499 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AU
The most varied of the noodle family, bathed in alkalized water for a softer effect and stewed in a pool of umami-infused goodness. With the fall of the Meiji era in Japan, the introduction of Chinese noodles revolutionised Japanese cooking. Now this dish: Ramen, already an amalgamation of cultures takes on another ambitious leap in the dainty form of Kingsland rd’s newest ramen joint Supa Ya Ramen.
Luke Findlay’s long-awaited permanent venue follows a flourishing London food scene as the grip of the pandemic loosens. Findlay is not immune however to its squeezes as his last restaurant was opened 5 days before lockdown. Yet Supa Ya Ramen has been open since September, I popped along with my partner to sample their new summer menu.
The 20-seater diner is an example of relaxed Asian-inspired cool. Funky 90s rap bubbles bombastically in the background, the walls are adorned with wishy-washy pastel watercolours, and the troop to the toilet is past shelves of ingredients. Stools and low wooden tables dictate intimacy and slouching (and maybe a touch of back pain?). But these folks are far too trendy for lower lumbar issues. Findlay and his 3 chefs are visible in the steaming kitchen, the 60s canteen lights cast a rosy glow on the happy slurping faces of the diners and industrious faces of the staff.
This is a micro-restaurant, and so some things must be forgiven. Cleverly serving all drinks in cans neatly saves room that would be taken up by a bar. Having them all (beers, wines, cocktails) at a very reasonable 5 pounds is refreshingly egalitarian. Wine in a can? Yes, we can indeed. Although named Nice White Wine Is it? Not amazingly, but who needs a mouthy wine, when you have dishes that could deliver a monologue?
Findlay brings twists and turns on everything he touches, and the starters are a divine example of this all under £9 (very reasonable again). The menu looks deceptively simple, starters, and then bowls of ramen. Thankfully the tastes offered up are far more complex.
Summer comes in plated from as the summer tomatoes, (with green tomato dressing) settled on a Tofu whip, seaweed butter pool, that you can decimate with mottled green Ararat bread. Cool, creamy, champion. The tomatoes just with enough crunch, the sauce with just enough punch.
Braised Swiss chard crowned with a hot and sour dressing and a dollop of chili yogurts is a similar sunshine vegetable affair. The green of the chard’s juices, part separating from the dressing, and the bright white of yogurt. It’s an almost sexual effect. Who am I kidding? It certainly is sexual.
Black radish noodles would be a perfect cooling effect, clustered like dusty worms, fresh, and biting with clumps of green peppercorn crab and XO butter if we hadn’t endured a downpour on the walk there. This issue rears its head again later but even I (unreasoning monster that I am) realise that Supa Ya Ramen cannot control the weather.
The bowls are divided thus, served cold, and hot. Although only four to choose from they are split equally. My poor, slightly sodden soul leaps at the idea of Cumberland sausage Tantanmen (literally meaning “noodles being carried” because it was sold by being carried in a shouldering pole) and boy does this bad boy carry me off. A wildfire orange, like a burnt desert, thick clumps of chili paste, spicy sausages like meaty boulders to discover in the depths of the Titian-like lake. A fudgy egg floating like a semi-submerged alien spacecraft. Now that I have delved this metaphor to its utmost, I will finish my praise of this otherworldly ramen, soft and mouthy slurping goodness only to be attempted by lovers of spice (and I would argue life)
The ham egg and chips Mazeman is the broth-less, summery twist Supa has up its sleeve. Bundles of Ham Hock Chashu, pickles and bacon with OX sauce are blended with chops sticks into a sweet and sour sensation. Although sadly the paper-thin “chips” are a distracting gimmick in an otherwise fancy-free dish.
I imagine spending the day rushing around Colombia road flower market, trying to find that perfect Philodendron, then diving into Supa for a cold bowl of the Kimchi Double Double, or the mushroom Mapo tofu (the vegan option when requested). The cool noodles and flavours calm your frantic spirit before you head on out into the balmy night of summertime London. It’s a nice image, isn’t it?
But what would a night out be without dessert? The noodle ice cream although intriguing feels a little frigid for the disappointingly autumnal night outside. A warming Chocolate mousse with orange congealing at the bottom of a small bowl, however? yes, please. Despite some rich smokiness, the unripe melon proves an unfortunate decoration for this swampy-looking dessert.
This is dining gone dinosaur. The small wooden table is strewn with gleaming drops of blood-like chili oil, and my new navy trousers are equally adorned. At £15 a pop for the bowls this might be a stretch for noodles but with the stimulating starters, the evening extends onward like a rabbit hole of sensation. Ramen again has taken another bound in its long and varied history. Blending western culinary arts with the King of Japanese street food proves a winning mix for Findlay. I wish you all a……Supa…..summer!