When US-born Tim Anderson won ‘MasterChef’ and announced he’d be opening a Japanese ‘soul food’ restaurant, there was a whole lot of excitement. Then waiting. Waiting. And more waiting. Some got tetchy. Others were patient. Then finally, in late 2015, it arrived. Was it worth the wait? ’Course it bloody was.
Sure, it’s not the cosiest spot, with its bright lighting and hard backless stools (top tip: go with a few friends and ask for one of the upstairs booths-on-wheels instead). But the staff are lovely and this place is all about the cooking – think comfort food with Asian flavours. Like the chicken karaage: with its crunchy chilli-and-salt flour coating, it was good enough to rival the Keralan fried chicken at nearby Kricket (and that’s saying something). Then there was horumon yaki. Yes, okay, it’s pig tripe (aka stomach ‘parts’) but don’t let this put you off. It’s not at all ‘offaly’, just extremely tender, stir-fried with crunchy rice and sprouts, plus salty, sweet and sour flavours with a fiery hit at the end. Of the small plates, only the electric eel disappointed, mostly because the oily fish needed more pickle.
Large plates are good, too: mentaiko pasta (a retro dish found in hipster NYC noodle joints) was a little like a creamy cod roe version of a carbonara. Rich and satisfying, it’s pretty much the perfect hangover cure. And finally, the absolute must-try: curry goat tsukemen. Two bowls: one containing the curry and the other a firm ramen, half a tea-pickled egg (oh and a garnish of bamboo shoots picked with Scotch bonnet chillies that deserves a mention). This reminded me of a rendang, with its melting, tender meat and intense flavours.
If you consider yourself an adventurous diner, Nanban should absolutely be on your bucket list.