In a word:
Anyone in need of some tasty Japanese cuisine. There are groups of friends, couples, those who want a pre-theatre dinner, workers looking for a bite to eat after a long, hard day in the office and of course, tourists. Lots and lots of tourists.
Be prepared and expect to wait…that’s the first piece of advice as this little restaurant tucked away in the heart of Piccadilly often has queues outside the door and onto the street. There may be the odd queue-jumper but that’s only because a table for two may become available before a table for four. When you eventually get inside the building, you’ll notice that it’s actually bigger than it looks.
By bigger, I mean longer. There isn’t much room to swing anything in the room, but then you come to realise that there is space downstairs. Here, it’s much roomier, but there are fewer chairs and tables. It’s cosy and there’s a laid back vibe to the place, perfect for those seeking something a little more down to Earth. Don’t expect the usual knife and fork on the tables. Here, it’s strictly chopsticks and spoons…a little frightening to those who may not be used to using chopsticks – such as me!
First, the drinks. I tend to like the fruity stuff and opt for a Japanese cocktail. They’re famous for their sake and so I go for a Momo-Shu Peach Sake. It might not look like much, but it certainly packs a punch on the taste buds. It’s served in a tall flute glass and is deliciously chilled. If you’re a fan of peach nectar juice then you’ll enjoy the sweet and smooth texture of this drink which is enhanced by the deep undercurrent of sake that instantly hits the mouth with each sip. A winner.
Of course Jack goes for a beer. The Japanese take pride in their beers and Jack is a big fan of the stuff. Served in an icy glass the Kirini Ichibanshibori certainly went down a treat.
I’m always on the lookout for vegetarian dishes and it can be difficult finding ramen that’s meat-free, after all, most ramen is cooked in a pork broth. However, Kanada Ya does offer one. Simply called Vegetarian, this ramen is the ultimate comfort food on a cold evening.
Packed with mushrooms, spring onions, asparagus and cooked in porcini-soya milk, it makes a truly satisfying dish. The broth is bursting with flavour and the noodles are perfectly al dente. It’s served with a thin, crispy sheet of seaweed which adds the right amount of saltiness to the dish.
Jack has something slightly more traditional, the Chashu-Men. It’s another dish oozing flavour served with egg, a thin strip of seaweed, cuts of meat and wood ear fungus. Don’t let the name put you off – it’s another type of mushroom. Jack says the dish reminds him of his time in Japan. It’s that good.
Of course, no meal is complete without a side or two. We opt for the Karaage and the Sake Onigiri. The Karaage may only look like something you’ll find in a KFC shop but it’s so much better than that. It has a mouth-watering crispy coating and the chicken is tenderly cooked. Sprinkle with a little lime juice and dip into the mayo for a truly satisfying bite to eat.
The Sake Onigiri is not to be overlooked either. These two balls of delicately cooked rice have something rather special inside – tender flakes of salmon that melt in the mouth. They are a little tricky to eat, but the blanket of seaweed underneath can be folded with the rice inside and be eaten like a sandwich. It’s a lovely treat.
The menu is a tad small but is big on flavour. You may find yourself having to wait in a queue for a while but it is worth the wait. The exciting menu boasts authentic Japanese cooking and has a fantastic range of flavours, textures and colours. If you’re in the mood for ramen then this really is the place to be, but don’t overlook the amazing side dishes they also have on offer!
3 Panton Street, Haymarket, Soho, London SW1Y 4DL
Tel: 020 7930 2511