You can break the rules – it's almost encouraged."
Amongst the rule-breakers are head chef Tom Jack (ex-Mimasu), and business partner and ShoSho head chef Yumi Nagaya. And perhaps the biggest rule to be broken is substituting the traditional wheat-based alkalised ramen noodles for house-made egg noodles.
Having spent time living in China, egg noodles are for Liston the "king of noodles" and the Shōmen recipe has been developed to have its own toothsomeness, similar to good al dente spaghetti. Buckwheat and an experimental algae-based noodle are also on the menu.
Included in the meat-based soups are a shio pork ramen, featuring a broth of smoked bacon; and a beef short-rib ramen with an anise-fused broth and wagyu-and-water-chestnut dumplings.
The Korean Army Stew ramen comes with cheese-grilled slices of Spam and smoky links of kransky sausage. It pays homage to budae jjigae, a stew that came to prominence following the Korean War, and gets its name from its core ingredients – Spam, baked beans, frankfurters – that were scrounged from U.S. army bases stationed in South Korea. "It's the meatiest of the soup-based dishes and the spice levels have been bumped; the perfect combination for the super hungry or hungover," Liston says.
A mushroom ramen, where chickpea miso lends depth and flavour, rounds out the ramen selection, with seaweed-based noodles on offer for the plant-inclined.
Then, there's a "not ramen" part of the menu, designed for the fast-feasting lunch crowd and hungry late-night revellers. The Shōmen wagyu cheeseburger and tater tot burger with Golden Curry gravy – made from the famous supermarket Japanese-brand curry powder – are the "meat in bread" options designed to cater to the late-night party set.
Liston is especially excited about the Shōmen duck and rice. Consider it a luxe take on chicken rice, that comfort dish ubiquitous in Chinatowns and Asian cuisines around the world. At Shōmen, the dish takes the form of sliced tea-smoked duck breast served with koshihikari ginger rice in a duck-and-anise broth. "Everyone loves Hainanese chicken rice. It's a simple staple where we've swapped out the chicken for duck, and made our own pickles and condiments," says Liston.
Come lunchtime, patrons wait patiently for their outdoor tables. Many lean against the eatery's wooden exterior, which has been treated to mimic the shou sugi ban effect, a traditional Japanese wood-preservation technique that sees cedar wood blackened and charred. The eccentric playlist mixed by Nathan Scutter, – "our fish delivery guy", says Liston – streams Oasis, Nirvana, Nas and on occasion, Adele.
It's only been open since late October, but Shōmen already attracts a loyal dining crowd – Liston is already thinking about a larger site for the ramen eatery. "It's been so busy, which is a good problem to have."
17a Leigh St, Adelaide, SA
17a Leigh St, Adelaide, SA