Plenty of people have been raving about Shoryu for some time now, so much so that I had expected arriving to Pitt Cue or Flat Iron style queues down the street. But no. The gas guzzling patio heater thingy was burning purely to warm the night sky rather than any hungry, patient punters. We walked in to a slightly feeble out of sync mumbling of "irashimase" and had the pick of the tables as the place was half empty.
Maybe the slightly ghostly atomsphere was because I went to the Regent Street branch shortly after the Denman Street pop up opened. Granted it was a Monday night and on the plus side the majority of those frequenting the filled tables were Japanese which is always a good sign. Maybe I just got lucky. Overall, however, I can't help thinking that I've missed the initial wave of enthusiasm and that, as the queues of excited London foodies have dissipated, so has Shoryu's attention to detail.
Hugh of Twelvepointfivepercent talked about a warm welcome and the beating of a drum, as did Marina O'Loughlin, however on our arrival (and throughout the visit) the drum was just a silent, large and cumbersome ornament blocking up the main counter (albeit the only token towards a Japanese theme other than the fancy dress staff). Shoryu, perhaps rather than theming your poor staff, you might focus on making the look and feel of your actual restaurant slightly less like any high street chain coffee shop and more like the "authentic" ramen joint you pride yourself on being- I'm not talking about making it a ghastly "themed" restaurant but at the moment its rather odd (right down to the flavoured coffee syrups on display - what's that about?!). The accompanying soundtrack of "smooth jazz" music only helps to add to the sentiment that at any moment you might hear the whoosh of an Italian coffee machine and someone calling "skinny soy latte and the code for the free wifi please". It feels wrong.
As long as you aren't planning on speaking to anyone for the following 24 hours, the Dracula Tonkotsu Ramen is an excellent choice. In addition to the basic package you get added mayu oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic chips leading to a darker soup. It claims on the menu to be spicy but I didn't find it overly so. This would be my choice if I were to return. There are over 15 further permutations above and beyond those we tried and many do sound pretty good. Menu highlights for me include the Yuzu tonkotsu and the Hokkaido curry ramen.
Desserts are bought in from Japan Centre over the road so don't be expecting anything that London hasn't seen before on that front. I always forget when I go to Japanese restaurants in the UK that the Japanese aren't massive on desserts on home turf let alone abroad (memorably after a spectacular seven course savoury meal in one michelin star Tokyo sushi house, dessert was a single strawberry).
The yuzu sponge roll was sort of like an arctic roll but with a large quantity of some kind of slightly citrus flavoured butter instead of ice cream. Very greasy and just a tiny bit bland. It wasn't awful but I wouldn't order it again.
Matcha ice cream has a delicate matcha flavour and a pretty colour but doesn't rival other matcha ice creams that I've tried (and even not the Haagen Dazs Matcha)
Would I go back? Ask me after I've tried other ramen trendies Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu! If I were in the area and very hungry then I would definitely stop by for a bowl of ramen but I wouldn't travel for it. I also regret not having tried the hirata buns so they might be worth a revisit. So long as you stick to just a ramen and a cold beer and are immune to service issues then its excellent value for money and a good example of a decent ramen. If you want a great dining experience then avoid.Shoryu
9 Regent Street, London.
No telephone & no reservations.