Kanada-Ya in Piccadilly
Only one Kanada-Ya in London clearly does not suffice, as a new branch of the international Japanese restaurant has opened a mere 12 minute walk from the first. Nestled on the Haymarket, a convenient respite from the frantic Christmas shoppers, its bright interior and attentive staff offer an upbeat and sociable atmosphere.
The décor manages to strike a note between utilitarianism and quirkiness. Rows of simple pine booths, clean lines and simple colours are offset by beach ball-sized light orbs suspended over the diners and huge polka dot mirrors on the ceilings.
A ramen bar specialising in Tonkotsu (pork bone broth), Kanada-Ya was founded in 2009 by Kazuhiro Kanada on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. The relatively short menu is refreshing; Kanada-Ya focuses on what it does best. Diners can customise their ramen by choosing the texture of the noodles, from soft to extra firm, and by adding extras such as nori (seaweed). To further customise meals, garlic paste, ginger, seaweed and sesame seeds are laid out on each table.
For our ramen, we select one bowl of Original and one of Chashu-Men. They include 18-hour pork bone broth, a special secret sauce, pork, hand-pulled noodles, nori, wood ear fungus and spring onion. The Chashu-Men has the addition of pork collar to this (for the extra hungry or meat-enthused). We opted to add charred black garlic sauce (Ma-yu) and a Hanjuku egg.
All the food arrives at the same time and every dish is as pleasing on the tongue as its exotic name. The ramen comes in deep bowls, beautifully presented with all sorts of colourful treasures peeking out. Rich, deeply meaty and flavoursome, they are both a joy. The delicately thin pork collar in the Chashu-Men falls apart easily and the firm noodles are textured and sturdy. The addition of the Hanjuku egg is highly recommended, a couple of soft-boiled jewels that burst with flavour and fall apart in the mouth. The obliging waiting staff are happy to talk through the ingredients and the history of Tonkotsu.
To complete our meal we have Karaage, Japanese fried chicken, which we eat with our fingers and dunk in mayonnaise. It’s succulent inside, but dry and crispy on the outside.
Our generously proportioned side of Paolo’s Kale, latticed with spicy sauce, is part chewy and moist, part crispy. The salt isn’t distributed very evenly, but it’s a tasty, healthy side snack all the same. These last two items are new additions to the Kanada-Ya menu.
To wash it all down we chose Sparkling Mio Sake (sweet and very drinkable), followed by Japanese fruit liqueurs, which are smooth and fragrant. Umeshu liqueur is made from ume, a Japanese sour plum, and is reminiscent of cooked plum desserts: spicy, sour and sweet. Yuzushu liqueur is made from the Yuzu fruit, which tastes of a mixture of citrus fruits. It’s refreshingly zingy, despite its sweetness.
The hearty serving sizes only just allow for a dessert to round off the evening. We share a bowl of Matcha Soft Serve ice cream, a delicate treat that playfully combines Western confectionery style with traditional Japanese flavours.
Japanese cuisine may not be the most obvious choice for winter comfort food, but Kanada-Ya, with not a roll of sushi in sight, offers hearty, authentic ramen and delicious sides that will make you glow from the belly outwards.
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To book a table at Kanada-Ya, 3 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL, call 020 7930 3511 or visit here.