Tag Archives: Japanese

Kanada-Ya: tonkotsu ramen worth waiting for

Since Kanada-Ya opened last autumn in St Giles, the restaurant has attracted steady queues of people waiting patiently for a fix of authentic tonkotsu ramen.

The good news for those shivering outside is, Kanada-Ya is not the kind of place you linger for ages. The menu is ultra streamlined, offering just three choices of piggy goodness (vegetarians, look away now). Sure enough, a couple of spots at a window bench became available fairly quickly.

The original, most straightforward option is the Original: 18 hour pork bone broth and hand pulled noodles, topped with pork belly slices, nori seaweed, and dinky piles of julienned wood ear fungus and spring onion.

I opted for the Moyashi ramen, which introduces blanched beansprouts into the mix. I also couldn’t resist an extra topping of Hanjuku egg, a cured Burford Brown which arrived with a rich, technicolour, wobbly yolk.

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Kanada-Ya’s signature 18 hour pork broth has a glorious clarity of taste and a distinctly gelatinous, sticky texture – the restaurant credits their chefs’ meticulous simmering and regular skimming for the end result.

It’s not all about the broth though; the noodles are prepared with equal care, made on site with a specially imported bit of kit from Japan to produce a bouncy, firm noodle capable of standing up to the rich broth. It’s possible to request how you like your noodles cooked when ordering; the staff recommend “hard” because the noodles continue to soften in the steaming broth while you slurp away at your bowl.

Next time I will have to try the Chashu­‐men ramen, which replaces the standard chashu pork belly with large slices of the meatier chashu pork collar.

We also tried Onigiri, seasoned rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed with various stuffings.

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The one with Japanese sour, salty pickled plums in the middle was a fantastic bar snack to accompany a refreshing bottle of Asahi.

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Kanada-Ya serves food worth waiting for – and with the new heaters promising to keep patrons toasty warm as they inch closer to a fantastic dining experience, I’m sure there will be queues for a long time to come.

http://www.kanada-ya.com

64 St Giles High Street

London

WC2H 8LE

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Teppan-yaki at The Matsuri St James

I have wanted to go to Japan for years but have never quite made it. So I’m thrilled that finally, tickets are booked for next spring (honeymoon!) and have been literally feeding my excitement by visiting some of the best destinations for Japanese cuisine here in London.

The Matsuri St James is a traditional Japanese restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. It specialises in authentic (I’m told – ask me again after spring 2015!) and theatrical teppan-yaki, in which fresh fish, meat and vegetables are cooked by a chef on an iron grill in front of customers seated around a semi-circular table.

On arrival, you are greeted by a gigantic mask made of washi paper and bamboo – apparently the symbol of one of the largest Japanese festivals, called Nebuta. The rest of the restaurant carries on this festival theme, such as the colourful kimono worn by the waitresses.

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We started with a newly invented cocktail which as yet has not been named by the skilled barman; the combination of unfiltered sake and passionfruit pulp gave an unusually silky, creamy texture.

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Just the thing to wash away the day’s stresses.

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You can order individual dishes from the a la carte menu at The Matsuri, but it’s more fun to let the knowledgeable staff guide you through the suggested menu of impressively showy dishes, many of which are prepared before your eyes.

The first course was a selection of sushi; turbot, salmon and seared tuna sat atop palm-warm parcels of rice.

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Then the house special, Matsuri roll with plenty of chilli bite:

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Next came tempura, which Mark pronounced the best he’s ever had. The batter was impossibly light and not remotely greasy; it encased perfect specimens of prawns and vegetables.

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Meanwhile the teppan-yaki grill was being fired up and the chef began to prepare the next course in the procession, egg fried rice. Watching the deft knife and stir fry action was mesmerising.

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As well as being a dab hand on the teppan-yaki, the chef was remarkably affable, sharing a couple of trade secrets.

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Top tip: the secret to egg fried rice is to use day-old rice; the dryness means the grains will brown better and give more flavour to the dish.

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I wouldn’t want to betray any of the courses by picking a favourite, but special mention must be given to the black cod, which is marinated for a minimum of three days until it is meltingly cloud-like.

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Chunks of rare, flash fried fillet beef, served with a mild wasabi dip.

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We couldn’t help but rubber-neck at the table next to us, who were clearly having fun with the company card and ordering amazingly marbled wagyu beef:

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To complete the experience, the Fireball Ice Cream is a must for dessert – brandy is poured onto ice cream to create a huge fireball which is then served on a pancake with grilled pineapple.

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For those not in the mood for pyrotechnics, the matcha green tea ice cream is a lovely way to round off an excellent meal.

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Every course was matched by an excellent selection of wines and to finish, the whisky trolley was wheeled over, groaning under the weight of an impressive array of rare Japanese spirits.

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The experience at The Matsuri has made me even more excited to visit Japan; and I will know just where to come to help along the slow countdown until our flight takes off.

I was invited to dine as a guest of The Matsuri and to give an honest review. I will be back!

See Sushi, Paddington

All too often the Japanese food experience for a busy London worker bee is grabbing a plastic-encased, fridge-cold platter from a high street chain to be consumed al desko.

So it’s a real treat to take time to savour properly made sushi over a whole evening. I was invited along to a bloggers’ evening at See Sushi to do just that.

(Disclosure:  the poorly lit, badly focused pictures are taken by my smartphone. The good ones are nicked from Leyla Kazim aka The Cutlery Chronicles):

We started with salmon and tuna tataki…

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Followed by red dragon sushi…

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Spider sushi with soft-shell crab…

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Ebi deluxe – prawns in light and crisp pastry

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Agedashi tofu with aubergine and a radish toadstool

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The star of the show: Black miso cod! I need this back in my life, soon. Beautifully cooked, juicy, meaty and tender.

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There is always room for dessert, especially when it arrives on a wooden galleon! Selection of beautifully carved fruits and chewy, gooey mochi balls filled with ice cream…

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The drinks list boasts an impressive range of spirits. Sake, obviously, but also Shiu Jing Fang Baijiu, a traditional white spirit popular in China for strengthening familial and business bonds, plus Koshu wine which is perfect with sushi.

The “Japanese fusion” menu also includes pan-Asian items such as satays, laksa and pad thai.

Next time I am in the area with a hankering for decent sushi, See Sushi is where I will go. That black miso cod is calling…

Full menu details and prices are available at www.seesushi.com