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Of late, many of the city’s long lines have been building up in front of ramen shops. At Shugetsu, you’ll find a constant stream of diners who are anxiously waiting for the number on their ticket to be called out. It’s almost like the lottery. And considering that there are only around 20 seats at the restaurant, it sort of is.
There are a couple of points that make Shugetsu stand out. Firstly, its signature dish is tsukemen ($85), where the ramen is cooked, put on a plate on its own and served with a separate bowl of dipping sauce. To eat, you take a strand of noodles – and perhaps a bit of the perfectly soft-boiled egg – dip it into the sauce and slurp away. Secondly, its noodles, made in-house, are extremely thick and bouncy. The restaurant offers up ramen in soup as well, which comes with much thinner, straight noodles.
You’ll smell chicken stock and pepper, the two main flavours in the tsukemen sauce. The third ingredient is pickled bamboo shoots. Cut into thick batons, the shoots give the dish textural interest – but this also means that it tastes exceptionally overbearing. You’ll also find strips of pork belly in the sauce, which have a great chargrilled flavour and crispy edges. A cup of chicken stock is given once you finish the noodles – simply pour the stock into the tsukemen sauce and it becomes an addictively drinkable soup.
Also on the menu is abura (‘oil’) ramen ($85), which is eaten like spaghetti. The noodles are served with essentially the same ingredients as the tsukemen, plus blanched soy bean sprouts. On the side is a raw egg. There are also bottles of white vinegar and soy sauce to pep up the dish. These turn out to be the stars, in fact.
Sure, Shugetsu won’t change your life. But in a time of cookie-cutter eateries, it’s nice to have something different to slurp on. Janice Leung
5 Gough St, Central, 2850 6009. Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm & Sun noon-6pm. Dinner for two: around $200.