...buns are all it has going for it.
Ramen in Soho!? Again!? I've given up burgers for %$£@&!? ramen. It's still just stock with stuff sloshed in it. Even if you add black garlic, a marinated fried egg, spring onions and fresh chillies... actually that sounds really nice. Oh, and this is authentic is it? You bang a drum when people walk in - is that what they do in Japan? Because it's kind of annoying. Oh right. Well, ferment me some vegetables I'll be back for breakfast.
Yes, I've found myself at yet another ramen joint. A cuisine currently so trendy the food critics are tripping over themselves to join the queue, and east London has been left looking at each other going: "What, the shit Wagamama's do? We've got to like that again?"
Shoryu has to be the trendiest, even boasting a Regent's Street address (Yah, but it's south of Piccadilly Circus darling). The queue was about 20 minutes at 7.30 on a Friday, which was perfectly tolerable if you've let the whole "I hate queuing" thing go (I haven't). The three of us agreed to be sat at a two person table, on the premise we would be moved as soon as a table left. That moment came and we were told to stay put, I presume because the chef with the drum had already banged it for a group of four.
So we sat scrunched together like noodles in a ramen and tucked into one of the most delicious starters I've tasted in a while - steamed buns with the texture of a stress reliever and filled with crispy salmon. Soft, then crunchy then smooth and mayonnaisey. Incredible. I'll be hunting them down at the next opportunity. Sadly the okra wrapped in salmon might have well have been grass wrapped in Tesco's luncheon meat, and the gyoza were a little tough. But still, as they would say in Carry On: "Oh, the buns! The Barbara Windsor's!"
Then came the tonkotsu (just ramen with fattier stock as far as I can tell). Mine was called the Dracula Tonkotsu (£12.50). Really it should be the anti-Drac Ramen, because it is laced with black garlic almost to a fault. Almost. It's actually perfectly balanced, especially with the little bit of heat. Sadly the stock is a little over seasoned, presumably because it's under-flavoured. The pork is a little dry for pork belly too. It's really not a patch on Tonkotsu on Dean Street, and a few quid pricier per dish too. It didn't leave you licking at the bowl, which given the amount of umami black garlic they piled in is almost a scientific impossibility. But they managed it.
And with that we were out in the fresh air again. To their credit we were admirably stuffed, and slightly gassy from the Kirin Ichiban on tap (good move). But as we walked up to Soho in search of a decent pub we went past Tonkotsu, with no queue, cheaper food, better stock and a better table policy (only one person per seat). They may be two of the few ramen places in town, but there really is no comparison. Like Katie Price, buns aside there isn't much to Shoryu.