Kanada-Ya @ St. Giles High St

Suddenly, a tyre pressure warning light lit up as I was cruising along Blackfriars Road on my way to the ice rink. Oh no, has it not be checked out and was given all clear by RAC last Friday?? I had exactly the same problem the previous Monday at exactly the same stretch of the road. This is a deja vu, I sighed.

So this morning, I took the car to a garage in order to investigate if any of the tyres had a slow puncture. After leaving the car at the dealership, I headed back to West End, thinking about only one thing. ‘Why don’t I have lunch at Kanada-Ya?’ 

Kanada-Ya is one of London’s newbie-ish ramen noodle bars which specializes in tonkotsu style soup. The owner served his apprenticeship at the Kanada-Ya in Fukuoka,  Japan and was granted to open a ramen bar under the same name in London.

The bar is also famous for a long queue of eager diners who wait in line for more than 40 minutes on their busiest days. Intrigued by all those anecdotes, I wanted to sample their ramen to find out if they were Just another hype or for real.

When I arrived at the bar on St Giles High Street near Tottenham Court Road at 11:40, there was a couple standing by the entrance already and a spontaneous queue started to form around ten to twelve…

  
At noon, a maître d’ ushered us into their dining room and started to take orders. I opted for a bowl of Chashu noodle with a  boiled egg marinated in soy sauce as an extra. I also asked the maître d’ if I could have my noodle to be cooked “hard” – semi undercooked. 

Voila, my Chashu-Men!

 

It took me by surprise because the bowl arrived at my window side table very promptly. In the ecru tinted broth, there were seven large Chashu slices, chopped spring onion, thinly sliced cooked brown mushroom, a seasoned soft boiled egg halved and underneath them all, hand made noodle. 

I sipped the broth first. It was creamy and delicately flavoured. It was in fact a little too light in seasoning so I added a few teaspoons of Hatougarashi – spicy Japanese pickle and Benishoga – shredded red ginger in the soup to make it more zingy. How was my verdict regarding the noodle? Mmmm…, it was 6 out of 10. Don’t get me wrong. The noodle was fine. But for me, it was too fatty and rich. 

The majority of Londoners seem to perceive tonkotsu as a typical ramen broth. Tonkotsu was introduced to the city by ramen pioneers, such as Shoryu, Bone Daddies and Ippudo, and their choice of flavour was pork-based tonkotsu soup. One thing most of the British ramen enthusiasts aren’t aware is that Japanese ramen flavours differ depending on the regions. Tonkotsu is a quintessentially southern Japanese flavour and for someone like me who is from the northeastern region, pork-based broth is not at all familiar as I associate light soy sauce flavoured chicken stock or fish stock (or a blend of both) with a typical ramen broth. My first experience with tonkotsu ramen was in my late teens. A new ramen bar opened near my aunt’s local area in Tokyo and they were specialized in tonkotsu. In there, I learnt about “kaedama” – adding an extra helping of noodle to the remaining broth if so desired. And adding Benishoga to ramen soup as an addition flavour was another surprise I experienced on that day. 

The environment I grew up was not very pro-ramen. My mum was not very fond of the dish. And my dad preferred soba noodle to ramen. Therefore, I didn’t eat ramen as often as some had done. One episode I still remember vividly occurred when mum took me and my sister to a new noodle bar in downtown. The noodle bar offered Dosanko style ramen from the furtherest northern region of Japan, Hokkaido. Their broth was typically a miso (soybean paste) based one. Tan coloured soup was opaque and it tasted robust and flavoursome. However, mum was mortified because she detected garlic in the broth. ‘Oh no, you must keep your mouth closed during our bus journey home!’ Mum was so concerned if our garlicky breath might offend fellow bus passengers and forbade us from chatting on the bus. So my sister and I ended up eyeballing each other while suppressing a sudden urge to giggle about this whole situation. Every time our cheeks puffed up as we resisited a fit of giggle, mum threw a reprimanding stare to our direction, reminding us we shan’t disappoint her…

By the way, the garage found two punctures on the tyre. They were sorry that they had to replace a tyre but I was relieved to find the cause.

On my way home, however, a sudden loud noise startled me. An intermittent noise sounded like two men making conversation. Then, I realised that a mechanic left his walkie talkie on my passenger seat! 

  

I didn’t know how to turn it off and it kept on hissing and crackling every time the car passed  some walkie talkie hotspots. I called the garage once I parked the car safely, explaining the situation. The radio had no obvious on/off switch and hissing didn’t stop. And Hubbie resorted to removing a battery. Oh dear…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

 

Savage Beauty @ V&A…

He was the vision of the future of fashion. That was what Alexander McQueen was for me. His tragic death in 2010 ended my passion for runway fashion and I am still in mourning for his creativity. Every collection he sent down on the catwalk was eagerly awaited and it rarely disappointed me. However, the joy abruptly ended on one cold February day. 

When Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, hosted the original Savage Beauty exhibition in 2011, there was a whirl of spontaneous demand for a similar show to be held in the UK. After all, he was a British designer and his work should be celebrated in his native country, that was the consensus among the general public. There was an online petition for the exhibition and I signed up, prayinging if the V&A may relent to the idea.

During the summer of 2013, there was a rumour that the museum was planning the show and I was overjoyed. And then, the confirmation arrived finally as the V&A official announced that they were to host a retrospective exhibition of the late designer, Savage Beauty, from 14 March – 02 August 2015.

Same as the rest of general public, I never saw his real high-end couture until I visited the exhibition, Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at Somerset House, Strand. Isabella’s inimitable style was completed with hats by Philip Tracy and frocks by Alexander McQueen. The result was an epitome of fantastic eccentricity which was to become her public persona. 

The exhibition was a poignant reminder of the loss of the two very special individuals, Isabella and McQueen. As I circulated the dimly lit gallery, I mourned how present fashion world lacked originality, gusto, calibre and excitement without them…


  
A V&A member’s magazine. 

I visited the exhibition twice already – the first time, with my dear friend Heza and the second time, with my teammate, Cælin. On both occasions, the galleries were packed with a predominantly female audience. The exhibits consisted of his pre-Givenchy collection to the last one shown after his death. It was wonderful to see the actual garments at last because until then I had to content myself with the photos in the runway reports and to use my imagination. I could admire the silhouette of his exquisitely cut suits and frocks but had no way to know how they were made and with what.

The only thought in my mind when I pushed the door to leave the exhibition was how much I missed his design and creativity since his death on that February day. I would have loved to see his vision evolving to provoke and inspire even more. He was one of a kind. An irreplaceable genius…

  

It’s such an irony that I would never have this opportunity to see the real McQueen’s creations if he was still alive. How I wished if he had survived and kept on producing his ethereal beauty. I would have been much happier if his frocks were beyond my reach…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Robert Longo…

I love to have his artwork on my wall if I can afford it. Another reason for keeping on buying a lottery ticket. Have to be in it to win it. Right?

 

Kaori by Kaori Okumura 

Must snap out of it…

In another spell of lazy blogger syndrome!

One of the reasons was me being a bit too tired to do anything other than absolute essentials, such as knitting, housekeeping, cooking, exercising & running errands. By the end of day, I felt just exhausted. Instead of making my thumbs dance over an iPhone screen, I just wanted to curl up in bed and to pass out. 

Another reason was due to a Hubbie’s crazy travelling spell. He was in India for 10 days and it was followed by 5 days in Spain. After a brief return to UK, he flew out to NYC twice! As the consequence, I ended up staying at home alone with Mr.B most of the time and had nothing deemed worthy of reporting in the blog.

Anyway, I shall amend my present passive way. I do know writing blog is good for me – it makes me engage with things which otherwise whizz past over my head. After all, they manage to grab my attention one way or another and it must mean something…

  

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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