Just why it took me quite so long to visit Shoryu I’ll never know.
Japan has been top of my wanderlust list for many years now, ever since I first watched Lost in Translation and imagined myself following in Charlotte’s footsteps (and beyond), captivated by the cultural contrasts, futuristic technology, ancient customs and jaw-dropping scenery. Oh and, of course, the incredible cuisine.
Every Murakami novel I’ve read (and I’ve pretty much read them all), features a central protagonist who spends a large portion of time scoffing down bowls of steaming ramen in a late-night diner, while pondering the existence of talking cats, imaginary creatures and other dimensions. And yet, I’ve not discovered a ramen restaurant in the UK that serves up a bowl of ramen quite as exquisite as Murakami does with his words.. until now.
While I’ve been aware of Shoryu since it first launched in 2012 inside The Japan Centre in London’s Piccadilly, I’d inexplicably not managed to visit, and despite clocking the Manchester outpost in Piccadilly Gardens when I first moved to the city, I’d still neglected to pop in, put off ever so slightly by the fact it’s nestled in between a number of cheap ‘n’ cheerful restaurant chains that are inevitably always jam-packed with tourists.
But one sunny evening after work a few weeks ago, I was invited down to experience Shoryu’s new summer menu with blogging gal pal Rebecca Cohen, and knew this was my chance to find out if the cuisine really did live up to the hype.
The 50-seat authentic Hakata Tonkotsu restaurant is Shoryu’s first outside of London, and the minimal wood-heavy interior has been created by Blenheim Design – who have also designed interiors for Japanese restaurants Tonkotsu, Sushi Yoshi and Ichiryu Udon – to offer a light, welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, decorated with pretty paper lanterns and a plethora of Japanese sake bottles in a wall-mounted cabinet.
Alongside two large communal dining tables and smaller tables for private dining, there are long narrow tables running the length of both the front window and kitchen counter, where I spotted several people dining alone peacefully, and immediately conjured up an image of Murakami’s young, oft-nameless protagonist sitting there musingly.
At the heart of Shoryu’s menu is an authentic Tonkotsu Ramen made with a thick, rich, 12-hour white pork broth and thin, straight ramen noodles, topped with Char Siu barbecue pork belly and a Nitamago egg; a dish that is native to founder Tak Tokumine and executive chef Kanji Furukawa’s hometown of Hakana. At Shoryu there is also a lighter Tonyu soy milk, miso, konbu and shiitake mushroom broth ramen, and gluten-free noodles too, to cater for all dietary requirements.
But ramen isn’t the only area in which Shoryu excels. Rebecca and I started our meal with steamed Shoryu buns with Char Sui BBQ pork belly; soft, fluffy hirata buns wrapped around a soft spicy meaty centre that I’m already salivating over just thinking about them – trust me, I’ll definitely be heading back for these buns alone.. or, if I’m honest, to try out the soy marinated chicken Karaage, tiger prawn tempura, wagyu beef and grilled halloumi versions as well!
To accompany the bao we shared a bowl of deep fried chicken wings with lemon that were a new addition to the summer menu, as well as a generous plate of soft shell crab tempura that was light, crisp and impeccably seasoned. I’m a sucker for anything in tempura if I’m being honest, but these were pretty exceptional and yet another thing I’ll be heading back to scoff again soon..
When it came to the main affair though, it was wonderful to see so many options on the menu, all of which we were talked through in great detail by our smiling, engaging and knowledgeable waitress.
As I’ve come to realise, ramen is a staple of Japanese cuisine and it’s important when ordering to know how you like your noodles cooked. Shoryu offer the option to have them cooked soft, medium, hard or very hard, and we were advised that it was best to opt for hard or very hard as they will continue to cook in the hot broth after serving – a great tip, and our hard noodles softened nicely over the course of the meal and didn’t go gloopy as they might have done had they been more overly cooked to start with.
Rebecca opted for the Karaka Tan Tan Tonkotsu, while I chose to spice things up with a special Green Curry Ramen that married hot green curry with chicken Karaage, Menma, Nitamago and additional red chilli for a final spicy kick. I’m definitely a fan of medium to hot(ish) spice and am pleased to report this was just the right level of spiciness for my tastebuds.
We rounded out our meal with a couple of options from the dessert menu: bittersweet yuzu sorbet and Mochi ice cream in sesame, yuzu and green tea flavours. While the green tea mochi didn’t really do it for either of us, the sharp zest of the yuzu sorbet was a fabulous palate cleanser, while I took a particular shine to the sesame mochi – despite the tendency for those pesky little seeds to get stuck between your teeth!
It’s a safe bet I’ll be heading back to Shoryu soon to sample more of the delights on the menu – who wants to join me?
→Shoryu, 1 Piccadilly, Manchester M1
Our meal was provided complimentary in return for this review, but all thoughts and views expressed are, as always, my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.