Visited: 24th April 2016
I have to admit that I have a little bit of a love affair with Shoryu, the ramen bars dotted around London. This is probably because it was the first place I tasted proper Japanese ramen. This was a little over a year ago and started my addiction to ramen that led to the creation of this blog and my journey into trying to recreate ramen dishes at home.
Shoryu is a traditional ramen bar with minimalist decor and a small, concise menu of ramen, from the usual tonkotsu pork broths through to soy milk and curry broths. As well as this you will find side dishes such as steamed buns filled with different meats, chicken karaage, tempura and edamame.
There are four Shoryu ramen bars around London, but mostly we visit the Regent Street branch. We have never booked here but never had to wait more than a few minutes, despite the small size of the restaurant.
When you walk in two things hit you; one is just how petite this place is (though not enough to make you feel crammed in!); two is how authentic it feels. You see a lot of Japanese people eating here which gives you an idea of how authentic the food is.
The drinks menu is also pretty impressive. Both my husband and I don’t drink alcohol, which usually restricts us to water and a small range of soft drinks like 7up and Coke. But Shoryu has a vast array of fruit juices and mocktails- my favourite is the Mojito Loves Calpico- a virgin cocktail with lime and mint mixed with the Japanese drink Calpico (described as being a little like Yakult). The combination creates a sweet, tangy and very refreshing drink that I now order every time we go there.
On this particular visit I chose the curry ramen (because as much as I love the traditional char siu pork, I love chicken as a topper more- I know, controversial!) and my husband had his usual of miso wafu chicken (in a soy milk broth). The curry ramen has a broth mixed with pork broth and Japanese curry sauce. It is topped with chicken karaaage, which somehow stays crispy despite swimming in the broth. Other toppings are menma (bamboo shoots), ramen egg, naruto fish slice (the little pink and white swirly slice- which is a bit like a slice of crab stick), nori, sliced spring onion and red ginger.
Words really cannot express just how tasty this dish is. The combination of pork broth and curry makes for a spicy, rich and deeply satisfying flavour, with undertones of turmeric and sesame. The chicken is lightly flavoured but crisp and perfectly cooked. The punchy addition of red ginger tingles the taste buds. If you have never tried ramen, you will be amazed at how essentially a bowl of soup and fried chicken can make such a rich and satisfying meal. And it is so filling!! We used to make the mistake of being lured by the temptations of Shoryu’s side dishes when we first visited here. And the sides are amazing. But even the healthiest of appetites will struggle to eat more than a bowl of the ramen.
Needless to say, as every time we visited, we had no room for any dessert, which is a shame as, like their side dishes and drinks, Shoryu have a fantastic list of traditional Japanese desserts, from chocolate mochi to matcha ice cream and yuzu cheesecake and maybe one day after starving myself I may actually have room to try one, as they look as delicious as the rest of their food.
It goes without saying that the service at the Regent Street Shoryu is always spot on- friendly staff who serve you quickly and are helpful and ready to explain any dish to you. The drum on the counter that they bang when you enter and leave, followed by welcomes and farewells in Japanese is a nice addition to the atmosphere of the place, especially to someone like me who loves all things Japanese.
Shoryu is not the cheapest place to eat, but it by no means expensive either. Some of the fancier drinks (such as my beloved Mojito love Calpico mocktail) have a high price tag, but a bowl of ramen will cost between £9 and £15. If you go all out and have starters and desserts, expect to pay about £60 (though I admire your appetite if you can manage to eat three courses here!), so the costs are equivalent to a good gastro-pub.
One day I hope to be elevated to the gold loyalty customer status (which takes 60 visits in a year to achieve- maybe a bit of a push seeing as I live a 2 hour train ride away in Sussex and only visit London 4-5 times a year at best…). Still, I do like the thought of having my ramen served in a gold bowl. That said, if you think you might visit several times in a year, ask for a loyalty card as on your fifth visit you will get a free bowl of ramen.
If you have never visited a ramen bar, Shoryu is the perfect place to discover this amazingly satisfying Japanese food and I heartily recommend giving it a try when you are looking for food in London.