Thursday, 3 January 2013

Shoryu Ramen London Japan Centre - a bit off the mark

Shoryu Ramen Japan Centre Regent Street review
Shoryu Ramen's well stocked bar all thanks to Japan Centre

Address: 9 Regent Street,
London SW1Y 4LR
Tel: not listed (no bookings)
Nearest Tube station: Piccadilly Circus

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £20 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: **
Japan Centre, which is doing a roaring business along Regent Street, is rather slow to jump  onto the ramen bandwagon in setting up a ramen joint in London's West End. But unlike the rest sitting prettily at Soho (Ittenbari, Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu), Shoryu Ramen is located along Regent Street, a short walk away from The Mall. Almost directly facing Japan Centre, Shoryu Ramen is a considerably smaller setup compared to its peers. In fact, with its small round and square tables oddly mixed together, it can very well be another high street cafe.

We were greeted by a wall of umami the moment we stepped through Shoryu Ramen's door. A lack of good ventilation coupled with damp weather outside trapped the soup base's aroma within. That immediately whet our appetite. With the entire restaurant packed, we were bundled up onto a small table towards the back. Literally sitting shoulder to shoulder, I could very well be eating out of the bowl from the chap next to me without either of us noticing.

Shoryu Ramen Japan Centre Regent Street review Yuzu Tonkotsu ramen
Yuzu Tonkotsu - cloudy soup, that's pretty much it

A quick scan through the menu revealed one that is more extensive than Bone Daddies' not to mention the three-ramen menu at Tonkotsu. I went straight for the Yuzu Tonkotsu (£10.40). Among the ramen dishes, it is the only one that exceeded the £10 mark. Surely it must be the king of the hill, the full English among the poorer sausage and mash, ham and eggs cousins. You get the idea.

If you're into broths, you would find Yuzu Tonkotsu's visually enticing. Its murky appearance hinted at a flavour packed mouthful. If that heightens your expectation, you might be a tad disappointed. Its broth just didn't pack the same punch as the one at Bone Daddies.

The same could be said of egg (nitamago). They were done almost halfheartedly and could hardly hold its own against the soy marinated egg at Tonkotsu. The kikurage, nori, bean sprouts and spring onion were heaped onto the ramen itself, making the dish a tad crowded - it was impossible to have a clean mouthful of just ramen alone.

Perhaps I was trying my utmost to find a redeeming point about the ramen at Shoryu's Yuzu Tonkotsu, I realised that its BBQ pork slices were nicely done. Its tender consistency stood out amongst the mix mesh of seaweed and fungus.

Shoryu Ramen Japan Centre Regent Street review Piri Piri Ramen
A half portion of piri piri Tonkotsu - will fill up a light eater quite well

If you prefer a light bite, you would be pleased that Shoryu does half portions (£4) for ramen. Even though the menu states that the option is only for Hakata Tonkotsu ramen, the kitchen prepared a half portion of piri piri Tonkotsu for us as well. You just have to ask nicely.

Shoryu Ramen+Japan Centre Regent Street review matcha tea
A matcha latte accompanying a matcha rolled cake. Notice the trend?

Dessert is matcha heaven. All seven items including mochi, ice-cream, cake and tart are matcha based. The matcha rolled cake (£4) looked suspiciously familiar. A quick hop to Japan Centre confirmed that the exact same thing was sold for £2.50. The only differences are that the latter comes in a plastic container and you don't to enjoy it on a table. That said, the chestnuts embedded within would cheer anyone up.

Having the Japan Centre tag doesn't quite make Shoryu Ramen stand out from the crowd. Its location did it no favour - south end of Regent Street just lacks the grittiness of Soho. I'm not sure I would trek there for a bite anytime soon, certainly not having the elbow of the chap next to me shoved into my ribs.

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