Japan. A place where you spend dawn watching as morning mists part to reveal emerald carpets of bamboo forest and spend dusk strolling through cherry blossom trees or chanting with monks around golden shrines. A place of infinite beauty and timeless traditions. It’s also a place where you’re never more than 500m from a good meal.
Thankfully you don’t have to fork out for a flight halfway across the world to sample some deeply varied Japanese flavours.
Shoryu Ramen claims to bring with it the hearty Hakata tastes of traditional Tonkotsu ramen. I popped down on a rainy Manchester Friday (are there any others?) to see if these dishes really cut the mustard or, should I say, wasabi.
As soon as we stepped through the glass doors, the cheery welcome of ‘irashaimase’ (or something that sounded similar) greeted us, followed by the sound of a traditional Japanese gong.
Now I know it sounds a little odd but the welcome took me straight back to the quaint alleyways and side street eateries of the Gion district in Kyoto, where welcoming customers is obligatory. We were shown to a high communal table and greeted by a beaming waitress who took our drink orders and scurried off into the back.
The Matcha Detox (£7) was sublime – a mocktail of mint, lime and ginger finished with a healthy helping of match green tea powder. But, for me, the Yuzu Mojito (£9) was the overall winner. It’s got it all, the smooth strawberry, the tang of lime and the kick of fresh mint tied together with white rum and yuzu umeshu. The original mojito is one of my guilty pleasures but this Asian-fusion remake is a real cracker.
Now for the food.
If your only experience of Japanese food is Yo Sushi, then you’re about to change the game. I scanned the menu which was flush with spectacular Japanese culinary classics (many of which I couldn’t pronounce) and, to my relief, not a shred of sashimi in sight.
Steamed buns come highly recommended. We opted for the vegetarian version (£4.50). It was fabulous. Each bun no more than three mouthfuls of soft sweet dough encasing a fiery-rich hit of shimeji mushroom and grilled halloumi.
Next we tried the tempura (£9). If, like me, your only experience with tempura is re-constituted prawns smothered in greasy batter and accompanied by a watery chilli sauce, you’re in for a treat. Shoryu serves up the juiciest prawns served in a fluffy batter with an utterly gorgeous sauce on the side. The chef is clearly dedicated to getting just the right amount of batter on every piece of tempura and frying it for just the right amount of time. Frankly, 10/10.
Finally, onto the piece-de-resistance.
Ramen is to Japan as a roast dinner is to England. It’s part and parcel of the culture. Slurped in stations, gulped at street stalls and available in a ton of flavour combinations on the Shoryu Ramen menu. I went for the Kimchi Seafood Tonkotsu (£14.90) and it was divine. Prawns, scallops and squid all soaked into a fiery kimchi broth consisting of nori seaweed, spring onion, beansprouts and fried shallots and laden with fresh and firm udon noodles.
The broth was put together seamlessly, with every ingredient sliced to perfection in an array of moreish flavours that were sweet and satisfying yet still light at the same time. The dish was delicate and faultless. Mind you, it’s a dish that will probably ruin your life because every time your mate wants to head out for Japanese food, you’ll crave it and you can’t get it anywhere else.
The staff were welcoming and all knew what they were doing. The manager, Duncan, kept us laughing throughout the evening and was on call to answer any questions about the menu or, more specifically, translations of it.
So, if today’s cold weather has you craving a piping hot bowl of ramen, and you’ve not quite got enough cash for the plane ticket, Shoryu Ramen is the next best thing. Wasabi optional.