I’m addicted to ramen. There, I said it. I’m hooked on the stuff and need a regular fix of bone broth to keep my withdrawal symptoms at bay. The fragrant bowls of steaming liquor provide the ultimate pleasure for my palate. Problem is, I’ve found another delicious supplier to feed my uncontrollable habit. Ramen fever has spread to epidemic proportions in our capital over the past year thanks to the opening of three very different, but hugely popular Japanese tastemakers. Bone Daddies, Tonkotsu and Shoryu have been cooking up vats of the stuff to hungry Londoners with raving success, each gaining a loyal following. After my umpteenth trip to Bone Daddies (I much prefer their broths to Tonkotsu’s) I thought it was about time I gave Shoryu a whirl, and play the ramen field a little. I tipped up at the newest and largest of the two Shoryu branches in Soho and was confronted with a jam-packed restaurant and a queue. Nothing new there then you may say, it is London after all. But this was no ordinary evening; the mercury was tipping 30 degrees, we were in the midst of a freak heat wave and these people were still flocking to dine on piping hot soup - I figured they must be doing something right. Hopes were high. The venue however was underwhelming and predictable, typical ‘pan-Asian’ décor resembled a Busaba Eathai and a Ping Pong interior lovechild. But don’t judge a book by its cover, one glance at menu was enough to forget the stereotypical surroundings and get lost in a watery world of ramen. Larger and more diverse then the original Regent Street offerings, Shoryu had a menu filled with authentic hot soups, hirata buns, yakitori skewers and even cold broths more suited to the sweltering weather outside. Of the three ramen I sampled the ‘Dracula Tonkotsu’ stood out as being the most unusual; bbq pork with roasted black garlic mayu, balsamic vinegar and garlic chips gave it a sweet and tangy taste unlike anything I’ve tried before. The signature ‘Ganso Tonkotsu’ was a clear and light miso broth loaded with the usual trimmings; half boiled egg, seaweed, bamboo shoots and perfectly al dente noodles. My personal favourite, the fiery and rich ‘Tantan Tonkotsu’ packed a serious chilli kick and with its hefty load of minced pork was a much heavier alternative to the others. Not one for the spice-shy I hasten to add. ‘Salted chicken skins’ would have benefited from another 60 seconds cooking, more fatty and soggy than salty and crisp. Cocktails, much like the décor were fitting but not thrilling. I unsuccessfully attempted to cool off by sipping a Shochu sour on the rocks whilst intermittently dabbing stray splatters of chilli-ramen juice (and beads of sweat) from my brow. I may have been hot, but boy was I satisfied. As a ramen obsessive Shoryu had a lot to live up to. The food was much more adventurous than Tonkotsu but the vibe wasn’t as cool as Bone Daddies. In terms of the big three, I’d say it takes an honourable second place in the power struggle to be top of the ramen revolution – others will disagree. It may be tarred with a ‘Japanese junk food’ brush but it sure feels much more wholesome than the usual burger and chips I wolf down after a late night Negroni session, either way I’ll be back for another hit very soon. Looks like I’ll be chasing the ramen dragon for a little while longer. Someone call The Priory, I’m addicted.
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Mon Jul 15 2013
Second branch of the Hakata ramen restaurant on Regent Street. The Soho spot has a more restaurant-y feel than the canteen-like original. There's the same range of noodles in long-simmered bone broth, plus steamed hirata buns stuffed with juicy pork slices, chilli sauce and mayo.