Friday, 1 March 2013

Shoryu Ramen

If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Would it be a big juicy Steak with fries? Or maybe thin crusted pizza with endless choice of toppings? For me, I could happily slurp noodles till the end of time. Noodles have always been my go-to comfort food, from the age of 10 to 18, I had a bowl of Japanese Nissin Instant Ramen Noodles (voted greatest Japanese invention of the 20th Century in a Japanese poll) about 2-3 times a week, it was bordering on addiction. I loved noodles so much that I dedicated a whole suitcase to carrying them with me all the way from Hong Kong to boarding school in Brighton (why I bothered when I could have bought them in the UK I have no idea!) Calorific but bearing zero nutritional value, I slowly weaned myself off them, turning to healthier noodles instead. I cook a lot of Buckwheat noodles (Soba), which is super healthy. With high levels of flavonoids, it’s great for protecting against heart disease. Also, the nutrients it holds helps regulate blood sugar, lowering risk of diabetes but also making you feel full faster, great for weight loss! That isn’t to say that I’ve shunned Ramen, just the instant type. There have always been lots of sushi offerings on the London Restaurant scene. A few years ago, Koya opened and became the mecca for Udon lovers. While there were Ramen places, nothing blew me away until I visited Shoryu.
I’d read about Shoryu from other blogs and decided to try it over the other newly opened Bone Daddies. According to their website, its chef is born and raised in Hakata, Fukuoka, famous for its open air Ramen stalls and Tonkotsu Ramen, which is what Shoryu is famous for. We got there at 6 and there was no queue, we got seated straight away. We ordered 2 starters and 2 noodles to share. 

First to arrive was Tezukuri Smoked Salmon Okura Rolls which we picked because it had won the Great Taste Award Gold 2012. The Okura (which is Japanese for Okra) was so bitter even the sweetness of the salmon couldn’t mask it, won’t be ordering that again! 

Second up was Soft Shell Crab Tatsuta Age. Marinaded in garlic and ginger, then fried to perfection, crispy on the outside and silky inside. Sauce was great for dunking and adding sweetness. I couldn’t remember the last time I had soft shell crab as big and meaty as this in London.

Then the showstopper arrived-- Dracula Tonkotsu. Added to the already rich broth “deep roasted tones from caramelised black garlic mayu, balsamic vinegar and garlic chips”—it's garlic lovers’ nirvana and Dracula's worst nightmare. On top of that, we ordered a side of garlic flavouring, which is fresh garlic minced into a puree, yup, we’re really over the top with garlic.

Dracula Tonkotsu
The broth was luxuriously creamy and delivered maximum flavour that didn’t rely on artificial flavourings but achieved naturally by long hours of slow cooking. Broth aside, there was a generous serving of both assorted veg and noodles. We derived so much satisfaction from that bowl of yumminess that we ate in silence until we were done with it. In hindsight, the noodles were probably not as bouncy as I would have liked but at the time I was so overwhelmed by the flavours that I didn't even notice that fact. I think next time, I'll ask to have my noodles cooked less to get that firmer texture I crave.  

Next up was the Hokkaido Curry Ramen which is fried chicken in a curry-soy pork broth. Compared to the curry broth Koya serves, it packed as much flavour despite a much lighter consistency, but it paled in comparison to the Tonkotsu that came before it. Again, there was a generous serving of veg and in particular bamboo shoots which we love. Our only criticism was the chicken, it tasted of floury batter and nothing more, I would have preferred teriyaki chicken. If you want to try the Curry Ramen, maybe ask if they would substitute the chicken for something else.

Hokkaido Curry Ramen
2 starters and 2 big bowls of noodles later, we’re stuffed, but still found room to share a Matcha Azuki Rolled Cake. After all the punchy flavours of the meal, the cake was too bland to impress. For my next visit, I will be trying more Tonkotsu ramen, paying 1.50 for extra noodles to be refilled into any remaining soup and I’ll be trying the Hirata Buns which looked amazing (steamed buns filled with pork belly/chicken/salmon/prawn tempura, greens and mayo). We finished at 7 and by then there was a queue of 10 people waiting to be seated, like all restaurants with a no-booking policy, but what sets Shoryu apart is that it is no fad, there is real substance in the food it serves.

Our second visit

Piri Piri Tonkotsu: This was spicy, but not in the usual chilli induced sweats or tongue numbness, more of a heat at the back of the throat. Definitely worth having again. 

Pork Hirata Bun
Instead of ordering two bowls of Ramen, we decided to trade one bowl for the Hirata Buns that have been raved about by other bloggers. It looks unassuming but it tastes great! Inside the soft white bun was a piece of succulent pork (with a bit of fat for flavour), iceberg lettuce, a squirt of mayo and a Japanese style BBQ sauce. It's like a Asian style burger!

3rd visit
Shoryu has opened in Soho and they've been offering half price noodles to promote the new store. There are a few new noodles on the menu but we settled on the Karaka Tan Tan Tonkotsu. Shoryu announced that they have a new recipe for the noodles and whatever it is they've done, it's made the noodles more elastic, just the way I like them. The broth is richly flavoured without being heavy and the minced pork is a nice change from the usual bbq pork.

Karaka Tan Tan Tonkotsu

We also tried the Salmon Hirata Bun, which is only average. The salmon is deep fried and just doesn't deliver the same kind satisfaction as the Pork version. The biggest disappointment was the deep fried white bait which is also new on the menu. Instead of being crispy it was limp and it didn't taste anything more than just fishy, which reminded us that Shoryu's strengths lay in their ramen and not their sides.

Shoryu Ramen on Urbanspoon

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