Ramen has taken London by storm over the past few years. This hearty pork-based noodle broth is usually reserved for a quick fix in Japan, where ramen joints are full of businessmen slurping noodles alongside young people after a stint in their local izakaya (Japanese bar). Though London’s ramen bars tend to be more upmarket and come with a higher price point (in Japan you rarely pay more than a few pounds), the authenticity generally remains in the best of them, particularly at Japan Centre-owned Shoryu.
Part the noren (traditional Japanese fabric curtains) at Shoryu’s fifth ramen restaurant in buzzy Covent Garden and the friendly staff will shout “Irasshaimase!” (welcome in Japanese) from the white-tiled, sake-lined bar. Interiors are bold and play with angles – classic herringbone parquet timber flooring contrasts the brick walls and a curved wooden booth in one corner. Authentic Japanese touches filter all the way down to garlic cloves piled into pots on wooden tables so you can crush your own for extra welly.
Shoryu specialises in food from Hakata, a district of Fukuoka city in Western Japan. Think Hakata buns – the local version of the pillowy steamed bao buns that are on everyone’s lips at the moment, and most importantly Tonkotsu, London’s favourite ramen. Shoryu gives this comforting and rich 12-hour pork bone broth a lighter, cleaner consistency with added miso and serves over thin, springy noodles.
Shoryu’s signature ganso tonkotsu had a deep umami hit and came with all the trimmings – char siu barbecue pork belly, squid-like textured wood ear mushrooms, soft-boiled nitamago egg with molten yolk and plenty of ginger, nori seaweed and crisp, fried shallots.
If you are looking to mix things up a bit, there are eight tonkotsu varieties to choose from – Dracula tonkotsu is ramped up with caramelised black garlic oil and garlic chips, cold summery ramen comes in a lighter miso broth, and kotteri hakata tonkotsu is not for the faint hearted with double nitamago egg and an extra rich broth (we asked to try some and could barely manage a small cup it was so rich!).
For something completely different, try the curry ramen. Thicker, springy futomen noodles were covered in a rich tonkotsu broth made with curry and soy. If you’re a fan of Japanese fried karaage chicken, this dish is for you, as it came with a generous portion of fried Goosnargh chicken in the broth, along with bamboo shoots, a springy fish cake and all the trimmings.
We recommend some starters to prepare your stomach, or to enjoy as sides to accompany your ramen. We ordered crisp and light pan-fried gyozas encasing minced pork, pillowy steamed buns filled with crunchy fried soy-marinated chicken, and veggie seaweed. The latter dish packed in tonnes of texture with wakame marinated in chuka (a dressing made from soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil) and mekabu, a lighter green seaweed.
Plenty of Japanese lagers and craft beers line the bar, but we suggest opting for a sake flight. The waiters will help you in your choice, but cloudy nigori sake had a fruity aroma and Gekkeikan Nama Sake from Kyoto was dry and refreshing.
35 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London
Written by Alex Crossley
Published September 2016
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