49 The Cut London, SE1 8LF ww.yamagoya.co.uk
Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhere were you in the Great Ramen Craze, daddy?’ Sitting on the sidelines shaking my head in disbelief, actually. But now peace has returned and we can all enjoy a warming bowl.
Yes, the Great Ramen Craze, headless chickens running around London screaming’I bloody love pork broth!!’ into each other’s faces and pontificating about bones and fat. Nowhere at the time was safe from the bowl bores.
Thankfully it’s all died down now and Japan’s second or third most famous culinary export can be enjoyed calmly, and there’s never a better time to eat it than when the weather gets cold.
Yamagoya had a temporary home in Regent Street last year but now have set up shop in The Cut, that bit of road that runs from Waterloo to Blackfriars. It’s not the best-known part of London and despite being so close to everything still feels like it’s a distant suburb.
It’s’real’ in fact, there’s even social housing and people down the Cut are office workers and ordinary Londoners, not (social) media types. So of course, there are cafes and restaurants but as yet no artisan bakers.
Yamagoya, which began in Japan 48 years ago and now has 150 branches worldwide, fits right in here with its no nonsense stripped back design and almost fast-food presentation.
Prices fit the look, nothing outrageous. We ate some Chicken Kara-Age which everyone will tell you is’Japanese KFC!’, as if they had just thought that one up. It’s good all the same, crunchy coated chicken thigh meat deep fried, I’ve had better but these were good enough for the money.
Same went for the Gyoza, the fried pork dumplings. I like mine fried a lot more to be a darker brown on the base, these were a bit floppy.
Buy hey, it’s about the Ramen, right? So, from a short selection I went for the Yuzukara Ramen, advertised as containing pork broth and noodles (of course), pork chashu which is pork belly that has been rolled and cooked in a flavoured stock and then sliced into the bowl, Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots and spring onion with the whole lot livened up by the Yuzu Kara paste and jauntily topped with a soft-boiled egg.
Yuzu Kara paste is spicy and citrusy, the Yuzu is a fruit, and this colours the broth a pleasant pea-green colour. It’s not quite as spicy as I like it, but ramen restaurants always have a range of condiments on the table, one of which here is a fiery sesame oil which needs to be used with caution but does a great job. You can also choose from a range of extra toppings to be added back in the kitchen
Ramen noodles, as anyone would have told you a year or so back, whether you wanted them to or not, are made from wheat, water and kansui. The latter might be compared to baking powder and it makes the noodles more springy and adds a touch of acidity, too.
These are very good noodles, perfect to my mind, although I am not of course Japanese. There could perhaps have been more of them though. Even so I am still happy splashing about in my bowl, spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other, pausing only to grab another napkin to mop myself down every few minutes. The broth has good mouth-feel, almost a granular texture which may be down to the all-important fat content.
It comes with a dust of what I think is sesame and a small puddle of sweet syrup. It’s not unpleasant, it’s certainly a talking point. Other, more usual desserts, are also available.
Yamagoya is unpretentious, a stop and slurp shop for people who have to be somewhere else soon.
And that’s how ramen works around the world, don’t get obsessed just get your head down.