My name is Yee Gan and I’m a chef stalker. One of my favourite Masterchef winners in the last few years was Tim Anderson, whose soft spoken American accent belied an encyclopaedic, obsessive knowledge about Japanese food.
The drawback about watching food programs on TV is that until they develop smell-o-vision for TV, we have to suffer the frustrating inability to enjoy the smells and flavours of the wonderful looking food. So, I was so happy when rumours started a couple of years ago about Tim Anderson opening his own restaurant. He was supposed to have headed to hipster central Shoreditch but a few months ago, he finally opened Nanban in Brixton.
Described as combination izakya and ramen, the menu is divided between 7 ramen dishes and 9 small plates as well as a burger and curry on rice. My dining companion and I chose 3 of the ramens – kumamoto ramen, miyazaki ramen and goat curry tsukemen as well as a grapefruit shichimi salad.
The grapefruit shichimi salad was a successful marriage of bitter-sweet grapefruit, softened cucumber and crunchy puffed rice, spiked with hot shichimi chilli powder. The portion size was a bit mean though.
The kumamoto ramen was the closest thing on the menu to my favourite tonkotsu ramen, where pork bones are boiled for hours to create a rich, fatty pork broth. A few years ago, before the ramen revolution hit London, this would have been great but today, I found the broth to have an odd thickened consistency as if a cornflour roux had been added. It’s a real shame about the consistency as the flavour was great, the moist pork belly was moreish, the tea-pickled egg perfect, the addition of crispy garlic chips inspired and the noodles had the right amount of bite
On the way into the restaurant, I had spotted copies of Tim Anderson’s cookbook for sale, also called Nanban. However, I did also spot a Caribbean cookbook and he is definitely trying to fuse Japanese and Caribbean cuisine. In the case of the goat curry tsukemen, sadly, not altogether successfully. Tsukemen is a dipping ramen dish but the goat curry is just too powerful and needs a more robust foil
If Tim Anderson had launched Nanban a few years ago, he would have ridden the crest of a ramen revolution but with strong players like Bone Daddies, Shoryu and Ippudo already well established in that marketplace, he may struggle. However, there’s still a gap for a great izakaya in London, so I wish him luck
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Ambiance: ★★★★☆ VFM: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
Price: Expect to spend £15 to £30 depending on what you order
426, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF