Having only visited on two occasions, Tokyo is a city I am barely acquainted with. That being said, I am certain I could spend several lifetimes moving between its many districts and still remain blissfully unaware of its daily intricacies and cultural ins-and-outs. I mean, look at the place! The whole city is a huge, confusing, vibrant, crazy, beautiful, maze-like blur.
And the food! Sushi, yakitori, tonkatsu, shabu shabu, tempura, okonomiyaki, yakiniku…it simply does not matter. I will take it ALL! In fact, if I had to choose one cuisine and one cuisine alone to eat for the remainder of my days, Japanese would surely be it.
But wait. It isn’t [or wasn’t, rather] totally a match made in heaven, as there was one food item that I had not been so keen on…and that item was, shamefully, ramen.
Now, before you go ahead and condemn me, I will quickly say: I have changed my ways. I am now a complete ramen obsessor. Even so, I still feel as though I need to explain away my past wrong-doings…which is as simple as stating that, for the most part, I simply do not tend to enjoy noodle soup-type dishes. I like laksa just fine and give me a bowl of pho and I am happy. But are these my dishes of choice? No, not really. It always seems to happen that I down a few mouthfuls before feeling full and perhaps a little bit bored.
However, ramen – more specifically, tonkotsu ramen – has slowly proven itself to be different for me. I not only like it, I crave it. I love that silky, rich pork bone broth, those perfectly soy-seasoned soft boiled eggs and the meltingly tender slivers of chashu pork. Throw in a collection of other goodies to keep each bowl interesting and every bite a surprise…what’s not to love?!
Some of my happiest Tokyo memories involve bouncing around the backstreets of Shibuya and Shinjuku during the winter months, seeking out fantastic little ramen bars with the intent of joining other hungry punters in getting their cheap, quick, rejuvenatingly delicious fix. It is perhaps this memory that best serves as the turning point in my previous aversion towards the dish.
So when the season begins to make a cool change in London, this is now what I immediately turn to, as nothing provides a more comforting cold weather blanket. Based on this, I have gone to great lengths to find places that dish out piping hot bowls for my warmth and satisfaction…and for me, Kanada-Ya is the pick of the bunch.
Sure, sometimes I do prefer the fun, buzzy vibe of Bone Daddies and I genuinely enjoy their full-flavoured tonkotsu soup base, even if I do find it sometimes errs on the salty side. However, if it is taste alone that I am after, or if I am otherwise looking for a hasty solo post-work feed, Kanada-Ya is where it’s at. The outpost on Panton Street tends to be where I frequent because, well…as good as your ramen may be, I am still not queuing for it.
A number of small dishes are on offer to get things going, including onigiri rice balls (from £2 per piece), Japanese fried chicken karaage (£6.50) and edamame with black truffle salt (£4)…but for me, ramen steals the show here and I don’t feel the need to waste precious tummy space on pre-schnacks. If anything, save room for a post-ramen matcha soft serve (£4)! Smooth, not too sweet and heavy on the green tea front (I am a fan of matcha anything), it falls right down my alley.
Given the place specialises in tonkotsu, this is the route I often choose to take. Their original ramen (£10.50) is served with pork belly chashu, wood ear fungus, seaweed and fresh spring onion. Rich, creamy, smooth and deeply savoury, the 18 hour pork bone broth is absolutely delightful. They also cook their hand-pulled wheat noodles to your specification [i.e. soft to super firm], which is always a plus in my books, as nothing makes me more sad than a collection of limp, soggy noodles in the bottom of my bowl.
For something a little different, the truffle ramen (£14) is definitely worth a go. Ramen purists may turn their noses up, but…whatever. I like it. Dished up with the same fantastic broth as the original, this version comes with chashu pork collar, spring onion and a porcini truffle paste that adds a wonderful earthy depth of flavour.
Lighter menu options are also available, including the chicken paitan (£11). The Influencer and I stopped by this week and she absolutely loved the corn-fed chicken broth topped with a secret sauce, chashu pork collar and shredded leek. For those less meat-inclined, they even offer a vegetarian option (£10.50) with a porcini-soya milk broth, secret sauce, white asparagus and avocado ‘sashimi’. If I wasn’t so in love with the tonkotsu, I would almost be intrigued.
Do not go past ordering a hanjuku egg (£2) as an additional topping – this is hands down the best flavoured egg I have ever had! Other optional extras include charred black garlic sauce (£1.50) and spicy red miso (£1.80). Additional seasoning is offered at the table, including minced fresh garlic, sesame seeds and pickled ginger. But it is the pickled spicy mustard greens I keep going back for…with or without the ramen.
For those grumbling about the ramen in London, get yourself to Kanada-Ya. It is some of the best I have had outside of Japan and certainly my favourite here in London. You will not be disappointed!
3 Panton Street
London, SW1Y 4DL
020 7930 3511