Japanese food is still a rarity in my life. Although I love nothing better than picking up a six pack of sushi from Boots, or popping into Tampopo for an Asian-fusion dish, I still am very much a novice when it comes to the delights from Japan. Last week, I headed over to Shoryu, based in the heart of the city at Piccadilly Garden. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Shoryu is the brainchild of Tak Tokomine aka the Ramen Shogun. Tokomine settled in the UK in 1975 and with him he brought his Hakata home town speciality – the tonkotsu ramen. Working with Kanji Furukawa, they have worked hard to showcase the dish with precision authenticity. After opening several branches of Shoryu in London, the Manchester Shoryu is the first to be opened outside of the capital. In a prime location within Piccadilly Gardens, with great people watching tables at the windows, each person is welcomed into the restaurant with a traditional Japanese welcome and a sounding of the gong. It really is quite a welcome.
After being seated, we had quite an in depth conversation with the assistant manager who gave us a really good explanation of the dishes on the menu. As usual, I had looked over the menu several times before my visit, and I knew that I was going to go for the Shoryu buns and a bowl of traditional ramen. Having the conversation about the menu was actually really very helpful and I did change my mind after he had explained each dish.
Starting with the Shoryu buns, I ordered the halloumi buns, whilst my dining partner ordered the char sui barbecue pork belly. I have always been intrigued by these buns as they look like they should taste like clouds or marshmallows, but in fact, they just taste like light, fluffy bread. Rather than being baked, they are steamed. They are also very delicious, and make a perfect starter. The halloumi buns do come with mushrooms, however I swiftly whipped these off, and enjoyed the grilled cheese and slightly spicy dressing that it came with. The pork buns melted in the mouth with a fruity dressing.
The buns definitely kick started my appetite for my traditional Tonkotsu ramen noodles. Each ramen dish is made with the signature Tonkotsu style; a 12 hour pork broth topped with char sui barbecue pork belly, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, nori seaweed. I chose the Dracula Tonkotsu which comes with caramelised black garlic mayu and garlic chips. I added a side of Kim Chi (not the drag queen, but that would be awesome) and went for the soft noodles. I also asked for a fork because chopsticks are not my friend. Luckily, there’s no judgement if you can’t use chopsticks.
You could quite clearly see the difference between myself as a ramen novice to those who were very well versed in the noodles in broth. There was a lot of slurping, twisting of noodles and emptying bowls around me. Meanwhile, I took it slow, I savoured each morsel that touched my lips. The belly pork fell apart in my mouth, whilst the pork broth was beautifully seasoned and tasted meaty and hearty. The garlic chips and kimchi were a perfect accompaniment and each flavour danced on my tongue. I got a bit sidetracked when I saw the hot chilli oil on the table and added even more flavour to my dish.
The bowls are large, and the food plentiful, so much so that I couldn’t finish my portion. I felt that I was eating a lot, and trying to drink more of the broth to get to the noodles but it did defeat me in the end. I feel like I need to go back and give it another go because it’s really not like me to not be able to finish a meal. My friend felt the same, and could not finish her bowl of curry ramen.
When we first got to Shoryu, just before 5pm, the restaurant was fairly empty. By the time I was defeated by my ramen, nearly every table was packed full. It’s such a popular place and I can see exactly why. There’s a great atmosphere; warm and friendly with a really relaxed vibe. The floor to ceiling windows with the benches against the windows, looking out on the bustling gardens makes it a prime people watching spot, whilst the open plan kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare your dish makes you feel right at the heart of the action.
There’s always room for dessert, no matter how full you are and I went for the Sakura and Azuki chiffon cake with cherry coulis. A large wedge of cake, pale pink in colour and dusted with icing sugar for that extra sweetness was given a slight tartness with the couli. The texture of the cake was dry but when you bit into the areas where the azuki beans were, it created a pop of moisture in your mouth. It was quite unusual but it made for a delightful experience. My friend chose the light and zesty Yuzu cheesecake.
With ramen being a popular as a sandwich is to us Brits, you can see why it is perfected. I would definitely go back to Shoryu for my lunch, brunch, dinner and supper anytime as I was blown away by the beautiful flavours. A bowl of ramen is around £12, which for city centre standards is not too unreasonable, considering I went away full and satisfied with my interest in ramen definitely at its peak.
*I wasn’t charged for my meal, however all opinions are my own