I’ve been to Namban twice now and have liked it both times. There’s nothing that I didn’t like, though some things that weren’t hugely exciting. They seem to change their menu relatively often, and I’ve not been enough to figure out their reasoning. Still they do seem to have some items on the menu all the time.
The top line here is: get the Chicken Karaage and the Sasebo Burger if you’re even vaguely inclined to like those things, for my money they’re some of the best in London. As for the ramen, I’ve had 4 dishes and nothing that wasn’t good. Indeed, 2 were great and 2 were good. However, there’s some stiff competition for noodle soup in this town…
We ordered a selection of “Smalls” the first time including (I can’t remember everything from the “Small” section of the menu):
Karashi Renkon Chips (v)
“Crispy fried lotus root with miso mustard dip”
These are good, crispy nibbles to start that go well with a beer. They’re exactly as you expect: crisps made from lotus rood.
Deep-fried marinated chicken thighs
These are excellent. Some of the best fried chicken I’ve had. The outside is wonderfully crunchy and they marinade the chicken before frying which makes it far tastier. In addition, it is very nice soft boneless meat. A must get.
We had some other small things like Gyoza, that I can’t remember much of from this visit. That probably tells you what you need to know though, especially since they’re not on the menu any more.
Dead Ringer Chanpon
Fujian noodles in pork-chicken-seafood broth with stir-fried shellfish and vegetables and seafood sawdust
Thick noodles in chicken-soy sauce broth with chicken thigh, tea-pickled egg, nira, and yuzu-koshö schmaltz
I didn’t order either of these ramen myself. However, I did have a taste. I thought they were good, but considering that there are other very good ramen places in London (Sasuke in Soho is my favourite), they wouldn’t make me return just for them.
Sasebo Burger with a Fried Egg
200g beef mince with burnt garlic mayo, gochujang burger sauce, pork belly, American cheese, pickled red onion, lettuce, and tomato, served with chips & a fried egg
At the very enthusiastic recommendation of our waitress I had the burger, which felt a little odd in a Japanese joint… However, the waitress was right. The burger is great. It’s is now my second favourite burger in London (after the Kimchee burger at Hawksmoor Covent Garden). This is a must order if you are remotely partial to burgers and fries. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised considering the Chef did win Masterchef with a burger.
Deep-fried marinated chicken thighs
Just as good as the first time — except that the waiter forgot to bring the lime or mayonnaise that they brought before. Still, we got some mayo that was not the same but good. Also missing was the “FuckYuzu Hot Sauce” that was on the tables the first time. This is a collaboration between Anderson and The Rib Man. If you see it and you like hot sauce, buy it. It’s really good – the citric Yuzu flavour works great in a hot sauce.
Deep-fried smoked eel with ginger-vinegar sauce, sanshō, onions, and red peppers
This was another highlight. Beautifully smokey and light, a very clean texture and the sauce and vegetables compliment it nicely but the star of the show is very much the smokey eel.
The Leopard Tsukemen
Very rich chilli-sesame pork broth dipping ramen with burnt garlic oil, pork belly, Scotch bonnet-pickled bamboo shoots, fried garlic, parmesan, and tea-pickled egg.
Back to the Ramen and this one was very good. The broth was rich but not overpoweringly so (like Bone Daddies tends to be) - in particular it wasn’t oily and fatty, just a rich strong umami hit. The Scotch bonnet pickled bamboo shoots are fantastic and add an element of fusion along with the parmesan which at first almost put me off ordering the dish, but actually, what do you know… the parmesan is great. It’s not much, just enough to give you another extra creamy umami punch. The tea picked eggs are some of the best in town. Worth getting an extra one on the side if you like these kind of eggs at all.
Venison Tan Tan Men
Thin noodles in chilli-sesame broth with Szechuan-spiced venison mince, roast venison loin, red onion, Chinese leaf, and parmesan
More very good ramen. The venison was very nice with a good sweet fragrant Szechuan pepper hit. Again, the parmesan seems weird but it actually works. I’d definitely order this again.
For desert we had Nambanana which was really good. It’s a Japanese influenced take on Bananas Foster/Caramel Banana. Hot banana with ice cream and a rich caramel like cause (there’s miso in there if I remember correctly). There is a great crunch texture from thinly sliced walnuts and slightly salty noodles. Another definite thing to try if you’re here and like puddings…
To drink we had:
Brew By Numbers 01|14
Saison with matcha, honey, and lemon
6% ABV, 750ml
This was actually probably the most disappointing thing I’ve had at Namban. It’s a collaboration between the restaurant and Brew By Numbers and while it’s interesting, it’s not that exciting. Surprising as that may seem, it tastes like beer with Macha tea in it. And it’s expensive.
Namban is a very good place to eat. But I think it’s is wrong to think about it in terms of fine dining or fusion or anything like that. Despite any hype or background from Masterchef, Namban is not trying to win 3 Michelin stars. Anderson styles it as Japanese Soul Food — which is a pretty good description. It’s informal, easy going, and not too expensive. What I really want to do is go back and have their fried chicken, a burger and a beer. Which I’d happily do any time.