Where: Shizuku Ramen, 309 Victoria Street Abbotsford
What: Exactly what you’d expect to happen to an everything-intolerant person after ingesting ramen
Bloat score: 5 – So full of gas I floated home like a hot air balloon
I love being part of clubs (unless it involves any participation in sporting activities), and what better club is there to be a member of than Ramen Club? After our inaugural and highly successful outing to Hakata Gensuke, where I had one of the best and most bloat-friendly ramens in Melbourne, we decided to head south to the much talked about Shizuku Ramen.
Unbeknownst to me, I had been to Shizuku a few years prior to sample what was then the latest frontier in unfathomable fusion food combinations – the ramen burger. Congealed ramen noodles in the place of a bun and sickly sweet sticky pork belly cubes in the place of a patty were in my bank of repressed memories, so much so I didn’t recognise Shizuku Ramen until I took a seat and noticed the infamous ramen burger on its menu. Not that I was making that mistake again.
With nearly 20 ramens to choose from, not even my usual pre-meal menu scouring had helped me make my mind up. I was most tempted by the likes of the spicy tan tan men, which came with free-range pork mince instead of marinated pork belly and was touted as Shizuku’s “no.1 best-selling ramen”; the tonkotsu shio and shoyu ramen that were both limited to 50 servings per day; and the spicy tonkotsu miso ramen.
Shizuku also has more unusual versions that incorporate ingredients I’ve never encountered in ramen – the crispy niboshi ramen (anchovies), the whisky ramen (a pork bone broth flavoured with 12-year Yamazaki single malt whisky) and the ebi shio ramen (tiger prawns).
Vegetarians are well catered for with a vegetarian ramen that comes in four different broth versions and the ‘super dry mabo tofu vegetarian ramen’, which is a dry soupless ramen with shoyu broth on the side.
For those who don’t feel like ramen (i.e. fructose-intolerant people who actually adhere to their intolerances), Shizuku also has a range of rice-based dishes – from the more traditional dons to fusion combinations such as the intriguing sounding ‘hainan chicken schmaltz rice’ and a range of risottos using Japanese ingredients.
I finally decided to satisfy my craving for both chilli and wanting to try the “no.1 best-selling ramen” and went with the tan tan men. My friend of #ratetheramen fame went for the limited edition tonkotsu shoyu ramen instead of the shio one because, in his words, “why would you have salt-and-soy sauce based ramen? That’s so basic.” It’d be foolhardy to dispute the words of the master.
The third Ramen Club member decided to follow our resident ramen connoisseur’s lead, while the other two – special guest stars in this week’s episode – went with the sticky pork ramen and the seemingly Malaysian-inspired hainan tori miso ramen.
If the ramen and rice menu was a minefield for the certifiably indecisive, the entrées menu wasn’t any better. Keeping with tradition, however, we decided to order the 16-piece gyoza platter, which came with four pieces of four different gyozas. In other words, heaven.
I made a beeline for the ‘spicy gyoza’, which came with a not even remotely spicy chilli jam, but which was delectable nonetheless. I came to regret this decision, as the other four cleaned up the ‘cali gyoza’, which came doused in a lurid yellow sriracha kewpie mayo that had a melted cheese-like consistency. Initially confused on whether they were eating mayo or cheese, everyone gave this fusion gyoza a firm thumbs up, while relaying their commiserations to me for having missed out. The other two gyozas on the platter were the orthodox-in-comparison ‘classic gyoza’ and the ‘kenji gyoza’ with homemade cha shu barbecue sauce.
The gyozas only whetted our already insatiable appetites, so it was a relief when the ramens started arriving in quick succession.
The two Ramen Club members who had ordered the tonkotsu shoyu ramen were highly impressed by it – read a review of it here on #ratetheramen.
I, sadly, had a more lacklustre experience. I found my tan tan men didn’t have the depth and flavour of the tonkotsu shoyu ramen, nor did it satisfy my desire for something exceedingly spicy. I requested a side of chilli oil, only to find that Shizuku disappointingly charges $2 for this, so I resisted on principle, only to request it again five minutes later because my ramen needed the $2 worth of extra chilli oil.
I dumped nearly the whole tiny saucer of chilli oil – which was incidentally the same chilli jam used on my favourite gyoza – into my bowl and while I am highly concerned about what I must be doing to my stomach lining, the soup remained resolutely mild, though it did gain in flavour.
My friend who’s a Shizuku veteran swears by her sticky pork ramen, which came in a light and aromatic soy sauce broth. I sampled a spoonful of soup and greatly enjoyed it, although I’d never confess this to our resident ramen connoisseur.
The hainan tori miso ramen was akin to a bowl of ramen meeting a plate of Hainanese chicken rice. Although Hainanese chicken is typically poached, Shizuku’s ramen version had roasted skin-on chicken, and came with the classic dipping sauces of freshly minced red chilli and garlic on the side.
My lack of enjoyment unfortunately didn’t stop me from polishing off my entire bowl of ramen, which didn’t bode well for the state of my poor stomach. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, and I don’t know what I expected to happen after my foolish decision to don a belt. My decision to eat onion- and garlic-laden wheat ramen was inconsequential.
While my tan tan men didn’t live up to its expectations, I am keen to try other ramen variations at Shizuku, or maybe even a Japanese risotto soup now that I’ve exorcised my memories of poor fusion combinations.
Shizuku Ramen is open from 11.30am to 2.30pm and from 5.30pm to 10pm Monday to Sunday.