Saturday, 4 April 2020

Matsudai Ramen, Cardiff ramen pop-up restaurant review

A number of South Wales’s best cooks have had completely different careers before setting up their acclaimed restaurants.

Sam Evans from Hang Fire Southern Kitchen used to work in graphic design.

Phill Lewis from Dark by Dusty Knuckle worked in social care.

James Chant from Matsudai Ramen is another name to add to that list. The former musician, composer and artist-manager taught himself how to make ‘proper’ ramen when looking for a change in direction in life.

Having had a sell-out run of pop-up nights prior to Christmas 2019, a longer residency at Blue Honey Local followed in early 2020.

This time around their expanded menu included starters and desserts and rotated weekly between different ramen styles - rich and creamy tonkotsu and tori paitan; more delicately flavoured shoyu and shio, and umami-rich miso.

Both nights I visited they were serving either tonkotsu or tori paitan; it wasn’t a coincidence. 

To start, light and squidgy bao buns (£5) were filled with a soft and tender pieces of sweet, soy marinated chashu pork, mayonnaise and slices of cleansing cucumber.

Delicate gyoza (£5) were filled with a light pork mince and accompanied by soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

The starter star of the show was a mound of fried chicken karaage nuggets (£5). Tender of flesh and uber-crisp of crumb, they were drizzled with a compelling curry mayonnaise.

Onto main and a bowl of classic tonkotsu ramen (£13) looked deceptively dinky but it more than compensated in sheer richness and depth of flavour. I was stuffed by the end. The milky-complexioned porky, savoury and creamy broth combined with uber-tender rolled pork slices, fine noodles with plenty of bite, a fudgy soy egg, pickled ginger and greens. It was an absolute belter of a dish and as good a bowl of ramen as I've had anywhere .

On another visit, a bowl of tori paitan (£14) delivered the same effect as the tonkotsu but in poultry form. Rich, creamy, salty and seriously chickeny, the broth was everything I needed on a dreary night and the result of boiling chicken bones for hours and hours. 

I’m already a fan of Matsudai Ramen and I can’t wait to see where they pop-up next. I predict that James Chant is a Cardiff culinary name you’re going to hear a lot more about.

Update 29/09/2020

Matsudai have started home delivery of frozen and fresh ramen kits so you can get a fix of their noodles without having to leave the comfort of your own home. 

Each pack of frozen ramen (£7.50) contains broth, noodles and chashu pork or vegan shiitake soboro. With clear cooking instructions, all you need to do is defrost your kit in the fridge in advance, juggle a few pans and add your own gooey egg and chopped spring onion. 

I’ve seriously enjoyed their meaty, savoury, spicy and creamy tantanmen which was paired with spicy pork mince and sapporo style noodles with plenty of bite.

I’ve also had their gloriously rich, creamy and porky tonkotsu; their savoury, spicy and aromatic miso; and their uber-chickeny tori paitan. 

They were all bloody lush and I highly recommend placing an order.
The Details:

Address - Around Cardiff

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