Shoryu Ramen launched in November 2012 and has already been recommended in the Michelin Guide of 2014 and 2015. It has fast become a small but reputable London chain. They specialise in, well, ramen of the Hakata tonkotsu style originating in Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan’s southern island. Hakata tonkotsu broth is a classic thick and rich pork stock. The ramen noodles are thin and straight (known as hosomen) and just the right texture to hold the celebrated soup. They offer the traditional version of the dish here, but also some variants which presented an epicurean adventure to this Japanese noodle-lover.
Noren curtains hung at the entrance of the Soho branch of Shoryu Ramen and a hungry queue of soon-to-be diners waited on the other side. It’s always refreshing to find Japanese restaurants frequented by ex-patriate Japanese. Shoryu has competition all around but is certainly ahead of the field in many respects. The décor is traditional pale wood, a paper lantern in a corner, an open kitchen, black-clad staff who hold the promise of fast service. A restaurant that prides itself in a quick turn-round.
The menu offers the expected ramen noodles but also some alternatives that will gladden the hearts of those who love the silky texture of tonkotsu but would periodically enjoy a different flavour profile. It also sports a creditable array of unmissable starters and a surprisingly good selection of Sake.
We ordered a carafe of Taru sake. I am a Sake Sommelier and have been blessed by being able to try many different bottles, but this is unique. It is aged in wood and the essence of that barrel impregnates the brew. It’s full of distinctive character and charm. A must-try.
Shoryu Buns (gluten-free are also available) were the first of our starters. These steamed hirata-style buns are amazingly light. They are snowy-white with the Shoryu character branded onto each one. Shoryu means ‘to bring good fortune’ …so have a couple! They are served from individual wooden steamers and filled with barbecue char siu pork belly or soy-marinated chicken karaage or ginger salmon tatsutage. These buns looked impressive …and rather formal. They were flavourful and moist. A signature starter.
Hakata Tetsunabe Gyozas are another Fukuoka dish and they are moreish. A trio of pork and vegetable-filled pot-sticker-type dumplings arrived hot in a cast-iron pan. The stuffing was delicate and the dough a perfect texture. Morsels to nibble while waiting for noodles; but be warned – those bowls of ramen are substantial!
Ramen runs to around £10 – £12 a portion but that constitutes a full meal. There are numerous garnishes included in that price; other restaurants offer a list of toppings as extras. Shoryu use Burford Brown eggs to make nitamago (soy-marinated soft boiled eggs with glistening yolks); these, along with ginger, slow braised marinated pork, caramelised black garlic oil, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion and nori seaweed are all included unless otherwise stated!
My guest ordered Dracula Tonkotsu which was a dark soup with the deep-roasted notes of garlic in every guise. This was a hearty bowlful with warming complexity. This might not be the choice for a quick before-business lunch but it’s an exceptional dish on other occasions. Very different from the original Tonkotsu.
I chose Curry Ramen. This is also a very different dish from the white-broth Fukuoka staple. The soup was rich with spice but not to the extent of heat overpowering taste buds. There were generous chunks of karaage chicken, nitamago, nori seaweed, menma bamboo shoots, naruto fish cake and a garnish of chopped spring onion. This curry soup isn’t a faux-Indian curry but something that has evolved as a truly Japanese preparation. It was a delicious and substantial bowl and one which I can highly recommend.
Truffle Mochi was my guest’s dessert. Japanese sweets are about texture rather than overwhelming sweetness. Mochi is a traditional favourite and is made from rice flour producing a rather elastic dough. In this case the mochi was filled with a matcha (green tea) truffle. Delightful with a cup of Japanese tea from a beautiful pot.
Shoryu Ramen Soho is vibrant and traditional but pushing the culinary envelope away from the ubiquitous white broth. I was impressed with service, sake list and the food. I will return to try more from the menu – both food and drink.
Shoryu Ramen Soho
3 Denman Street
Mon – Sat: 11:15am -midnight
Sun and Bank Holidays: 11:15am – 22:30pm
Last orders 30 minutes before closing
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018