I think one of the most unexpected (due to its location eshewing the town centre, Pontcanna, Whitchurch et al) and anticipated (due to the food being pretty darn good) openings in Cadiff this year was Matsudai in the clearly up and coming (but arguably still a tad gritty) Cardiff burb of Grangetown.
Grangetown is become a bit of a culinary hotspot (or should that be hotpot), with the Plate Licked Clean admirably championing the cause, and Matsudai is rather the icing on an increasingly interesting cake.
I had tried (during lockdown) Matsudai’s make at home ramen dishes (rather good, if subject to some woefully amatuerish presentation by me), which continue to be available,
as well as the fully made up kits based on the rather lovely Lazy Goat Ragu – Man Ramen collaboration with Masterchef’s Tim Anderson (bloody amazing).
I think you can tell which one had more of my input into it (fairly easily)😬, but both tasted very nice.
These experiance made me appreciate how good Matsudai’s food is and how much better it is when my involvement is minimised.
When I say minimised I actually mean me sitting there as a customer waiting for the food to arrive and eating it. As a result a table was booked (could only get in, in Sept, after all the cool kids had been).
So to their spanking new gaff, which has a rather nice fresh interior.
I like the fact you can sit on stools observing the kitchen at work. Always fascinating and great that solo diners (often me) are looked after here.
The menu was limited due (at the time of my visit) to it still being in the soft launch stage, but there is plenty of interest across the board.
I had my eye on the chicken scratching (I mean with a beer, who wouldn’t) to kick things off, alas they had run out. I re-perused the menu, with my vision slightly blurred by the tear in my eye, and the order was placed
Proceedings kicked off with karaage, with a decision made to go for the king oyster mushroom option (£8) rather than the more trad. chicken.
A lovely spicy crunch to the coating, with a distinct earthy meatiness from the shrooms. A lightly spiced curry mayo added nicely to the mix here. Neither J (subbing for Mrs. SF) nor I missed the meat element here at all.
Chargrilled corn (£5) was a triumph,
with the sweetness of the corn working really well with the salty, unami rich, spiciness of the miso tare. Could eat this all day and every day!!
On to the main ramen event, with me going for the Wontonmen (£15) a derivative of the nikki shio on the menu.
Nice looking dish I thought, with bountiful amounts of really succulent poached chicken and a clear consume type broth.
As I was about to tuck in our waitress (literally as I started my first noodle slurp) rushed over with a plate of wontons apologising for their omission (I hadn’t even notice) and proffering (totally unnecessarily, but we weren’t going to pass it up) 3 slices of the chashu pork belly gratis.
“Result” was my initial thought, followed by “Wow, what great customer service“.
The full wontonmen was a fine thing
with the broth delivering a delicate yet intense flavour, with real depth added by dried fish, belying its rather unassuming colour. The wheat noodles were silky and suitably slurpable and the wonton’s slippery purses of loveliness. Loved the bob on ajitama egg, with its sticky yolk, and the nori sheet that slowly collapsed into the bowl adding seasoning.
Whilst delicate in flavour, there was a real depth and layering to the flavour here with the profile constantly evolving as I slurped away. Very clever flavouring at work here, which must have taken eons of time and mountains of ingredients to achieve.
J ordered the spice bomb (£1.50 – not just that I hasten to add)
and the judicious application of this to my dish pepped up the spicing nicely without overpowering. In reality it wasn’t needed.
J went for the tantanmen (£13) and very good J said it was too, being a real flavour bomb even without the addition of the spice bomb.
Very robust portion (J of course finished it nae problem).
Very different from the wontonmen dish I has, with much more robust (dare I say, but not in a bad way, less subtle) flavours. The ying to my wontonmen’s yang.
The chashu pork (£2.50) was beautifully tender and packed with flavour – good job we order 2 slices
on top of the 3 we got gratis.
All in all a very fine and filling meal.
Despite our groaning stomaches and because we are both pigs we had to have a dessert.
We both wanted the banana chocolate cake, but there were none left so decided to share the hojicha (green tea) creme brulee (£6). I have had mixed experiences with green tea desserts, with a green tea ice cream (at a now defunct Japanse restaurant in Cardiff) I once had tasting far to akin to a block of anchor butter. I was, however, confident that we were in safe hands here and so it proved.
Very colourful, with a nicely crisp brulee topping and little flavour bombs of dehydrated raspberry and (lime I think) zest resting on top.
The interior was a slightly off putting sludgy browny grey in colour
but it tasted great. The earthiness of the matcha working a treat with the cocoa and that earthiness was complimented nicely by the zingy sharpness of the zest and raspberry and the sweetness of the sugar cap.
On the drinks front they have a short menu of beers, cocktails and spirits.
Shame no wine available, with Japanese wines really rather good. A koshu based wine would, I think, work very well here.
I am not much of a spirit or cocktail drinker so beer was the order of the day.
With the hitachano white nest sold out there was only kirin ichiban (£4.50).
Bit bland I thought, but it did the job of wetting the whistle
Really enjoyed the food here, with fabulous flavours on display.
Service was very prompt and you could be forgiven for thinking “wow instant noodles” based on the speed it came to the table, but the effort that goes into getting to the “at the table stage” must be immense. Only time and lots of it facilitates food of this quality.
Interesting to see how the menu evolves post the end of the soft launch and over time,
with additions and replacements.
This off menu item, for instance, sounds the absolute business.
I was too slow off the mark for the Tim Anderson collaboration (not the grift that word has become synonymous with – see CouCous for comment),
but am on the reserve list (don’t hold out much hope, but if three of you could cancel that would be great 😀).
All in all a great addition to the Grangetown and the wider Cardiff food scene. From my point of view I would like to see a more expansive drinks menu, with wines (both grape and umeshu) available, but this is a mirror quibble and the soft launch menu does suggest more to come going forward on the booze front.
I couldn’t tell you if this stuff is authentic or not as have never been to Japan (on the bucket list, but flight way too long to do in coach), but I am sure it is (chap who runs it seems the real attention to detail sort in a good way). Regardless it all tasted great and that is all that matters (at least to me) isn’t?
Address: 183-185 Clare Road, Cardiff, CF11 6QS.