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Best ramen in London? “Chew off” Part 2: Shoryu Ramen

Ramen is back on the F- World! First in line for the title of “best ramen in London” (a widely subjective title, I know, ever more elusive than “most authentic”) have been Bone Daddies  and Tonkotsu, it’s now time for my impressions on Shoryu Ramen. For the sake of comparison, I’ll follow the same structure as the review of other ramen places: ambiance, food and service. I have been to Shoryu three times in two weeks so far (true #ramenanonymous style) and have tried most of the menu (hard, hard work but I love my readers) so I think I got a good sense of the offering. 

shoryu ramen regent street

I got a severe case of ramen fever. In fact, I am afraid at this point is is an incurable case. I find myself on twitter talking a not so small group calling itself informally #ramenanonymous, discussing the merits of tonkotsu broths, noodle types and toppings and singing the praise of nitamago- and most of all whining about our cravings till the next fix.  The 2012 strand of ramen fever is a nasty one and has caught not just the usual “foodies” tribe (that includes me I guess) but a wide public of Londoners. Proof is in the hordes of people happily slurping bowls of ramen on a drab winter weekday on a fairly anonymous bit of Lower Regent Street, where Shoryu is now opened full hours after a few weeks of dry runs. Alarmingly, the website says “no bookings, walk-in only” and I notoriously HATE queuing as much as I love to show up for a reservation. But at least, tables free up quickly and you are allowed to wait inside (not to be taken for granted- I stormed out of two eateries recently as I was told quite rudely I had to wait OUTSIDE- and no, they weren’t fancy smancy ones).

shoryu ramen review

Shoryu’s space is airy and bright, with fairly spartan furnishing- think blond wood tables, leather benches along the walls, a simple bar counter and paper lanterns. The visual effect is pleasant- for my taste at least- even though this minimalism looks more utilitarian than “designed”. The same applies to the menu, the staff uniforms and the overall style of the place, which feels quite genuine and earnest- clearly different from places designed to be cool.

The menu features several types of ramen, with six different styles of tonkotsu, two shoyu (soy) based clear broths and two miso- based soups. Vegetarian and gluten free options are available – the full menu is available on the website. You can see some of them in my pictures: the milky, cloudy broth is unmistakably the tonkotsu- I tried both the piri piri version and the signature Shoryu one, whilst my fellow diner Gastrogeek had the vegetarian clear soy broth, which was surprisingly tasty…although I won’t lie- I’d never voluntarily order it, I’m too much of a pork worshipper. Gyoza, tofu, kimchi and a few other sides complete the picture- they were fresh and tasty and a nice complement to the main event.

Shoryu ramen miso soup base gyoza

The pork broth is just spectacular. I described the Daddies one as “liquid porchetta” as it was porky and salty- well, to me Shoryu’s is a daintier version of the same satisfying meaty kick. It’s a more diluted soup, and that makes it more enjoyable to me – although it’s a close call in terms of flavour. The egg was not especially memorable – I like my yolks runny but they were slightly overcooked both times- but then maybe they’re just complying ahead with health and safety? [yes, we won’t enjoy undercooked eggs, meat or fish anymore very soon as Westminster Council has just put a ban on medium rare and rare burgers- I think it’s a misunderstanding, but it’s the controversy du jour]. Apart from that, I found the other toppings- in particular the zingy pickled red ginger- really add to the dish, which was very rich and balanced at the same time.

I loved the noodles- chewy, springy, with a nice bite to them- I didn’t have a second helping (yes, you can add them extra) purely out of shame. No matter which style you go for, it’s a very big bowl of food and you need a big appetite (or a bad case of ramen fever) to finish it.

Service is fast, friendly and knowledgeable enough- their assessment of the spiciness of the piri piri version was quite right for a chilli freak like me, and they explained nicely the long list of toppings with exotic names. Interestingly, the drinks list is extensive, featuring not just hot or cold sake but also plum wine; teas (wonderful green tea in the plain and smoked variety) are reasonably priced and- petty hate of mine- the teapot IS refilled without the staff making you feel like a cheapo.

shoryu ramen tonkotsu green tea ice-cream

What about Shoryu’s “philosophy”? Well, this always the bit which sounds contrived- half Holy Grail quest, half marketing bullshit blurb.  I was lucky enough, on my first visit, to meet the manager and learn a bit more about the concept behing Shoryu (which literally means “rising fortunes” in case you were wondering) and a few tricks of the trade. Tak Tokumine is also the CEO of the nearby Japan Centre and definitely not a novice of the London food scene, yet is so candid and enthusiastic about his new venture that even a hardened marketer like me has to curb her skepticism . When he talks animatedly about how success will eventually come, but “you have to give something first to hope for something in return“, you have a feeling it’s not scripted. Tak worked with a Hakata born and raised chef, Kanji Furukawa, to perfect the recipes for the restaurant- in particular the tonkotsu, and is very committed to sourcing the best ingredients and continuously improve based on practice and customers’ feedback. Whilst the first bit may not be especially distinctive, the second is surprising- especially because it seems to be not just treated but also practised. In its first weeks, after listening to social buzz on twitter, Shoryu changed its noodles (to the current hakata style ones) AND added a nitamago egg as a standard to all bowls (it was previously an extra). You may argue (you cynics!) that competition is a ruthless force, and that comparison with the standard egg at Bone Daddies called for it- but you have to concede it that such a degree of responsiveness is not common.

The verdict? As I said, I can’t vouch for the “authenticity” as I’m not a connoisseur of ramen nor have visited Japan, so it’s purely a judgement call based on personal taste – but I really do enjoy eating at Shoryu. On the ramen itself, I’d say it’s a toss with Bone Daddies (depending how salty and dense you like your pork broth), but the overall concept is so different I think a like-for-like comparison it’s quite impossible. As I’m growing a bit wary of trendy Soho places where I can barely see my food and cocktails come in jars, I find Shoryu simple approach very refreshing and more “me”… but – I’m in no way settled, as my quest for the best ramen in London continues. As winter gets colder and I crave comfort food, I think the #ramenanonymous circle will hear me confess my sins more and more often.

 

More posts on the best ramen in London: read my review of Cocoro in Marylebone

Disclaimer: on my first visit I visited Shoryu as a guest of the management, but went back two more times on my own.  

 

 

 

 

Square Meal

Shoryu on Urbanspoon

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2 Comments

  1. I came to similar conclusions as you in my review, in particular the thinner broth. And yes, isn’t it refreshing for a restaurant to actually take heed of feedback during a soft opening?

    • Thanks for your comment- I couldn’t find your review on google but will look it up now. I found it very good that they changed course about the ramen- couldn’t get there during soft opening so don’t know which type they used before, but certainly what they have now is very good. My favourite noodles so far were at Cocoro- but frankly £14 for a tonkotsu (smallish portion) is a bit too much.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. All I want for Christmas is…food | The F- World - [...] cut it- I mean a proper place with an option for insanely porky tonkotsu broth like Bone Daddies, Shoryu …
  2. New year, old food obsessions- Shoryu ramen news…and a fast diet | The F- World - [...] Curious? You can read my reviews by clicking on the names- in order of opening – Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies and Shoryu …

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