Giles Coren reviews Kanada-Ya
14th March 2016
‘Me. The world’s greatest restaurant critic. Who hates queues. Waiting in the rain for a bowl of soup’
You find me this week queuing in the freezing cold with a dozen young Japanese outside a noodle joint in Holborn. Me. The world’s greatest restaurant critic. Who hates queues. Who believes he is far too important to wait for anything, let alone a restaurant table. Who is old and mean and doesn’t much like young people. Or noodles for that matter. Waiting in the wind and rain with strangers for a bowl of soup. Like a bloody homeless.
18th November 2016
London’s most authentic tonkotsu
Founded in the small city of Yukuhashi on the southern island of Kyushu in 2009 by Mr Kazuhiro Kanada, Kanada-Ya’s London outpost has been known for serving up some of the most authentic ramen in the city since it opened in September 2014. Pork bones are simmered for 18 hours to make their unbeatable broth, and the wheat noodles are made on site with an authentic Japanese machine to your bespoke preference. Its site state’s that the team are “specialists in authentic tonkotsu ramen”. They’re not lying.
64 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LE
About Time Magazine
18th November 2016
Best Spicy Ramen in London: For Taste
1. Spicy Yuzu Ramen at Kanada-Ya, Soho
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The Ramen: Spicy Yuzu Ramen – spicy yuzu, pork and chicken bone broth and chashu pork collar (£12)
The Lowdown: Kanada-Ya should be on every ramen lovers list – noodles don’t get much better than this. Originally established in Japan, the kitchen crew make all noodles on site with a special machine, imported from the motherland. They also use a very specific brand of flour, enriched with the right protein content and alkaline salts to produce a bouncy, firm noodle capable of standing up to the rich broth.
Order: One of the best spicy ramen in London – it’s seriously good, and will warm your cockles on a cold London evening. The spicy yuzu paste and the meaty broth is a winning combination, and the chashu pork collar is melt-in-the-mouth delicious. I’d recommend adding in a Hanjuku egg. And the Japanese fried chicken served with wasabi mayonnaise should be ordered. Immediately.
Where: 3 Panton Street, Soho, SW1Y 4DL London
Michelin for Millenials
18th November 2016
Not the kind that you get out of a packet, albeit delicious. I’m talking silky, fatty, bone marrow-y 14 hour pig broth. The kind of thing that makes my vegetarian mother shrink back in fear from across the table. More technically, what I’m really on about is Tonkotsu broth (the basis for Hakata Ramen). First introduced to this idea by the legendary David Chang, on Mind of a Chef back in 2012, I suddenly realised how deeply I had been swindled by the likes of Wagamama’s and Hare and Tortoise over the years. No longer must I confine myself to the weak and watery depths of their ramens.
Compared to any chef or ‘ramaniac’, I obviously know nothing about the history or diversity of ramen. But, like so many others my age, know what I like, want what I like, and am willing to put in the time and money to find it. ‘Millennials’, as we are dubbed, have the world at their fingertips, and with all that within tantalising reach we’re not going to put up with lacklustre broth. We demand more, and following the ‘ramen-boom’ of the 90s and 2000s, it seems we came at just the right time.
I live in London, and I can tell you that it is currently a pretty decent location to nurture one’s taste for all things pig. The better-known ramen spots include; Kanada-Ya in central (uses Burford Brown eggs for which I give it extra points), Bone Daddies and their 20hr broth (which I must admit was maybe too rich and lacked nuance), Koi Ramen Bar in Brixton (all round very good and helped by the lively atmosphere) and Shoryu Ramen (varied dependent on location). It’s clear that Londoners like ramen, it’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s bloody delicious and it’s Instagrammable. And that’s everything a Gen-Yer could ask for, right?
Tonkotsu, and the ramen-craze more generally, is the grown-up, sophisticated version of instant noodles. We get to keep all that intense umami flavour (could it be the MSG?), but with the seamless balance of wood-ear mushrooms, spring onions and chasu pork.
If anything was going to be a signifier of the millennial generation, it would likely be the self-declaration of foodie types. Now I admit, a lot of us will proclaim such devotions and be seen scoffing a BigMac the next minute…I blame the alcohol…but I do truly believe that this inclination to seek the biggest best new thing is leading us to some really great grub. Okay, so maybe that’s not the epiphany that you were expecting, but its good food, good flavour and good culture, and that’s good enough for me.
NOTE: I regret to say that the best tonkotsu I have ever experienced I will likely never see again for; 1. It was in Melbourne and 2. The name of the place was written in Japanese and I would be hard-pressed to remember even if I hadn’t been several Sakes down.
For more about Ramen, head over to my bible, Serious Eats.
Pickles and Pork
18th November 2016
If this Autumnal weather calls for one thing, it’s a hearty, warming meal. When it’s pissing it down with rain outside, there’s nothing better than people watching with a big, warm bowl of steaming ramen. Rather unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what Kanada-Ya on the corner of St. Giles delivered this lunch time.
The tiny outpost, which has actually be open for a little over two years now and sits opposite the rather soulless Ippudo, delivers some of the best and as I’m reliably informed by a number Japanese friends, authentic, ramen in London.
We start with truffled edamame beans to whet the appetite. The perfect amount of saltiness, which when washed down with a beer feels very much like the Asian equivalent of salted peanuts, with quite a strong hint of truffle. Great if you’re a big fan of the truffle trend, however personally there was little too much for my taste – next time I’ll stick to the salted.
Next up, the main event, two large bowls of steamy, porky goodness. For me, the classic Tonkotsu – perfectly cooked noodles just on the first side of firm, tender pork, heaps of wood-ear mushrooms, spring onions and nori, with the most mouth-watering creamy broth. And it’s the broth that makes it. ramen can so often be let down by a watery, pretty flavourless broth, but this is anything but. The balance of creaminess, meatiness from the pork, and umami is perfect. So much so I could slurp up just a bowl of that alone.
My dining partner opted for the Gekikara, which featured a deeper red, spicy broth, with a mountain of ‘tan-tan’ style minced pork. For spice lovers, this is heaven in a bowl. The same creamy, salty broth, but with a punchy after hit of spice, this is enough to convince anyone that when done well, spice is fantastic.
To go with our ramen, we also shared the karaage – tender bits of fried chicken – think a Japanese version of KFC, just *much* better – served with a side of house-made mayo and a wedge of lime, the meat was tender, juicy, and packed full of flavour.
Getting a table at the St. Giles branch can be a little tricky. As is the London trend, there’s no reservations, but it’s worth the 20 or so minute queue on a lunch time when you fancy a good feed. You’ll come away feeling satisfied, but also wanting to go back for more.
64 St Giles High Street
18th November 2016
TRUFFLE AND TONKOTSU AT KANADA-YA RAMEN BAR
Kanada-Ya’s new Haymarket digs smell like some fragrant wonderland in which pigs spend their days happily rooting out truffles before ritually boiling each other alive.
The air hangs thick with the rich scent of tonkotsu – slowly simmered pork bone broth – and the truffle that differentiates Kanada-Ya’s latest menu from the rest of London’s flourishing ramen scene. I can tell you now that the combination is a knockout. Admittedly, a steaming bowl of noodles isn’t always what you want in the middle of June, but this is London and in London it’s always important to have a warm and comforting back-up plan for when the weather inevitably does a number on you and shits it down for seven days straight.
The other, original branch of Kanada-Ya is sandwiched in the geographical gooch between Seven Dials and Tottenham Court Road, surrounded by cranes and the various other things the digging Johnnies in orange high-vis require to make a mess of the public highways. You’ll have noticed it because there is always an enormous queue outside – too enormous to contemplate – but you’re in luck because the new gaffe takes reservations. It sits in a gastronomic vacuum just south of Piccadilly Circus, counting Planet Hollywood, an Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse and a Pizza Express as its neighbours. You can’t miss it – it’s the only place in the area that isn’t total shit.
Kanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barThe new restaurant’s menu is much larger than the original, with the addition of the aforementioned Truffle-Ramen with chashu pork collar (£14.00) and a few other variations. The truffle dish is superb if you, like me, absolutely adore the stuff, but some may find it overpowering. The broth is thick with umami and literally lip-smacking, though there isn’t much variation as you navigate through it; the truffle gets up in your grill and screams in your face, while its mates – pork collar and spring onion – shuffle in the background.
Kanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barAs a truffle lover, the mere recollection of it a day later has my mouth involuntarily making the kind of noise you’d associate more with one of Tulisa’s home videos than a trip to Piccadilly Circus. It is not the appropriate choice for people who have had a big lunch, but there are some less intense options too, like my dinner date Becky’s Gekikara (£13.00), which came with a mound of minced pork floating in a lake of very lightly spiced broth. In any event, you should absolutely add a hanjuku egg (£1.50) to the mix for that extra hit of rich, silky yolk, though I do feel that at these prices an egg – arguably the best bit – should be included. It’s like being charged extra for salt and vinegar on your chips.
Kanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen bar(If you wanted to learn to make those bad boys at home, however, I learned how to make them at School of Wok – recipe here.)
Kanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barThe new menu also introduces a small selection of sides – which are totally unnecessary, by the way, unless you’re a bear or haven’t eaten in days or both. The food gets banged out so quickly here I suggest you take it slow and order it as you need it. If you just want something to nibble on, the Truffle Edamame (£4.00) is stupendous, a decadent twist on the ordinary salt and sweet chili variations. The Karaage – Japanese-style chicken with homemade mayo – is good, with a thick and crusty batter, though pricey at £6.50 a portion, and a little stingy on the sauce. I was less impressed with the Seared Chashu Pork Belly (£3.00); it was too thin and too dry, and positively anemic when presented without a soak in a bowl of broth.
Kanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barKanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barKanada-Ya Panton Street Haymarket ramen barA portion of soft-serve ice cream to share rounded us off, Wicked witch-green. I gave it a try but I’d just spent the week snorting Italian gelato in Sicily, rather ruining Mr Whippy-style scoops for me forever. Fortunately, Beck was on hand to polish it off.
The competition between London’s ramen bars has been fierce since the trend took off a couple of years ago, and, after much selfless experimentation, I struggle to choose a favourite between Kanada-Ya and Bone Daddies. In any case, the new Panton Street address is worth checking out for the truffled version alone – it’s probably not the most authentic of ramen dishes, but, well, who gives a fig?