A nomadic pop-up founded in Cardiff, it serves up steaming bowls of hand-made noodles, long-simmered broths and deeply flavoured toppings – attracting attention and high praise from local foodies, popular food bloggers and even established ramen cooks from across the pond.
But until now, getting your hands on one of these flavour-packed broths has been no easy task, as every single pop-up event has completely sold out within minutes of going on sale.
A new, seven-week kitchen takeover at Blue Honey Local in Roath looks set to change that – and help Matsudai bring ‘proper ramen’ to the Cardiff masses.
40-year-old James Chant – a self-confessed ‘ramen geek’ – is the man behind Matsudai. He is also a musician and composer, an artist manager (Carwyn Ellis), and an event manager (having produced Welsh Music Prize and co-founded Hush Collective). He also previously managed much-loved music venue Gwdihŵ and multi-award-winning festival and concert promotersSŵn.
James first started experimenting with ramen recipes as a way to get back in touch with his creative side, after reaching a point in his career where the work no longer made him happy.
He explained, “I found myself in a really, really dark place last year, and after some serious talks with my wife, she convinced me that the only way to get out of that place was to start being creative again.
“I have always worked in the creative industries – I love music and had built my career around it, but I was no longer doing the things I enjoyed; I was working around so many creative people, but I found myself just being the organiser for others’ creativity. That really took its toll on me.”
He continued, “I had been to Japan before when touring and loved it, and had been pottering with obscure ramen recipes at home, so having to put an end to a lot of the work I was doing (for the benefit of my mental health) gave me a chance to really develop my obsession, making ramen from scratch – researching, sourcing ingredients and digging around for information online.
“The deeper I went, the more addicted I became. Then, by a stroke of luck the Blue Honey team mentioned wanting to put on a ramen night and here we are.”
Since launching Matsudai just a few months ago, James has served over 1200 bowls of ramen at his pop-up events – and whilst he is meticulous about sourcing as many ‘authentic’ ingredients as possible, he also leans on local suppliers, sourcing bones from a local, high-welfare farm for use in his pork bone broths which take up to four days to prepare.
Kicking things off with a ticketed Valentine’s Special on the 14th February, Matsudai will then offer both walk-ins and bookings at Blue Honey Local until the 4th April, serving Wednesday – Friday (5pm – 10pm) and all-day Saturday (12noon – 11pm). Table reservations can be made via the Matsudai Ramen website.
Every week Matsudai will showcase different kinds of ramen – from super-rich tonkotsu and tori paitan broths; to more delicately balanced shio and shoyu; and hearty, umami-stuffed miso bowls. Each week will also showcase at least one vegan and vegetarian ramen.
And for the first time at a Matsudai event, the Blue Honey residency will also feature a small menu of Japanese small plates and side dishes.