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Who Eats Ramen at 3AM on a Sunday Morning?

I went to Melbourne's first ever 24-hour ramen bar to find out.

Photos by the author

Melbourne has just experienced its coldest weekend in five years, though this has not deterred people from losing their shit over a new 24-hour ramen bar which has just opened up in the city center. I was one of said shit-losers, having backpacked around Japan last year and since fallen in love with the majestic noodle soup of the gods.

So after a Saturday night out I decided to check the place out, mainly to find out just what kind of person eats ramen at 3AM on a Sunday morning. I was expecting the place to be empty but instead there was a half hour wait just to get inside. With time to kill I decided now was as good a time as any to meet my fellow ramen aficionados.

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Half hour wait. At 3 AM. In the middle of winter.

Josh, 28

VICE: Hi Josh, why are you here?
Josh: We were at a gig and that finished at 2AM, after that we were thinking of going home but then we thought this 24-hour ramen place has just opened so let's check it out.

What's your earliest ramen-related memory?
It's got to be the two minute instant ramen noodle things, but I can't remember the last time I had actual ramen. I'm going to Japan at the end of the year for New Year's so I'm excited to try some proper ramen.

It's pretty cold and we've been waiting outside for a while—why not head to McDonald's for a burger?
I've had enough burgers in my life so let's get some ramen. Plus they serve beer here.

Mick, 24

Hey Mick, what's so great about ramen?
Mick: I was in Japan two years ago on a snowboarding trip and had some ramen near Niseko village in Hokkaido and that was amazing. I haven't had it much here in Melbourne so I'm by no means a ramen veteran but its good food. It's something different.

How did you hear about this place?
Just through Facebook, everyone was sharing this article talking about a new 24 hour ramen place, so we've come here to brave the Melbourne winter and check it out. It's better than Maccas.

Ben, 24 and Rhys' shoulder, 25

Why are you guys here?
Rhys: We were walking towards KFC and saw a bunch of people lining up and I was like fuck is that ramen. I just got back from Japan, was there for about a month and spent most of my late nights chasing ramen so that's what drew me here—it's the best way to finish a night.

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Ben: We just left the club and now I'm supporting a friend on a simple endeavor to chase ramen.

Which club?
Ben: YoYo.

How was it?
Ben: Shit.
Rhys: It's always shit.

Rhys, you had a lot of ramen in Japan, how does the ramen in Australia compare to the real deal?
Rhys: The good places do but the bad places don't. There are a few places but this area here, Russell, and Lonsdale Street, are like the heart of ramen in Melbourne—possibly Australia. It's very comparable to Japan which is great.

Describe your ideal bowl of ramen.
Rhys: It's got to have egg of course, a significant broth, it has to have the option of sesame and chili oil on the side, option of extra noodles if you need them. And the environment is important; it's got to have that feeling around it of a hustle and bustle place where you're in and out. That's what it's all about—that hustle and bustle environment. It's the most efficient fast food in the world that still retains that home cooked feel.

We've been in line for a while; did you expect it to be so busy?
Rhys: Yes and no.
Ben: It's Melbourne, so who knows what to expect really.

Maurice, 31

Hey Maurice, before we begin the interview I'm going to need your age.
Maurice: Fuck. Okay, I was born in '84. So 31… I think. My birthday is New Year's Eve, so at the start of the new year a new age was born with me. So it's year 31 in the year of me.

That's quite poetic, so how was the ramen?
I had the plain ramen. I always order plain ramen just like I order a martini as my first drink at a bar because you can tell how good a bartender is by the martini, and you can tell how good a ramen place is by the plain ramen. It was perfectly balanced but then I had the black ramen. And I've figured out that when you order the black ramen, it's just code for 'put crack in my ramen' because I had one spoonful of broth and there's just fucking crack in there it's just brilliant. The mélange of spices along with the richness of the umami—and there's a fucking blue whale ton of umami in that black ramen. And crack.

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Were you waiting in line long?
We waited about 30 minutes. Long enough to find a little church on the corner and smoke a long ass J.

At long last it's time to go in. I am instantly transported back to Japan. It feels and smells like an authentic Japanese noodle shop. Hand-written menus, big screen TV's showing old school Japanese shows, and collectable anime figurines all line the dark brown wooden walls. The staff are busy running around struggling to keep up with the capacity ramen-frenzied crowd, while the smoke from the open kitchen sifts the whole scene in a hazy tinged filter. It's like Instagram, but like, real life man.

My inner otaku was losing his shit.

Ramen without egg is just a sad dark soulless void.

Angela, 25

Hey Angela, why are you eating ramen at 3AM?
Angela: Ramen is something you can eat at any time of the day, and after drinking it's just fantastic.

Do you remember the first time you tried ramen?
Yes! The first time was actually in Japan, we were in Harajuku and it was a small store that could only fit about 10 people at a time and it was exactly the same vibe as this. You'd have to wait at least half an hour before getting in and once you are in it's all very fast.

What does ramen mean to you?
Japan in a bowl.

Darby, 27

Hey Darby, why are you here at 3AM?
Darby: I'm here because I've had a few drinks and how better to enjoy a feed at this time of the night than getting a bowl of ramen.

Describe your relationship with ramen.
I went to Japan when I was 21. My uncle lives in Japan and he introduced me to Japanese culture and the first place he took me to was a ramen bar and that first bowl blew my mind.

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What does the perfect bowl of ramen have to include?
Egg. You can't have a bowl of ramen without egg.

Could you give me a philosophy of life and ramen in one sentence?
Probably not at this moment but I'll give it a shot! I think life is kind of like the ramen bowl—it's very soothing, it's got a lot of flavor, it's got a lot of up and downs like noodles. But hey that's just one way of looking at it, everyone's got their own perspective on how they taste ramen, treat ramen, and look at ramen.

Author; chin deep in the R-hole

When all was said and done I finally gave in and indulged in a couple of bowls of crack-laced black ramen. It was bloody majestic.

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