Matsudai Ramen is Wales’s first and only proper, standalone ramen shop. It was launched in September 2019 by self-confessed ‘ramen geek’ James Chant as a means to scratch a creative itch and recapture his mojo after becoming disillusioned with the music industry work he had been doing all his life. James embarked on a series of pop-ups throughout Matsudai’s first 6 months - each selling out faster than the last - and these pop-ups culminated in a packed-out 6 week residency at Blue Honey Local in Cardiff, before the dreaded coronavirus closed it down.
With James having no background in cooking whatsoever, Matsudai is a true labour of love - an exercise in taking things as far as you can and not compromising. Authentic ramen is something of a misnomer - ramen is such a new food, relative to other Japanese cuisines, that traditional ramen doesn’t yet exist - or not really. Besides, Matsudai Ramen is just as heavily influenced by US ramen chefs as Japanese ones, getting started by emulating the bowls of people like Mike Satinover, Ivan Orkin and Keizo Shimamoto.
But this is PROPER ramen, make no mistake, and it has attracted a devoted following amongst Cardiff’s food-loving community - the love poured into every bowl obvious to everyone who tastes it.
"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. 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."
GOURMET GORRO: APRIL 2020 read full reviewt