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.
The 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.
As 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.
(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.)
The 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.
A 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?
Kanada-Ya, 3 Panton St, London, SW1Y 4DL
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.