Dining ReviewSusuruDaniel Honan
CHOPSTICKS READY: Vegan ramen, gyoza, and an Orion tap-beer. Pictures: Max Mason-HubersThirty-two years before replicants have been integrated into society and the streets of LA have been turned into a heaving mass of bodies and bright neon lights, Newcastle has a dedicated ramen noodle bar.
BIG FANS OF RAMEN: The colourful interior of Susuru, on King Street.
In one of the more culturally progressive parts of town (cuisine wise), just up the road from US-style brewpub, Foghorn; Ethiopian restaurant, Habesha; Italian descendents, Napoli Centrale and Popolo; The Tea Collective; and fellow Nipponese cuisine specialists, Asa-don; with lines out the door almost every night since opening, Susuru is to ramen what Messina is to gelato.
Enter through large, web-textured doors into a stark, geometric dining space filled with white-panelled light and block yellow walls that kind of resemble what a hospital cafe might look like when drawn in a Pokémon graphic novel.
An enormous ceiling fan gently spins above a long white table indented with wide pockets to store menus, chopsticks and bottles of sauce.
Hungry diners sit around the outside on heavy, white-coated, high-backed stools made of steel.
The Susuru space feels minimal and modern, and Instagram-ready, like a prelude to the plausible future of 2049.
So, while we wait for the world (as we know it) to end at the hands of a real life Biff Tannen, we can all dive deep into the depth of flavour that’s routine for good ramen, and emerge comfortably numb and engrossed in the virtues of good gyoza and cold, crisp, refreshing beer direct from the Land of the Rising Sun.
For those unfamiliar with ramen, all you need to know is that it’s a savoury Japanese dish consisting of long strands of wheat noddles, typically served with meat or fish and a soft-boiled egg, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso, and usually topped with slices of pork, chicken, nori (dried seaweed) and green onions.
Basically, it’s comfort food, Japanese style.
Susuru (‘soo soo roo’)means ‘slurp’in Japanese, and you’re encouraged to do so. It helps cool the broth and ramen noodles as they slide up into your mouth.The pure white of the tables and chairs will help you to identify the ‘slurpiest’ ramen eaters.
There are seven types of ramen available to order, as well as three kids’ versions that are simply smaller($8). For example, the shio ramen ($15) is a warm, salty broth served with chashu chicken, marinated egg, bamboo shoots and edible seaweed (wakame), and the tonkotsu ramen ($17) is a rich, pork on pork broth, featuring strong umami flavours in a bowl filled with crunchy bean sprouts, black garlic bits, nori, sesami oil, and an egg, of course.
The tantanmen ($18) too is a peculiarly flavoursome take on traditional ramen, consisting of a blend of chilli pork mince floating in an unctuous chicken broth with blanched spinach, chilli hair, egg, and these tiny, tangy bubbles called pickled Brazillian kiss peppers that literally make the dish pop.
There’s also the classic, lightly spiced miso ramen ($16) with slices of braised pork belly swimming in a chicken-based broth alongside bits of charred corn and shallots, with chilli and sesame oil for extra depth of flavour. Even vegans have a bowl of ramen to enjoy.
Gyoza wise, if you’ve ever eaten these Japanese dumplings at Nagisa, then you’ll know what to expect. Fresh ingredients, from pork to prawn to chicken to beef, stuffed into gow-gee pastry, fried on one side, and totally morish ($6.50-$15).
Dip in the accompanying sauces for best results. Also, be brave and order the apple pie or banoffee gyoza ($8); they’re wonderfully weird in their own way.
Susuru is licensed, so you can wash down your newfound love of ramen with anything from a cold Japanese beer or cider, an Aussie glass of wine, even a delicious cup of sake.
Just don’t forget to slurp.
QUICK BITEWhat: SusuruWhere: 140 King St, NewcastleOwner: Taiyo Namba, Chris SchofieldDrinks: Beer, cider, wine, sake, soft drink (incl. some Japanese brands).Hours: Tues-Sat: Lunch, 11:30am-3pm; Dinner: 5pm-9pm / Sun 11:30am-3pmVegetarian: YesBottom Line: $60 for twoWheelchair Access: Some stairs upon entryDo Try: Prawn gyoza, tonkotsu ramen, Ramune (Japanese soft drink)