All posts filed under “Ramen

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Shoryu Soho: When Will We Really Have Super Good Ramen?

Who to trust?

It has been a while now since the ramen trend hit (Central) London and I am still pretty on the fence about the current offerings. Last year Tonkotsu (operation by Tsuru Sushi) was just passable. Now they have acquired a machine and are making their own ramen noodle in house. Might be promising. (I haven’t tried it yet). Bone Daddies was not stellar, during the first few of my visits, but has ever since managed to constantly intrigue the crowd with new, funky (fusion-led) ramen. The products are good but the digression from the traditional isn’t what I exactly crave. Ittenbari was and still is the most traditional. However, it is an inferior product in term of ingredients. Also, I think their broth has a heavily saturated taste of MSG that *improves* the taste of the food as much as the taste of my gum and teeth. (If you eat me now, I might taste good). And this has brought me back to Shoryu Ramen and its new branch in Soho.

Shoryu Ramen has received a much favourable 4-star review by A A Gill. A much lauded, writerly critic who awarded 5 stars to a certain Japanese restaurant by an internationally renowned chef last year in London. The proof in the critic’s expertise of taste in Japanese cuisine lay in the fact that that restaurant was closed 6 months after its opening. And who are we to trust?

Shoryu Ramen is an operation backed by Japan Centre. Its second branch on Denman Street, conveniently located next to Piccadilly Circus and just opposite Chinatown, is much bigger than its original. The vibe is very Japanese. There is an inviting sake and cocktail bar at the entrance, an open-plan ramen kitchen in the dining room, and canteen-style tables and stools.

The menu has inflated a lot (since last time I was at Shoryu’s first branch). Apart from its extensive ramen offerings (14 kinds and between £9.90 and 12.50) and gluten-free noodle options, Shoryu has incorporated a decent-sized yakitori section in its menu (£1.80 – £9 per skewer). Fried dishes dominates the starter section (£1.90 – £10) but there are also sashimi options. The dessert section (£3.50 – £4.80) sounds promisingly transported from Japan Centre.

My whole experience at Shoryu Soho was bad. The ramen dishes, like my experience at Shoryu’s first branch, were just alright. I ate my Tokyo Shoyu (£9.90). The Chashu pork had a likeable flavour and was not too dry. The soy sauce based broth was traditionally boiling hot but it was so one-dimensionally salty that I’d rather not sip on its own. The noodle was delightfully chewy at first bite. For my second bite, it lost that elasticity nearly completely. This showed the noodle wasn’t good enough to be matched with the high temperature of the broth. TOB’s Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu (£10) was appealing to the eyes but did not strike a high note for taste. The broth achieved a finer balance than my Shoyu but lacked depth to convince that pork bones have been slow-cooked for hours. That said, I liked the generous topping of fried garlic (very aromatic) and the Chashu was acceptable.

Other dishes misfired nearly completely. Kawa or Salted Chicken Skin (£1.50) featured a stick of gelatinous chicken skin. Barely charred. Thoroughly not crispy. If chicken skins are in (think Bone Daddies’s “cock scratching” and Kitchen Table’s “Chicken Skin Wafer”), this skewer can certainly put an end to all that. Satsuma Age or Deep Fried Fish Balls (£1.80) was edible, though TOB refused to eat them. Chicken Karaage (£5) had a standard of KFC chicken popcorn. The batter was crispy but thick. Chikuwa (a kind of fish cake) (£4) was stuffed with cheese, crumbed and fried. In Japan, this could be an extremely addictive dish. Here the fish cake was rubbery and lacked taste.

There were also faults in operation. We were served ramen first. This was followed by a long wait until our starters did make an appearance. The cocktail also did not arrive at the same time as the soft drink (as in the soft drink arrived before the ramen and the other drink arrived right after we finished our ramen). As with new openings, these things will hopefully be ironed out. Hopefully..

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RATING 2/5

SHORYU RAMEN SOHO

3 Denman Street
London
W1D 7HA

www.shoryuramen.com
Shoryu Soho on Urbanspoon

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London Round Up: The Ramen

Ramen… in London

Ramen is essentially a bowl of yellow noodle, most often served in boiling hot soup. Despite its Chinese origin, ramen is one of the best known and most influential food categories to emerge from Japan. On one hand, you have Momofuku Noodle Bar (and perhaps Wagamama and other more authentic Japanese ramen giants) flying the flags for *specialty* ramen restaurants overseas. On the other, you find the friendliest reincarnation of ramen as pot noodle in supermarkets and convenient stores.

In Japan, ramen is treated either as snacks or a very, very quick meal. Specialty ramen restaurants, called “ramen-ya”, can be found at nearly every corner, and regional chefs apply special take and treatments to the three main elements – noodle, soup, toppings – that comprise a bowl of ramen.

The recent ramen boom in London, for me, does not quite vouch for authenticity and sadly to say I find none of the new ramen-yas convincing enough.

TONKOTSU

Tonkotsu on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3

Tonkotsu, run by the same operation as Tsuru Sushi, is a little lair of East-Village-like ambiance and prides itself for the exemption of MSG. The food menu is very concise – three kinds of ramen (£9-11) and a handful of side dishes (around £5). The drink menu, however, is extensive. There is no option for extra toppings. The eponymous Tonkotsu Ramen (of sea salt and pork bone stock) (£11) looked milky but tasted too light for a Tonkotsu. The positive, however, went to the temperature of the soup, which during my two visits, were nearly correctly burning hot. The noodle used was not exemplary but it was acceptably cooked. The toppings were the highlights. The soft-boiled marinated egg was gooey (but could do with more depth from the marinate); the chashu was tender (but could do with less tenderness so it doesn’t fall apart); the menma had a nice crunch. As for the small dishes, I didn’t like Chicken Karaage so much (£6). Here the big and plump thigh pieces were used and there was a noticeable amount of grease left in the meat.


SHORYU RAMEN

Shoryu on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5

Shoryu Ramen, run by the Japan Centre Group, is very canteen-like and boasts the biggest ramen and drink menu – a hell lot of side dishes at £1.90-10 and 14 kinds of ramen (!!) at £8-10.40. The soup variations, however, were mostly Tonkotsu-based. There was an option for gluten-free noodle as well as a small portion for kids. Extra toppings (around £2 each) can be requested. I went for Hakawa Tonkotsu (£8). The soup had a good boiling temperature but was so loose and tasted as if I was drinking a fine bowl of authentic premium instant noodle. The noodle was just okay. The toppings, though generous for the price, was ordinary and disappointing. My “soft boiled” egg turned out solidly hard boiled. The chashu was a little dry. For the small dishes, Gyoza (£5) here were machine-made. The texture of the pork filling was unpleasant and the skin was not adequately pan-fried.

Note: I found Shoryu to have improved significantly after a few months of its opening.

BONE DADDIES

Bone Daddies on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5

Bone Daddies by formerly Zuma and Nobu chef Ross Shonhan might be the *most enjoyable* ramen in London. There are 8 ramen variations on the menu (£8-10), including a dipping ramen and a ramen salad, and a good selection of inventive side dishes (£3.5-9). Extra toppings (from £0 to £2) are also options here, and the drink menu is very long. My Tonkotsu Ramen (£10) with extra chashu, egg and menma looked indulgent. The 20-hour pork bone broth, however, was oil-y and did not have much porky complexity. It was also served very lukewarm. The noodle, despite the broth’s being not that hot, was over-boiled and lost any trace of chewy-ness. Despite that, I think Bone Daddies had some potential and the lavish (extra) toppings saved the day. As for the side dishes, Artichoke with Yuzu Kocho Mayo (£4.50) was quite wet.

 

You may also want to compare this post to another previously-reviewed ramen-ya ITTENBARI.
TONKOTSU

63 Dean Street
London
W1D 4QG

Tel. 020 7437 0071

www.tonkotsu.co.uk

 

SHORYU RAMEN

9 Regent Street
London
SW1Y 4LR

www.shoryuramen.com

 

BONE DADDIES

31 Peter Street
London
W1F 0AR

Tel. 020 7287 8581

www.bonedaddiesramen.com

 

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Ippudo + Totto Ramen, New York

Ramen..

Very briefly, for those estranged by the term ‘ramen’, I am talking Japanese egg noodle in soup, which had an origin from China but has been refined across centuries by the Japanese. (They even write manga about it!). The key elements are the noodle and the soup. The noodle should be chewy and springs in your mouth. The soup variations are Shoyu (soy sauce based), Shio (salt based), Tonkotsu (pork gelatin/fat based), and Miso (fermented soy bean based). The toppings for a ramen vary according to the soup. More likely, you will find soft boiled eggs, toasted seaweed sheets, pickled bamboo shoots (‘menma’), and pork slices.

In London ramen isn’t quite popular just yet. (You can find some alright offering at Ittenbari, Nagomi and Roka – only Mondays – and anticipate the launch of Tsuru‘s permanent ramen site). Ramen is relatively hip in NYC..

Ippudo

Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Ippudo in NYC East Village is a well-known Japanese import. Shigemi Kawahara started this off as a ramen counter in 1985 in Fukuoka, specialising in tonkotsu ramen. Now the Ippudo brand has spread across Japan’s major cities and to New York. The NYC joint runs a no-reservation policy. There was a queue at lunch but thanks to the size of the place the turnover was swift. Ideal for both solo diners and groups. The setting was modern, with aggressively shout-y and friendly FOH.

I settled for a bowl of Shiromaru Hakata Classic ($14), a kind of tonkotsu with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, pickled bamboo shoots and pickled ginger, with an extra soft boiled egg ($2). Very wholesome and excellently constructed. The soup was silky thanks to the skillfully-infused pork fat and boast a great depth of flavours. It was, surprisingly, light and didn’t leave a dreadful greasy texture or aftertaste. The finer kind of noodle was used (as typical in any tonkotsu ramen) and was so nicely cooked it left a little bit of chewy-ness; the chashu slices had the best(est) ratio of melting fat and meaty tenderness; the bamboo shoots added musty taste to the soup; the sesame a hint of sweet nutty aroma; the soft-boiled egg was.. heaven.

Highly recommend this place :-9

Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

Totto Ramen was a hole-in-the-wall ramen bar and accordingly much more difficult to get into than Ippudo. The queue started to form an hour or so before the opening hours. No reservation policy and I was asked to write my name down, which would be called out when the seat became free. Ideal for no more than 2-3 diners. (It took a while and I decided to wait by snacking bulgogi sliders at a next-door Korean bar). Inside there was a ramen bar and some tables. The scene was thumpingly swift and very Japanese.

My Totto Extra Spicy Ramen ($10.75) was flawed. The soup, here called ‘paitan’ meaning ‘milky’, was a concoction of tonkatsu-style broth but (I assume) made from chicken instead of pork. Too light and too loose, the soup was quite one dimensional, when compared to Ippudo. It was also so erroneously hot that it double-cooked the fine noodle and the beansprouts to unappealing softness. The only redeeming feature was the generous bowl of spooky and piquant rayu chilli oil with deep-fried, chopped garlic. The chashu slices had a dense charred crust. The boiled egg cost $1 extra.


RATING: 4.5, 3/5

IPPUDO

65 Fourth Avenue
New York
10003

Tel. 001 212 388 0088

www.ippudony.com

TOTTO RAMEN

366 West 52nd Street
New York
10019

Tel. 001 212 582 0052

www.tottoramen.com