Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar, St. Giles
Yesterday, I had a serious case of the post-holiday grumps: we'd just returned from a fantastic trip to Sicily the day before, my tan was just starting to fade, and it was cold in London. And raining. Hard. And I'd left my favorite umbrella behind in New York somewhere. Sigh.
Luckily, my friend Laura suggested we meet for lunch at Kanada-Ya - a new(ish) ramen bar that recently opened in St. Giles. Shivering at my chilly, office desk (I was so cold at one point, the top of my thumb went numb - I kid you not), I couldn't think of anything I wanted more than a hot bowl of Japanese ramen noodles, topped with thin slices of pork belly and a beautiful golden egg.
The first thing that struck me about Kanada-Ya is just how small and no-nonsense it is - this is a ramen bar at its simplest. Grab a stool from one of the long, shared tables, select your choices from a menu by checking the appropriate boxes (extra egg? Spicy miso? Extra noodles?), and wait for a fragrant bowl of tonkotsu broth to appear before your face before slurping it up quickly, noisily, and leaving.
When we arrived for lunch, the windows had properly steamed up and we entered a heavenly ramen sauna. If you get there at 12:45 pm, you just might beat the lunch time rush. After 1 pm? No such luck. But the turnover is fast, so if you don't mind waiting at the door for a while, you'll eventually get a seat (if you're shy about splashing soup at strangers, I recommend going with a friend instead, who may or may not judge you for inadvertently doing so).
Both Laura and I opted for the "Original" ramen: 18-hour pork bone broth with pork belly, wood ear fungus (if you're unfamiliar, don't freak out, it's like a mushroom and is damn tasty), an artfully placed slice of nori and a handful of spring onion. I added a Hanjuku egg to mine for an extra £1.80 and Laura chose black garlic sauce for an additional £1.00.
As far as I'm aware, Kanada-Ya has been the first ramen bar to ask how I'd like my noodles cooked: soft, "regular", firm, or extra firm. I went with "regular", which was perfectly al dente. Personally, I prefer the slightly chewier texture and wider, made-on-the-premises noodles at Tonkotsu East, but the tonkotsu broth at Kanada-Ya was to-die-for. Lip-smackingly rich but not overseasoned, the milky, aromatic soup was just the antidote needed for my dismally grey return to London.
Some high-tech filming for what appeared to be a Japanese TV program was going on while Laura and I were there - the cameraman seemed intent on catching both of us at our most inelegant moments. Oh well, I don't think there's an elegant way to slurp ramen. Is there?