Sunday, 31 December 2017

Restaurant Review - Shoryu Ramen, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester

Last December myself and Nicola enjoyed a few days in London where we took advantage of the Christmas sales. Our last full day in the capital was bitter cold and after wandering the shops for hours, we warmed ourselves up by grabbing lunch at Shoryu Ramen at Liverpool Street. 
The first Shoryu Ramen on London’s Oxford Street five years ago and under the watchful eye of Ramen Shogun Tak Tonkumine, the group has grown to 8 branches across London, one in Manchester and a recently opened restaurant in Oxford. 
Last month I had to travel to my Manchester office for some training which meant that I was on the lookout for somewhere to go for dinner. Word must have gotten out that Gerry’s Kitchen was in the North West and before I had time to Google ‘Restaurants in Manchester’, I was kindly invited for dinner by the team at the Manchester branch of Shoryu Ramen

Myself and a work colleague arrived just after seven o’clock on a cold Tuesday evening and the restaurant was already very busy. We settled down at our table and quickly ordered a couple of cocktails from the extensive drinks menu. 
Shelley made short work of the Pink Geisha, a mix of Jinzu Gin, Americano Cocchi Rosa, sake, lychee purée, raspberry and rose water. This cocktail is a delicate blend of sour and dry, sweet and fragrant with the lychee purée and fresh raspberry balancing the big flavours from the gin and sake.
My own choice of cocktail was Shoryu’s take on a classic with their Yuzo Mojito. White rum, fresh strawberries, mint, lime and yuzo umeshu (a wine liqueur made from plums and yuzu) are blended perfectly to create a drink that has all the punch of a classic Mojito whilst the yuzu brings a refreshing bite that cleanses the palate and works well with the rich flavour that we were about to enjoy.

To start, we each ordered a Shoryu Bun, mine filled with char siu barbecued pork belly while Shelley chose the chicken karaage. Steamed buns, Baozi or Bao, might have their origins in China but due to longstanding Chinese immigration, countries all across Asia now serve their own versions with Japan being no different.
The Shoryu Buns were light and fluffy, and as good as I remembered from my last visit. Japanese Char Siu is adapted from the Chinese recipe with the addition of dark soy, sake and brown sugar. I’m sure the sake helps tenderise the meat and after many hours of slow cooking, the pork belly was soft, tender and packed with the rich sticky sweetness that you would expect from a good barbecue.
Karaage is a Japanese version of fried chicken which starts with chicken being marinated in sake, soy, garlic and ginger before being dusted in potato starch then deep fried. I love fried chicken and the chicken karaage was fantastic. Tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, this was the perfect foil to the soft bao.

We also ordered a side of the Hakata Tetsunabe Gyoza which originates from the Nakasu area of Hakata and are lacy, crispy, bite size gyoza served in a sizzling tetsunabe cast-iron skillet. The hot skillet gives the gyoza a crispy bottom which is contrasted well by juicy pork mince, ginger and spring onion and were as good a gyoza as I’ve had. 

As we moved on to the main event, we were reminded that Shoryu’s slogan is ‘It’s In Our Bones’, which isn’t a play on words but the philosophy behind the rich favours that they cram into their signature ramen dishes. Creating rich, creamy tonkotsu pork stock is a labour of love. Each pan takes over 12 hours cooking at a rolling boil to contain enough collagen, fat, marrow and calcium (not for the faint-hearted!) to emulsify perfectly turning it opaque; the famous white tonkotsu appearance. Traditionally the stock is then combined with 'motodare', a concentrated base to create the final soup. Our motodare is made using the best soy and spices from Japan. Kanji spent over six months perfecting his recipe until he was satisfied it was good enough to compete with his favourite ramen bars back home.
Shelley decided to go for the house speciality, Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu which is a 12-hour pork broth with soft ramen noodles that comes topped with char siu barbecue pork belly, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, nori seaweed. The depth of flavour in the ramen is off the chart, a great balance of sweet and salt with the spices bringing a little warmth to the soup. The added pork, egg and mushrooms made this a wonderfully filling dish and Shelley seemed pleased with her choice.

All of the other ramen dishes on the menu are variations on the Ganso Tonkotsu that Shelley had ordered and after much deliberation I settled on the Dracula Tonkotsu which is as above but powered up with caramelised black garlic mayu and garlic chips. This should be called ‘No sign of Dracula’ Tonkotsu as there is no chance that vampires will be anywhere near you once you’ve devoured the steaming bowl of garlic topped ramen. Fortunately, I love garlic and addition of the garlic was right up my street. 

By this point of the evening we were both feeling pretty full however we were encouraged to try a dessert so Shelley ordered the Sakura & Azuki Chiffon Cake, a light and airy cake made using sakura (a type of cherry blossom) and azuki (a type of mung bean). The cake was served with a cherry coulis that added enough sharpness to cut through the sweet sponge although I’m not sure that either of us were able to detect the subtle flavours from the Sakura or Akuzi.

I really had no room for pudding but figured that the yuzu cheesecake might bring enough sharpness to cleanse my palate after all that garlic. The cheesecake was rich and cream but unfortunately, I struggled to pick up much yuzu favour from the filling. That didn’t stop me from finishing the lot -so much for not having room for dessert?

The night was getting on and it was soon time for us to make our way into the night, both feeling suitable stuffed. We dined as guests of Shoryu Ramen Manchester but my review above is an honest account of our evening. From start to finish the service was slick and efficient despite the fact that the restaurant was very busy and the food and drinks that we were treated to were delicious and I would have no hesitation in recommending Shoryu Ramen Manchester (or any of their other branches) if you’re on the lookout for authentic Japanese cuisine.
I would like to thank the staff and management at Shoryu Ramen Manchester for their generosity and hospitality and wish the, all the best for the future.

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