Christmas time is quite possibly the best excuse to dine out with friends, and it's even better after a spot of Christmas shopping. I am a big fan of Japanese food, especially ramen, so when Shoryu Ramen invited us to sample the Christmas menu, we jumped at the chance.
From now until 30 December, Shoryu Ramen invites customers to enjoy a selection of dazzlingly delicious dishes to get you in the festive spirit, including seasonal cocktails.
Located slap bang in London’s bustling West End, it's conveniently located for those looking to grab a bite to eat after indulging in retail therapy. Established in 2012 and recommended in the Michelin Guide every year since 2014, Shoryu Ramen brings Hakata, Japan to the UK under the creative visions of Hakata natives Tak Tokumine and Kanji Furukawa.
There is a cool laidback vibe combined with a bustling undercurrent. It's apparent the attentive staff are passionate about Japanese culture and food, which is prepared in an open kitchen, allowing diners to watch the chefs cook as they sit back and catch up with friends.
Shoryu knows its ramen. As they proudly proclaim on the website, ‘it’s in their bones’. I’ll vouch for that. The limited-edition Christmas menu offers a variety of top-notch ramen, moreish street food and side dishes, such as BBQ Pork Bun with Char Siu BBQ Pork Belly with Japanese Mayo and the signature ramen - Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu.
For starters we enjoyed the Japanese Pork and Pumpkin Croquette Buns. The Pumpkin Croquette Bun was deliciously crispy and I loved the smooth ,melt-in-your mouth hirate sauce and Japanese mayo! For mains, my dining partner and I chose the signature Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu, a ramen to write home about - even if you live in London! This dish is a creamy slow cooked pork broth with a special blend of noodles, umami rich soup and toppings all cooked for over 12 hours to perfection. Divine.
For dessert we had the Matcha Cheesecake and the Mochi Ice Cream in green tea and coconut flavours, both of which were fab.
Of course, no festive meal is complete without cocktails. We tried the Christmas signature sake, The Ginza Snowflake, a beautiful drink comprised of sparkling sake and red berry puree, perfectly presented in a champagne glass sprinkled with icing powder with red berries resting delicately on top. For non drinkers, there is the Virgin Snowflake, which consists of yuzu tonic with red berry puree.
Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love retreating indoors to curl up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate as I gaze out the window watching the leaves turn. So, when I heard one of my favourite restaurants, Sake No Hana, was also embracing the season with an installation and a menu celebrating the Japanese maple leaf season, I had to visit.
The last time I popped into Sake No Hana was to try their Sakura menu, which featured a gorgeous installation celebrating the beloved Japanese cherry blossom season, so I was interested to see how they’d transformed the space for autumn. From now until 24 November, the front entrance of Sake no Hana is bedecked with a striking autumn leaves installation, inspired by the ‘momiji-gari’ (the Japanese tradition of viewing the maple leaves).
The experience continues indoors with food and cocktails, which also nod to the season with a focus on seasonal ingredients and autumnal flavours.
One could easily forget they’re in the heart of London’s bustling West End once they step inside to this sleek space. The striking interior – designed by esteemed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma – is stunning thanks to linear bamboo that covers the main walls and bamboo blinds that help to create a cocooning shelter from the outside world.
We reckon this has to be one of the nicest places to escape from the pre-Christmas shopping crowds, giving you a sense of smug satisfaction for discovering such a chic space away from the madness.
The limited-edition menu created by Executive Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi includes a variety of mouth-watering dishes such as: kinoko misojitate; shitake tofu (shiitake mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce); salmon kurumi miso yaki and tori sumiyaki.
The starters were fab. I particularly enjoyed the crispy truffle rice balls with seasonal mushrooms, which were a bit similar to Italian arancini, and the comforting wild mushroom and chilli yuzu miso soup was the perfect cure for warming the cockles on a chilly autumn day. Surprisingly, the tofu, which despite its reputation for being bland and joyless, was also delicious thanks to seasonal mushrooms.
For mains, we had the pan-fried Loch Duart salmon with walnuts and Kyoto miso, which was really scrummy thanks to its melt-in-the-mouth texture and sweet caramel-like sauce and the chargrilled miso chicken with sesame chilli, was tender and juicy, while the charred peppers gave a bit of oomph to the dish. Greedily, we accompanied the meat dishes with a large bowl of sticky rice, which given how much we’d already consumed, wasn’t necessary, but we couldn’t help ourselves!
After the mains we devoured a selection of sushi. A real box of delights, the sushi arrives in a beautiful plexiglass box, with the waiter lifting the lid to unveil the treats within. Beautiful little morsels of joy, each lovingly prepared piece of sushi was seriously moreish. A special shout out goes to the Waygu beef with asparagus and caramelized onion and kizami wasabi, which was rich and flavourful (I could easily live off these).
The star of the show, however, was the hazelnut and chocolate parfait with a mascarpone mousse, which is quite possibly my new favourite dessert. In fact, I think I might weep if it disappears from the menu! Delectable and delicious, it had a lovely balance of textures thanks to the liquid chocolate centre, which is set off nicely by the delicate crunch from the base.
The limited-edition drinks
For those who like their cocktails toasty, there’s a limited-edition maple toddy (a warming cocktail comprised of Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Akashi-Tai Umeshu sake, ginger, maple, chocolate and topped with edible rice paper art) and for those who like their cocktails sweet, there’s the Shisho 54, made with Belvedere vodka, Midori, lime, shisho, Fever-Tree slimline tonic and Prosecco. Our favourite cocktail (and the most beautiful), however, was made with Belvedere vodka, cardamom, mandarin, yuzu and edible rice paper art fashioned in the shape of a maple leaf.
If you want reasonably priced sushi in swanky surroundings, then look no further. Priced at only £40pp the limited-edition menu (with the option to add a sharing cocktail flight for £23.00), means you really can’t go wrong for such great quality Japanese cuisine smack bang in the middle of London.
Because one can never have too many blossoms in their life...
From now until the 18th of June, Saka no Hana is celebrating the arrival of spring with the return of the cherry blossom garden in the Sake no Hana bar. Guests will love the gorgeous cherry blossoms, which decorate the space, giving it an ethereal feel. The breath-taking atmosphere is carried throughout the restaurant via a cherry blossom archway, which covers the escalators to the main restaurant, to instantly transport guests to a magical experience.
To celebrate the cherry blossom season, Saka no Hana has created a limited edition Sakura menu (£34.00 per person) featuring a cocktail, miso soup, a sushi and sashimi bento box and a main course.
We kick started our visit in style with the signature cocktail, the Kaori Arpege, which featured Beefeater 24 gin, yuzu sake, cherry liqueur, peach bitters, grapefruit juice and agave. The cocktail arrived with three atomisers (each featuring a different flavour to spray the cocktail), which we found very exciting - even if we weren't quite sure what we were spraying each time we gave it a go!
For our main course, we had the chicken sumiyaki, featuring large chunks of chicken, which were very moreish. For dessert, we had the cherry chocolate sake mousse and the chocolate crumble with sake jelly (£8.50), which were lovely.
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