Saturday, 18 January 2014

Shoryu Ramen - a review

Shoryu Ramen, as the name suggests, is a Japanese ramen restaurant. I had to look up what ramen was so I thought I'd share my new-found knowledge - ramen is a meat-based noodle broth,  topped with slices of meat and other flavourings like chilli, ginger or garlic. Like soups and broths across the world, its base is made of boiling bones, leading to the restaurants slogan, 'It's in our bones', so it's safe to say this isn't a place to bring a vegetarian.

Its two London branches, in Soho and Regent St serve up lip-smackingly savoury warming bowls of ramen, perfect for warding away the winter blues. Before I went to the Regent St branch, I what I read online made me anxious. Folks warned of queues out the door, and with the weather being as it is I wanted to spend as little time out in the cold as possible. A no-booking policy seems justified as this isn't a restaurant to come for a long leisurely catch up; it's more of a place to come and chow down. Having arrived at 6.30pm, I was able to get a table quite quickly without too much of a wait.

I would recommend this place is because you are guaranteed to have a really flavoursome meal and there are so many different combinations to try. Being new to this ramen thing, I wasn't impressed when I asked the waitress to help us order and she replied, "just stick with the ordinary one." I guess she was trying to make sure we enjoyed our first experience but I am adventurous and would have been happier if she'd come up with a few options. Not least because describing your food as 'ordinary' doesn't give you a great expectations. Plus, there is a list of variations on the type of noodles you'd like (fat, thin, hard, soft) and it would be good if there wasn't an assumption that diners know what to order.

The Regent St branch has tables and stools lined up along one side of the restaurant, with a bar on the other. It's quite a narrow space but it's so packed and full of chatter, it feels intimate. It was also full of Japanese people, in fact we were the only white people there. To me it says that the place is serving up the real mccoy, well as real as you can get in London. It was also a nice and busy environment for single diners, particularly as service was so quick.

I had Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu (£11) which in laymens terms means, it had miso and shallots added to the traditional tonkotsu pork broth, garnished with egg, mushrooms, spring onions, ginger, sesame and black garlic oil. The balance of delicate flavours was divine but lets be clear, this is not dainty food. The proximity of the table to stool meant some of it ended up splashing my lap and on my face. We made bibs out of napkins and away we went with ladle and chopsticks to hand. Messy eating can only happen in such a relaxed place but its something to consider if you don't fancy splashing your date with miso.

There are a range of sides like soft shell crab tempura, which was a pricey £9 but was definitely a notch up from your average London side of chips for £3.95. We opted for the less expensive fried shrimp which was crisp and delicious. Beer is cheap, coming in at £2.90 for a half, and comes served in a chilled glass.

So go, grab a bowl and a beer, but be sure to go armed with a prior knowledge of what you want and make sure you aren't going pre-theatre, just in case that queue works out to be bigger than you anticipated.

Dinner for three with main, side and beers came in at £48, a mere £16pp (plus tip)
9 Regent St,

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