Kanada-Ya, Panton Street

After visiting Japan my opinion and knowledge of the country’s cuisine has radically altered. I sampled ramen, tempura, yakitori, bento, kaiseke and other specialties, indicating just how varied Japanese dishes can be… it is so much more than just sushi. My visit to Kanada-Ya brought back memories of my recent travels, from the welcoming chants as I entered the restaurant to the flavoursome rich broths I happily consumed.

Kanada-Ya Panton Street is the second branch of this popular casual Japanese eatery. Fans were delighted to discover that this Soho venue seats up to 56 diners and takes booking for groups of six or more, unlike the first Kanada-Ya where there are often tiresome queues outside. The boutique ramen restaurant feels casual and makeshift inside with basic wooden tables and simple lighting… all attention here is on the food.

The menu features a range of Japanese classics, but the ramen takes centre stage. I tried their Original Ramen (18-hour pork bone broth, served with pork belly chashu, wood ear fungus, seaweed and fresh spring onion) a comforting and flavoursome bowl of food. The broth has a meaty intensity and the toppings tasted fresh and vibrant. Guests are invited to choose their noodle consistency from extra firm, firm, regular or soft, though I think its best to take the waiters recommendation on this. For a lighter ramen, nice for lunch, opt for the Chicken-Paitan (corn fed chicken bone broth, secret sauce, chashu pork collar and shredded leek). A side order of Hanjuku egg completes the dish.

From the rest of the menu I really enjoyed the light and crispy Karaage Japanese fried chicken with house mayonnaise, and the strangely enticing Truffle Edamame. For dessert Kanada-Ya offer a strikingly green Matcha Soft Serve, a favourite in Japan, but definitely an acquiried taste here in England.

A meal at Kanada-Ya will cost you around £15-20 a head, and I can honestly say this little eatery offers the best ramen I’ve tasted outside of Japan.

More information about Kanada-Ya here.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Ippudo, Covent Garden

Ippudo’s heritage is long and storied, from Fukuoka Japan in 1985 to New York in 2008 and finally to Europe in 2014. They serve 50,000 bowls of ramen each and every day. As interesting as that may be, the food is better. At Ippudo TMM was taken through the classic range of a Japanese taste palette with dexterous ease by the brigade of highly skilled chefs in the open kitchen, and it was nothing short of delightful.

I feel I should warn you before we go further, dear reader, because in this review I shall say some lovely things about tofu. This is not in my nature, but events conspired against me and I was forced to reassess some of my most fundamental culinary beliefs. Now warned, please read on.

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Sake and gin-based cocktails were the order of the day first up, with the tart crème de cassis lifting the concoction to crisp refreshing notes. Once seated, first up on our menu was a revelation in cream and green – chilled tofu with spring onion with anchovy and kelp. Soft and supple, it worked wonderfully with the salty and sharp notes offered from the toppings. If Ippudo can make me say nice things about tofu, then the battle is already won.


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Tempura king prawns with crispy noodles and an Asian mayo followed, and then the best steam bun you’ve ever had, filled with meltingly soft and sticky pork with Japanese mayo and Ippudo’s original spicy bun sauce. TMM was not alone at the table in drawing comparisons between our steamed buns and “the best McDonald’s you’ve ever eaten”. The fried chicken with grated daikon and ponzu was a particular highlight, with all the best things about Japan meeting Southern hospitality, and getting on famously.


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Delicious treats were arriving thick and fast, and each accompanied by its own sake pairing, from dry and crisp to sweet and heady matching the delicate balances of each dish. Finally, and not without a concerted albeit gluttonous effort to make our way through a range of delicacies, we arrived at our main course – and Ippudo’s specialty – the ramen. One half of the entire menu is given over to variations on the classic Pork bone broth with homemade noodles, thinly sliced pork belly, soft-boiled egg, mushrooms and radishes. Given, dear reader, that TMM is as greedy as he is indecisive, two “small” portions were ordered, one of the seasonal varieties and Ippudo’s classic. Although the seasonal Deep Tonkotsu’s broth was served to the side allowing for dipping and seasoning of the ingredients individually, the classic was lifted yet higher by Ippudo’s secret Umami Dama paste. Complex flavours simply delivered, happy customers, and a tofu convert to top it all off. Not a bad evening’s work from the boys in the kitchen.

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Ippudo seeks to reclaim the energy and passion that has deserted Japanese cuisine in recent years. Hospitality staff and chefs are brimming with gusto, and the kitchen positively vibrates with passion and excitement. The event TMM attended was a small gathering of 20; the kitchen at full flow serving all covers would surely be a sight to behold, worth the trip itself. As when great British summer inevitably disappoints us and you need a clean, healthy, delightfully balanced bowl of the best ramen you’ve probably tasted, Google your nearest Ippudo (for you Londoners that’s St Giles Street WC2 or Canary Wharf) and head over pronto.

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More information on Ippudo and book a table here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MISSY: Sushi masterclass at UNI Restaurant, Belgravia

‘Fusion’ has long been a bit of a buzzword in the food world. Things like ‘tex-mex’ and ‘cronuts’ (look them up) have been conjured from this world of hybrid cuisine. Whether these are successful or not I will let you decide. One fusion that I must encourage the reader to try is ‘Nikkei’ – the increasingly popular marriage of Peruvian and Japanese food. At first this combination sounds unlikely, however, as you start to compare cuisines, similarities start to show; both involve a lot of seafood. Raw seafood. Japan has its sashimi, Peru has its ceviche.

People are more and more bent on ‘experiences’ rather than ‘just’ good food and UNI delivers both with great aplomb. Not only does UNI have a winning cuisine combination, an enviable Belgravia address and friendly, attentive staff, it also offers one of those sought after ‘experiences’ with sushi making classes led by their talented, witty sushi chef, Christian. Arriving at the restaurant, a stone’s throw from Victoria station, I was greeted by one of the charming restaurant staff who was invariably cheerful and helpful as she led me down to the ‘classroom’. The layout of the restaurant works perfectly to allow for the multiple facets of the eatery- you enter at a street level bar/restaurant; one floor lower is the intimate yet elegant ‘classroom’ with tables skirting the sides of the room and a central teacher’s table; a flight of stairs lower still and you reach the restaurant’s most enchanting area. Is it going too far to say it was an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of culinary delights? Yes? Well, it was: atmospheric vaulted booths lined with a metallic wash and one square glass table in the middle – perfect for the sharing style of UNI’s menu. The menu? It’s wonderful. Of the many dishes we had including delicate seared salmon tacos and succulent ceviche I could not fault one.

Though the food was undeniably brilliant, it was the sushi masterclass that really made my experience at UNI. As sushi has exploded across the capital with Wasabis and Itsus opening on every corner, our masterclass taught us the delicacy and skill it takes to make every single one of those thousands of maki rolls in those hundreds of sushi restaurants. Christian taught us with ease and paid attention to each of us to help us perfect our technique (in saying that, I confess my technique is far from perfect). From the beginning we were told about how to make the famously sticky sushi rice before getting stuck in (quite literally) to making our first nigiri. The hour and a half goes by in the blink of an eye or a click of a chopstick and by the end of your lesson you will have an array of homemade sushi made with your own two hands. I could not recommend this experience enough – masterclasses at UNI are £35 each and with that you get to make three different types of sushi, drink plenty of Japanese tea plus a personal sushi rolling mat to take home with you. The next Saturday Sushi Masterclasses are on the 18th April, 16th May, 20th June, 18th July and 15th August. A perfect gift for a friend or, if you’re feeling particularly ‘shellfish’, a great treat for yourself.

More information and book a sushi class at UNI here.

Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.