Over the lockdowns of the last 18 months or so, we’d get used to reading about the devastating impact the restrictions had on the hospitality industry and try to come to terms with the number of local favourites that were closing down around us. It was scary and totally sad. Yet, restauranty deforestation took place alongside wholesome allotment projects that blossomed all around London, and indeed the country. Beautiful shoots of green ‘new’ shone through and where others struggled, these innovators powered on with purple feathers and wonderful Instagrammable branding.
The likes of Dom’s Subs, 4 legs and Willy’s Pies all rose from the ashes like phoenixes and brought fresh colour and life to the London food scene (the only 1 I care about 😉). Other beautiful projects emerged, like one the wonderfully human Service Abnormal which create authentic depictions of this innovation process.
Another example, of course, was Supa Ya – and it was here where I had the honour of dining on Saturday night.
It was absolutely FLAWLESS and all the hype and momentum it gained over lockdown, and then subsequently when they opened their little restaurant on Kingsland Road, was 101% deserved. Oh, how we are spoiled in this city!
Firstly the ambience. To set the scene, I entered with a group of 7. Madness – ‘what are you doing entering a hot ticket like this in such a big group on a Saturday night, you fool!?’ – I can hear you all screaming it. ‘Just go next door’. Alas, fear not! The host was accommodating, frank and effortlessly kind in helping us find our table and then reserving the next available one for our friends. It set the scene for the excellence to come.
Small gestures never go unnoticed when dining. The difference between good and great service may not be a lot in practice, but it feels mountain-like when delivered with aplomb. Half the group went for a pint whilst they waited, and I was one of the lucky 4 who took the first sitting.
The menu takes comforting classics you would associate with a ramen joint and spins other cuisines, notably the Great Jewish Kitchen, into the dishes to create colossal fusion cuisine.
We started with the plate of mixed pickles because we are children of Muswell Hill and that is what we do. There was a cucumber one (soy n sweet), a daikon one (vinegary and spicy) and a carrot one (fresh and mustardy). The hallmark of a good pickle is crunch. It is what makes my pickles distinctly average and what made these ones so remarkably impressive.
We also tried the kohlrabi and cabbage with a ranch dressing and gorgeous green nori dust. Rather than focusing on how punchy it all was, I want to focus on the service for this dish. Alex Ross, my certified hype woman and PR associate lumpily announced to Toby the Host that I wrote a food blog. A little bit of schmoozing and good conversation later, and Toby offers us a starter on the house. He was genuine, friendly and kind. Supportive of me talking about my wish to write and encouraging when I played down the importance of my blog!
I also have no doubt this rapport between our table and the host was inherently supported by establishing that he too was Jewish and our hearty Shabbat Shalom was returned with equal enthusiasm. Free food is always great, but this was one of the most satisfying times I got something offered to me in memory. Thank you!
I’ve somehow navigated 700 or so words without properly mentioning the main event: the ramen. Readers of this blog will know I am not impartial to a good noodle or two, and bleeding ‘eck, these were really good! Show-stopping and groundbreaking whilst remaining comforting and familiar.
I went for their ‘trademark’ (I’m calling it that) salt beef ramen bowl. The stock was deep, rich and warming and topped with melt in the mouth salt beef which replaced the traditional ‘chashu pork’ you’d expect. It was laced with this bacon oil which added a thickness to the stock which coated your mouth in a glorious, if not very Jewishy, way. The nod to the classic salt beef sandwich continued with cucumber pickles.
It came with a fudgy egg which was so friggin’ delicious I monstered it down in one mouthful, instantly regretting it after. It was seasoned all the way through and the yolk was perfection – what more can you ask for?
Aaron got the chicken soup which I immediately described as a ‘hug’. It was buttery, rich and indulgent. Alex got the ‘cabbage and cheese’ which was kind of like an elevated minestrone with notes of miso and heat. It was fantastic and I would love to know what on earth happened to that confit tomato stock to make it so tasty.
Finally – the noodles. Each broth and combo was delicious in its own right, but what united all of them was the noodles. It’s kind of hard to articulate why these were so good because I don’t have the technical expertise of the chef and I am going to have to enter the realms of ‘intangibles’ to try and communicate it. Here are three:
1) they had a deep, floury flavour and held their own against the broth. Sometimes I feel that noodz from lesser establishments are a bit tasteless…
2) the chew was perfect!!!! Right down to the last chopstick full. How do you cook a noodle so well that even after sitting in hot stock for 25 minutes or so, it stays the perfect texture? Kabbalistic magic.
3) The slurp and texture were really interesting too. There was a slight coarseness to the texture which meant the stock, no doubt aided by the depth and weight of the liquid, stuck to the noodles impressively.
That ice cream tho…
I famously don’t have a huge sweet tooth, and when the time to be offered ice cream came round, the table collectively and politely denied. Our favourite host in the world smiled and said ‘if you don’t like it, you don’t need to pay for it’. Nobody says that unless they know the food is spectacular.
N holy smokes – it was! Noodle-infused ice cream which had a distinct wheatiness as well as exceptional creaminess and smoothness was served with a miso caramel to create an extraterrestrial pairing. Quote Richard:
“The best ice-cream I’ve ever had” – now as we all know, I don’t like to over-egg my writing and avoid superlatives at all costs, but I couldn’t disagree with Richard here. It was delicious.
Yup – the moral of the story is ‘thou must go’. It was a great evening. Good music, charming service and impeccable food. Not all restaurants can be memorable beyond the time you eat them. Food is a pleasure, but is often quite instantaneous in the way it comforts you and provides glory. This meal was not.
I wrote this article on Monday morning, a full day and a bit away from all the sensations and tastes I indulged in on Saturday night, and I am still trying to come to terms with that egg. 10/10.
499 KINGSLAND ROAD
SAT 12-3 6-10