Nan Ban x Beer52
The result of a lifelong obsession with beer and Japanese food Nan Ban is one of London's hottest restaurants
Monday 29 October 2018
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Beer and food
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Nanban founder Tim Anderson’s fascination with Japanese cuisine started early, watching the Japanese cooking show Iron Chef while growing up in Wisconsin; a passion which later developed in the ramen houses of Los Angeles, where he went to school. At the same time, he discovered the Bud Lights and Pabst Blue Ribbons of his youth were not the last word in beer, encountering first Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, and then Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing Co (which he describes as “an epiphany”).
“I was hooked,” he recalls. “I went from school to live and study in Japan for a couple of years. That was amazing, because I realised how diverse Japanese food really is – there’s a hell of a lot going on just in terms of the history, never mind how that’s being interpreted today.”
It was in Japan that Tim met his wife, who’s English. The pair moved back here in 2008 and started Nanban as a pop-up in 2012, before opening their permanent site in Brixton in 2015. Having lived and studied in Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan, Tim started off by cooking traditional food from there.
“That’s where tonkutsu ramen is from, and a lot of other iconic Japanese dishes. But since we moved to Brixton I wanted to use the market and connect with the local food culture. It’s really interesting, and I think not enough restaurants do that; they move into an area, do their own thing and sort of ignore what’s around that.
“You can get such incredible products and ingredients in Brixton: fresh produce, seasonings and ingredients from all over the world. People associate it with Caribbean and West African culture, but there’s also loads of stuff from Latin America, the middle east, south east Asia... the market has a bit of everything. So that’s what we use”.
Tim says Nanban has evolved from a ramen shop in to something more like an Izakaya; the informal Japanese bars that also serve food specifically intended to accompany alcohol.
“We’re the same, in that everything on our menu has to be good drinking food,” he continues. “You go into an Izakaya and the food tends to be salty, spicy, acidic and quite hearty. The other rule we have is that everything we serve has to be based on a Japanese format, or at least Japanese flavours. As long as the we stick to those two rules, then anything goes.”
Nanban’s beer selection ranges from Kirin – its house Japanese lager – to craft beers from the likes of Brixton, Burning Sky, Magic Rock and Pressure Drop. He’d also been talking to Beer52’s Chris J.J Heaney about producing a collaboration beer ever since the two worked together at the Euston Tap many years ago.
“It’s been great to finally work with Chris. We looked at the kind of beers our customers like to pair with our food and asked what made those beers so successful. We’ve tried to create something that has the cleanness and drinkability of Kirin, but with enough character to make sure it holds your interest right to the bottom of the pint. So we’ve amped up the noble hops a little, and infused some of our wonderful Japanese tea. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”
Creating the beer
“This is such an excitingly unusual beer, where I think we’ve really managed to bring something of the essence of Japanese cuisine to a classic, quality lager. The Gemeicha brings fresh, grassy notes, which complement the German noble hops perfectly, while the toasted rice provides a subtle, savoury earthiness. My hope is that this satisfies the instinct to pair something light and nuanced with Japanese food, while still having layers of character that means it stands up on its own. ”
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