"You'll Want To Dig Your Face & Drown In The Food At This New Manchester Hot Spot"
Be sure to come up for air...
I first tried ramen a couple of years ago at London's 'Pop Brixton' (a collection of gourmet street food vendors - not unlike Manchester's B. Eat Street) and have been in love ever since.
Oodles of noodles, great-quality slow-roasted meats and broth packed with ginger, chilli and garlic for explosive flavour - it's exactly my kind of food and the perfect feel-good lunch for winter - it's filling and carb-heavy without making you feel like you're going to be the most obese person on the planet if you don't join the gym, ASAP afterwards. Win-win.
I stepped into Manchester Piccadilly's brand-spanking new Shoyru Ramen on it's opening day last Thursday. It opened at 12 for the start of a 10-day soft launch of half-price ramen and at ten to the hour the queues were already enormous.
The staff seemed well-organised though and held their own gracefully in the face of the hungry mancunian masses (not an easy task, it has to be said.)
It didn't take long for me to be seated with a never-before used menu (I could almost smell the freshness!) amidst aromas of fresh ginger and sounds of sizzling meat skillets. The kitchens were already in full military operation (they were obviously expecting the hordes) and bowl after bowlful of steaming fresh ramen was being whisked off to those lucky few first in-line, I've got to say - the smell was sensational and I was absolutely drooling.
The waiter recommended Shoryu Ramen's classic pork belly ramen, or 'Tonkotsu' - this one's a rich 12-hour cooked broth topped with char siu barbecue pork belly, nitamago egg, kikurage japanese mushrooms, spring onion, ginger, nori seaweed - all topped with sesame seeds.
It sounded good - and looked even better - bowls of the stuff were flying out faster than I could turn around - but I was in the mood for something with a bit more of a kick so I opted for the curry ramen instead (hot green curry, chicken karaage - lightly battered - nitamago egg, red chilli and lime.)
A few things to note about the place before we get onto the main event - the chopsticks are good, sturdy chaps and most importantly - tractable. Too often these days you're presented with two sticks with more slither than Severus Snape and it's impossible to grab hold of anything but a few grains of rice which fall defeatedly back into your bowl before they reach your mouth. You're left annoyed and - still hungry.
"The terminators of the chopstick world"
These ones were like the terminators of the chopstick world and I felt like a smug, well-practiced local sitting there. Another welcome little novelty is the garlic press and bowls of nice big fresh cloves at every space - available to squeeze-at-will into your bowl. My dining partner found this particularly amusing and proceeded to play with them with a face that suggested Christmas had come early while we waited for the food (I wasn't on day-care duty by the way, he's 25.)
Our ramen arrived right on time, piping hot and looking picture perfect, and unlike fast-food chains whose posters advertise burgers so big they look like they've been on steroids (and a far-cry from the slightly squashed result you actually get) these bowls were huge and looked just as good, if not better, than advertised.
"Generous portions and full to the brim with steaming goodness"
I can't argue with the £12.50 price tag.
I dived into a paradise of fragrant flavour and sumptuous chunks of hot chicken karaage. I broke up the nori seaweed served with it and sprinkled it in, adding a rich, slightly salty taste. It's a real body thaw-er if you're cold and certainly one to cleanse and clear the sinuses! I felt like a million quid afterwards - as though I'd just been on a week-long spa retreat.
It's a little on the pricey side for a quick lunch, but the generosity of the portions and obvious love and attention with which it's been made, in my opinion more than make up for it - it's a hearty lunch or dinner that's full of taste and leaves you smiling for a long time afterwards.
If you're looking for something relatively healthy and filling to warm you up on a chilly day, I can't recommend this place enough.
I'll definitely be going back again soon. The pork broth is calling...