Founded in Japan in 2009, this award-winning tonkotsu specialist arrived in London in September 2014. Small, brightly lit and minimal, it is not the place for a leisurely meal. And it has a serious downside: lengthy mealtime queues outside its doors. We queued outside for a chilly 45 minutes for a (shared) table. Once inside, it felt like being in a goldfish bowl, as hungry and hopeful diners watched us through the windows slurping our noodles.
But there’s a reason for Kanada-Ya’s already-large fan base, which includes plenty of Japanese and Chinese customers: this is exceptional ramen. Pork bones are simmered for 18 hours to create the smooth, rich, seriously savoury tonkotsu broth – one of the best we’ve tried in London. Bowls of this are then filled with thin wheat noodles made on-site thanks to a noodle gizmo imported from Japan. They’re cooked to your specification, from super-firm to super-soft. Toppings range from pork belly slices to pork belly and blanched beansprouts or pork collar. (That’s right: if you don’t eat pork, forget it.) You can add extra bits and pieces such as soft-boiled marinated eggs (a must) or pickled mustard greens, although these were on the table anyway when we visited.
To go with your ramen you can splash out on onigiri (rice triangles) stuffed with pickled plums or salted salmon – but you won’t need them. Drinks are strictly soft. If you want to try a classic Japanese fizzy drink, go for the Ramune. But be warned: it tastes seriously synthetic.
The staff were lovely. They even agreed to charge our phone for us. Interactions are minimal, however, as choosing your meal involves no more than ticking choices on a paper order sheet. If you want nothing more than excellent noodles in broth, Kanada-Ya’s the place for you.