I am a picky eater when it comes to Ramen. Ramen has often been associated with the most exciting food experiences of my life, as well as some of the most disappointing. The first being in Japan, the second being in London.
Over the years, Ramen restaurants have flourished in London and you will find a lot of restaurants offering what they describe as “Authentic” Ramen. The broth is often fade, the noodles plain, the pork dry and tasteless.
I have often heard and read about Kanada-ya. Foodies and bloggers of London have often cited Kanada-Ya as the best Ramen restaurant in town. As with great reviews come great responsibilities. I have been avoiding Kanada-Ya too afraid to be disappointed by a London Japanese restaurant once again.
On a rainy Saturday, after some shopping around Chinatown, i was really craving for an authentic Japanese Ramen, so it was time to give Kanada-Ya a go.
Is Kanada-Ya really the Best Ramen in London?
Kanada-Ya is a famous Ramen Shop located in the heart of London at St Giles High street near Tottenham court Road tube station.
Kanada-Ya originates from the Fukuoka prefecture in Japan. The name of the restaurant derivates from the name of his founder Kanada San. The legend says that Kanada-San was a professional Keirin racer (Cycle racing) who after a shoulder injury decided to become a Ramen master.
After several attempts to master the perfect broth, a visit to a Ramen school and years of practice and devotion Kanada-san opened in 2008 the first Kanada-Ya restaurant in the city of Yukuhashi.
His Ramen shop quickly became one of the most popular in Japan.
Kanada-Ya opened his first restaurant in London in September 2014 and has now two locations in the city: The original venue in 64 St Giles High street and, following the success of their first Restaurant another one has opened end of 2015 in Haymarket, 3 Panton Street.
You can read more about the story of Kanada-ya on their website.
What you need to know about Kanada-Ya St Giles High Street (the one i have visited), is that the restaurant does not take reservation and has a small seating capacity (around 20+). People often queue outside of Kanada-Ya in order to get a seat.
The menu at Kanada-ya revolves around Ramen. They offer 6 different types of Ramen from traditional Tonkotsu and Chashu-men to more original creations such as the Spicy Yuzu Ramen or Truffle Ramen.
Looking at the Ramen menu, we can notice that they advertise the broth to be, an 18 hours home made bone broth developed by their Ramen Master Mr.Kanada from Fukuoka Japan. We can now understand the importance of Tonkotsu Ramen at Kanada-Ya as the Tonkotsu Ramen originated from Fukuoka. It is an important distinction to make for Ramen-Addict. As you might know the Tonkotsu ramen’s broth is usually on the Kottori (rich) side of heaviness in opposition to the Assari broth being lighter.
When ordering your Ramen you can choose the hardness of your noodle whether you like them Extra hard, hard, regular or soft (They do recommend you to order them hard). It is a common set up of Japan, and the sign of a good Ramen restaurant.
The price of the Ramen varies from £10.50 to £14.
Topping and extras are also available to order with your Ramen: Kaedama, Hanjuku Egg, Extra seaweed, Karamiso, Ma-yu and Spicy Yuzu paste.
In addition to the Ramen, Kanada-Ya serves small plates of dishes such as Kaarage (Japanese fried chicken), Edamame or Aburi Chashu (Pork belly). They also sell a plate of white rice with pork (Chashu-Don) and several types of Onigiri (Japanese rice ball).
One thing I like with the menu at Kanada-Ya is the fact that there are only a few items, which implies that they focus only on what they can do best. You do not have this trend of offering hundreds of items as it is the case in other Ramen shops in London. (The more items i see on a menu, the more careful i am about the quality of the food and the ingredients!).
My review: The Chashu-men
As mentioned above, i have visited Kanada-Ya on a Saturday afternoon, after a vital urge for authentic Japanese ramen. I went there at 4:45, fifteen minutes before the 5pm reopening and people were already queueing in front of the restaurant. Good sign!
After a look at the menu, i decided that i would try their Chashu-men (one of my favourite type of Ramen) with an additional Hanjuku egg. The service was super quick and my order arrived in 5 minutes with a cheerful smile.
First of all in terms of presentation, when the Chashu-men arrived it was looking like a proper Ramen (Finally!)! A sleek presentation with the right amount of toppings and an attractive creamy broth. I was ready for the tasting!
Let’s focus on the Broth first. It is for me the key element of a Ramen. A good broth can save bad noodles and pork, but a flavourless broth will ruin your Ramen experience no matter what.
In this case, the broth of the Chashu-men has been served at perfect temperature. In terms of thickness and creaminess, the broth was well balanced for a Chashu-men, it was rich but not too fat. Overall, the broth was tasty but lacked a bit of depth for my personal taste.
Regarding the noodles, based on their recommendation, i have ordered the “Hard” option. It was the right thing to do, they were really good. Perfect texture for proper Ramen noodles.
The pork (Chashu). Ok from my point of view the pork is often a hit or miss and is one of the key features of a good Ramen. The part of the pork served with the Chashu-men at Kanada-Ya is the collar. First thing i have noticed is the ratio Fat/Meat which is pretty honest (1/5). I hate it when Ramen Restaurants serve you slice of meats that are exclusively fat and almost no meat. In terms of texture, at first bite, their pork was dry. I have left the pork simmer for a few minute in the broth and it got a much nicer tender texture, it was ok.
The Hanjuku egg : Once again it is a hit, the egg is well cooked and the yolk is still creamy. The egg is a really good addition to the Chashu-men and it goes well with the broth. It gives a great mix of flavours, textures and a hot&cold combination.
Regarding the Toppings, they serve just the right amount of wood ear fungus, spring onion, and the nori on the side. I like the wood ear fungus who tend to add an additionnal texture to the dish.
On the side, you also have extra seasoning at disposition such as pickled red ginger (goes well with Tonkatsu). It is missing a few key elements but it is just my personal opinion.
In terms of Size, the portion of the Ramen is correct. It is filling but not too much. I haven’t tried to ask for Kaedama (an extra serving of noodles) to finish my broth. (I even wonder if they do it at Kanada-Ya?)
Price : At £16.50 for a ramen with an extra egg, Kanada-Ya is not cheap. It is quite pricey for a bowl of Ramen but it stays within London’ standard. In fact, when i think of the other awful Ramen joint where i could have wasted my money that day, i think i made a pretty good deal.
Overall, the experience at Kanada-Ya was good. I expected nothing less from the, often cited Best Ramen restaurant in London. It did not amaze me, but it certainly did the job. For anyone looking for an authentic Ramen experience in London, Kanada-ya is a good place to visit.
I had really high expectation when i visited Kanada-Ya for the first time. If Kanada-Ya won’t remain as one of my best Ramen experience. It is certainly a Must-try for anyone hoping to be served authentic Japanese Ramen in London.
I will certainly visiting again!
Overall : 4/5
Taste : 4/5
Price for value : 4/5
The Restaurant : 4/5
Kanada-Ya Covent Garden
64 St Giles High Street, London, WC2H 8LE
tel: 0207 240 0232
Opening Hours :
- Monday to Saturday : 12:00 – 15:00 / 17:00 – 22:30
- Sunday : 12:00 – 20:30