Koya, London


I first went to Koya back in 2010 I think, before it started attracting so much attention. The queue didn't get as long like it does now. Koya is a simple minimalistic Japanese udon noodle bar. It's rare to find an udon noodles dominated restaurant that is far superior than many other Japanese restaurants. The thickly cut white noodles are al-dente slippery wonderfully delicious in the mouth, handmade on site each day using wheat flour imported from Japan.

Upon hearing the news that the restaurant will close its doors for the last time on 31st May 2015, I knew I had to make a return for my last Koya meal. What prompted this for the closure is that head chef Junya Yamasaki will be leaving and returning to Japan. The good news for fans of the restaurant and its bar next door is that Koya Bar will remain open.


I braved the queue! Actually I only waited for like 10-15 mins, since I arrived before 6pm for an extremely early evening meal. The queue was ridiculously long by the time the food was cleared off the table. The menu mainly consists of udon, which is what Koya specialised in. There are four ways of have it here: hot udon in hot broth (Atsu-Atsu); cold udon served on the side of hot broth (Hiya-Atsu); cold udon with cold sauce to dip (Hiya-Hiya); and cold udon with cold sauce to pour (Hiyashi Udon). As well as noodles, there are also small selections of donburi (rice in a bowl), small plates and an ever changing daily special menu.

Tofu and Turnip "Agebitashi"

Crispy Fried Lemon Sole with Chilli Oroshi

Even though it was only the start of the evening service, a lot of items on the specials and small plates were already sold out which I was very gutted about. No pork belly, no turbot and the chicken wings was still in preparation. Agebitashi literally means "fried and soaked", usually fried vegetables in a soy and mirin broth. This is tofu coated in cornflour deep fried, so when soaked in the broth it gives a sort of chewy texture to the coating. The broth is so light, you will be tempted to sip it all. Topped with what I believed to be turnip leaves and grated daikon. It is a simple and traditional Japanese dish cooked very well. I wasn't expecting a whole fried lemon sole, the back bone was fried so crisp that you can eat it and the fish itself was good with the dipping sauce. Truly delightful.

Tenzaru Udon

Lets not let the focus of udon slipped away, A set of tenzaru udon with fish and vegetables tempura. Similarly I think the last time I came, I had tempura as well. The udon is how I expected it to be, not too cold, thick, flat and chewy. The dipping sauce is light, maybe too subtle for my heavy taste bud mixed with some sesame, garlic and spring onion. The tempura selection is large - asparagus, broccoli, beans, aubergine, squash, mushroom and white fish, Tasty in a non greasy batter that is light. Hiyashi Gyushabu was also ordered, but it was demolished before I had the chance to photograph it. It's a beef shabu shabu style cold udon with cold sauce to pour. The beef was tender melt in the mouth and slightly raw, the sauce has sweetness to it which is absolutely delicious when mixed with the udon and just clinging onto the noodles. It makes me want to queue up and slurp the udon now.

Cold Oolong and Hot Tea 

Fair to say, it's hard for me not to order tea when in a Japanese eatery. The pot of hot tea is hojicha that I believed. Hojicha is processed by roasting the tea leaves, which gives the leaves their characteristic reddish-brown color.  It has a malty taste to it. Along that was a glass of cold oolong from a can.

Koya operates a no booking policy. It is supposedly to be a causal, accessible, quick eat noodle bar  which is appropriate for walk in only. To be honest, it seems sort of strange to have a booking system for a noodle bar. A lot of the time, it is out on the spur that a bowl of noodles is wanted. The attentive of the service was a big let down, given at any time it was impossible to get anyone's attention. When looking around, other tables experienced the same. At least for now, Koya bar next store it still serving scrumptious udon noodles.

Score Rating: 4/5
Price: £20/head (~£50 for 2 people)

Koya on Urbanspoon
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Malaysian Home Cooking Supper Club, London


There is always a first time for everything, first step, first word spoken, first day at school, first kiss and first love. Well, this is my first for attending a supper club in London. Traditionally, supper club refers to a dining establishment that also functions as a social club. In the last few years or more, "supper club" have started to blossom and is enjoying a revival with slightly different meaning - generally a small underground club (location only revealed to guests); where guests eat from a set menu and fraternise with the other guests.

I was invited by Vi Vian of vi-vian.com to sample her Malaysian home cooking as she was hosting a supper club at her home. I was genuinely excited by it, I don't know much about the Malaysian cuisine as it varies hugely from the multicultural people with the vast majorities being Malay, Chinese and Indian. This resulted to the food ever so interesting in Malaysia from the symphony of exploding flavours to the intercultural use of culinary style making it highly complex and diverse.

Prawn Crackers

Prawn crackers are always the prefect nibbles to a start of an Asian feast. There is a difference between the prawn crackers from a Chinese to Southeast Asian. The former is usually white and tends to be lighter in texture and flavour. The latter has spices added to the flavour and may occurred with some heat. Either way, I like nibbling on prawn crackers.


Karipap is a Malysian curry puff filled with curry flavour chicken, potatoes and onions. The version that we had was baked I think rather than deep fried. Crispy casing with tasty fillings, this little snack was ever so moreish making you forget there was more food coming along.

Rojak (Mamak Style)

My very first encounter with Rojak, a salad with beancurds, boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, daikon and cucumber mixed with a sweet thick, spicy peanut sauce (thanks god I didn't have an allergic reaction to peanut this time). The sauce reminds me of a very sweet satay sauce which I love. This has totally given me a new inspiration on salad dressing. The only let down for me was it wasn't spicy at all. I think the spiciness was deliberately tuned down to accompanied the guests' taste.

Cripsy Deep Fried Chicken (Mamak Style)

Before the meal I have never heard of mamak, a word that is used to describe the fusion flavour between Indian and Malay. The fried chicken was crispy and not a inch of grease in sight, I cannot imagine the effort went into deboning the chicken wings. It wasso flavoursome with shrimp paste (?) and the kick off the heat at the end made these chicken wings so finger licking delicious.

Gulai Kambing

Give me a tasty bowl of curry with rice and a good movie to watch, it's the perfect lazy night in. Gulai Kambing is a very popular dish, especially in Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia. Thought to be the local adaptation of Indian curry. The meat was so tender, falling of the bone and the sauce was lush. It is in many ways idiomatic to the Indian korma but less creamy.


Steamed Turmeric Rice

A meal without any vegetables will drive me crazy, with my inner healthy side fighting over my outter unhealthy side. A at is a Malaysian style pickled vegetables. I have a softness for pickled vegetables, that sweet and tanginess is so refreshing. Rice was also served along side.

Selection of Nyonya Kuih

When it comes to dessert, pudding or patisserie would spring in to mind first. You will not get that if you're in Asia. Kuih / Kue / 粿 / 糕 are bite-sized snack or dessert foods in South East Asia and Southern China. They are usually made from rice or glutinous rice and are more often steamed than baked. Onde onde (or commonly refers to Klepon) are small round balls made from glutinous rice flour, filled with palm sugar syrup and rolled in grated coconut. It is similar to Chinese/Japanese mochi but less gooey/sticky/chewy, don't know how to describe that texture. Kuih kemboja/bakar pandan is a baked custard full of pandan aroma, with a layer of crispy sesame on top. In a way it taste like Chinese coconut pudding 椰汁榚, without the silky chewy texture. We also had kuih dadar/ketayap, mini crepes rolled up with a palm sugar sweetened coconut filling. 

Teh Tarik

To round off the meal, we had a cup of warming tea. Teh tarik (pulled tea) is a hot milk tea beverage made from black tea, condensed/evaporated milk. The mixture is poured back and forth repeatedly between two vessels from a height, giving it a thick frothy top. This also helps to thoroughly mix the tea with the milk and cools the temperature. It's very similar to Hong Kong style milk tea beside the foamy top, the difference is the tea leaves used. Teh Tarik has a strong Ceylonese variety aroma whereas Hong Kong style milk tea is a mixture of puerh and ceylon. It reminds me of Hong Kong cha chaan teng a lot. 

Thank you Vivan for such a wonderful evening with so many tasty food. I was stuffed after the 6 courses meal. It really opened up my eyes to Malaysian cooking especially before I only knew dishes such as nasi lemak, beef remdang and the famous chilli sauce "sambal". The homemade "sambal" was fantastic (personally I would have it spicier), I can see myself putting a big spoonful onto my noodles or rice at home if I had a jar of it. 

Vi Vian's Malaysian Home Cooking Supper Club

Tonic & Remedy, London


The first thing you would noticed is the building which Tonic & Remedy is housed in. Mind blowing futuristic building that will distort your optical illusion is home to the M by Montcalm hotel. Set inside the ground floor, it is the new restaurant and bar of Tonic & Remedy. Kitchen is headed by Paul Welburn, formerly of Rhodes W1.

M by Montcalm Hotel


The restaurant’s inspiration comes from the 18th and 19th centuries, when Shoreditch was one of London’s main areas for medicine-making, surgeries, and doctors. Hence the name of the restaurant. The menu focuses on the use of herbs, spices and wine in its recipes and cocktail taking inspiration from the "apothecary history of Shoreditch".

Sourdough Bread Loaf and Butter

Crispy Pig's Head and Apple Salad

Smoked Eel, Jelly and Scones

Mr T has a thing about sourdough bread ever since I introduced him to it, whenever we see it on the menu it is a must order item. The sourdough bread came in a paper bag and whipped butter must be a fashionable thing at the moment, this was like an ultra whipped version spread like an extreme airy cream. The bread itself is average. The name of the dish "crispy pig's head and apple salad" is very misleading which turns out to be pig's head croquettes accompanied with apple. It had a dipping sauce of that similar to tartare sauce which I can't work out what it is. The croquettes was indeed moreish. The smoked eel is an exciting dish, visually appealing and when the jar is opened you will get a scent of smoke coming out. Jellied eels is a traditional English dish, eaten cold. It's very rare to find this dish nowadays but I heard it is making a comeback. The soft texture of the jellied eels can be off-putting, once you get past that it tastes great - mild and slightly salty, not at all fishy. The pickles add acidity to the dish as traditionally vinegar and white pepper is added. The scones are a nice addition, it goes well with the eels making a perfect sandwich.

Sea Trout, Asparagus, Jersey Royals and Watercress

Lemongrass Smoked Sea Bream, Squid, Sea Vegetables, Cucumber Ketchup

Creamed Potato and Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Hazelnuts

For a change, we went for the fish for the mains. I knew Mr T. was a bit dishearten when I opted out to share a chateaubriand steak with him. Reluctantly he choose to have a fish course to accompanied the wine with me. We had a carafe of Winchester Sauvignon Blanc, Harelow Cove Marlborough, New Zealand 2013. The wine was decent but it did not highlight the mains. The sea trout with ubiquitous green foam (some sort of sauce) tasted nicely of the ocean, crushed jersey potatoes sitting underneath the fish. The sea bream was the more outstanding of the two fish dishes. Lemongrass is usually associated with Asian cooking so incorporating it in a cream sauce seems a bit weird but it actually works. Fish and squid cooked perfectly and the vegetables it gives more texture to the dish. The waitress suggested we should also order some sides to go with the mains as the main course is on the small side. You can omit what she said, it's not as small as you think the mains. We still went for some sides of creamed potato and purple sprouting broccoli. The creamed potato is like an intensively whipped potato mash so it was very silky. The broccoli was a tad overcooked as it was a bit too soft, it still tasted good.

Chocolate Fondant, Whisky and Orange

Banoffee Sundae

If we didn't have the sides with the mains, I think we could have able to licked the dessert plate empty. Chocolate fondant is a dessert that can easily be disastrous and possibly the first square shape of a chocolate fondant that I have seen. The meltingly gooey-on-the-inside chocolate fondant has a touch of orange flavour and a hint of whisky coming through the palate. The Chantilly cream cuts through the richness nicely. I like banoffee and I like sundae, it's a dream when the two are combined together of banoffee sundae. We didn't managed to get to the bottom of the glass as was too full, it's a good dessert choice but not surprising. Well it was surprising to found a piece of hair in the sundae (eeeewwwwwww), with kind gesture the sundae was taken of the bill.

Old Street is getting a nice revamp with many good restaurants opened recently and opening soon. Tonic & Remedy is the latest to join the trail, There were some mistakes but the restaurant was on its soft opening. Service was good but they did slightly panicked when questions was asked. The food was tasty and fun, visually well presented and fairly priced. I'm sure to return sooner or later, to see more exciting food and cocktails.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £30-40/head (50% soft launch, ~£60 for 2 people)

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Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink, London


Growing up in Hong Kong, there was always a huge Japanese culture influence. I remembered during the 1990's and early 2000's, it was all about the Japanese TV dramas. Staying up late to catch the Cantonese subbed version of the dramas. Through out to now, manga and anime seem to never die out. Even if you were not into the Japanese dramas or manga or anime, there was one thing for sure that you will associate with. Japanese cuisine. Japanese restaurants are everywhere in Hong Kong and it is so accessible to everyone whether for a cheap meal to the very high-end Michelin starred restaurant.

Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink is an event showcasing the top quality authentic Japanese agricultural products organised by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries (MAFF) and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). Rice, wagyu beef, seafood, tea and flowers & bonsai. They're all highly praised products, not just in Japan but also worldwide. Ever since the 2011 earthquake in Japan, consumers have shied away from Japanese products because of the minute trace of radiation (so small compare to that of the radiation from a long haul flight) and there was an import ban from certain countries not to import products from the affected area of Japan. It was not until recently in 2014, when the EU import ban was lifted from Japan that you can finally able to savour the real Kobe beef. Anyhow, I was lucky to be invited to the event. I managed to learn a lot especially on tea and was able to taste so many fine food and drinks.

Deputy Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso

It was a big event, so much bigger than I thought possibly with 2-300 people and most people were in their business attire. Thankfully, I was in my slight informal business attire (just wasn't wearing a blazer). So big so, the deputy prime minister of Japan Taro Aso was here and gave a speech to the audience. I was surprised by how good his English was and we were laughing to his jokes. Unfortunately due to other business matters, he left after the speech.

Display of Sake

Display of Sake

Sake, a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Here are just a small selection of it, frankly I've tried two of them before in a sake tasting.

Wagyu Beef 

Wagyu Beef

Think you've tasted the fasmos Japanese Wagyu beef. Think again. What was sold in restaurants or in retails are not Wagyu beef from Japan. You were definitely duped into thinking so by the name even if the word "Japan" is not placed in front of wagyu. It was from America or Australia or even Britain. It wasn't until 2014 when Japan lifted the EU import ban that you can taste the real Wagyu beef in UK. Despite the hefty price tag, believe me it is lush the meat. Beside Japan, I don't think there is any where in the world where you can get the full Wagyu beef experience. Read more about it in this Forbes' article on "The Great Kobe Beef".

President of Japan Tea Export Council and Head of MAFF

Ice Brewed Sencha

Crude Tea



The event was split into two section, a seminar on rice/wagyu/seafood/tea/flowers & bonsai in the late afternoon and a reception in the evening. It's not hard to guess which seminar I chose to attend, tea. Presenting the seminar was Shinmura Junichi, president of the Japan Tea Export Council. Yoshimasa Hayashi, head of MAFF also gave a short speech. The enthusiasm of the speaker was undeniable and it makes it a joy to listen and learn. You can feel the love he has for tea explaining everything so detailed. Ice brewed sencha was presented at the start, then a presentation of the processing of sencha green tea and lastly a tea tasting of crude tea (the first initial process of green tea), and two different types of sencha. Before the seminar ended, we were shown a lesson on brewing sencha. It's very important to brew sencha correctly as the taste can be tempered easily if brewed too long or the temperature is too high.

Char-grilled Wagyu Sirloin, Confit Garlic Potato Purée, English Asparagus Tips 

Coco Dusted Seared Yellowtail Tuna, Shaved Fennel, Orange and Avocado Salad

Gin Cured Scottish Salmon, Pickled Radish, Toasted Cobb Nuts

Miso Glazed Scallop, Soba Noodles, Tempura Green Onions

Sencha Poached Chicken Breast on a Spring Salad of Baby Gem, Green Peas, Broad Beans, Radish and Lemon Dressing

English Truffle and Wild Mushroom Risotto, Shaved Berkswell Ewes Milk Cheese


Scallops, Yellowtail and Wagyu nigiri

Yellowtail Shabu-Shabu

Spring Vegetables with Kinome Miso

Gobo Tempura Udon with Japanese Brown Tea Dashi 

Held in the beautiful ballroom of the InterContinental Park Lane, it was a night of feasting tasty food. Food expertly prepared by Head Chef of Nobu, Yashin Ocean House, Koya, InterContinental London and MuraTa Synergy & Associates (I think they are a private catering company?). As there are too many food to talk about, let me just pinpoint my favourites. The char-grilled wagyu sirloin was lush, melt in the mouth with the potato purée soaking up all the jus. The risotto was full of earthy flavour and the nigiri was fantastic. If you never had udon from Koya before, you're surely missing out. Fresh handmade udon with a bouncy texture in a light broth which I sipped it all up leaving no drip. I did not catch any of the desserts due to being full and I missed out on the second wagyu dish.

Hibiki 12 Year Old Whisky

Japan whisky seems to be dominating the whisky world at the moment. If you had a taste, you will understand why they are at the best of their game right now. Cheekily Mr. T had three tumblers of the hibiki which we have been eyeing up to buy. You can buy at Master of Malt for £50.87, the cheapest is at Waitrose for £37 but it is out of stock.

X3 Rose, Junmai (Japan Food Hall, £45.43)

Ginrei Gassan, Junmai Daiginjo

Shichida Junmai 75 (Ministry of Drinks, £24.99)

Dewazakura Tobiroku, Ginjo Nigori Nama Sparkling Sake (Hedonism Wines, £35.90)

Miyasaka Junmai Ginjo Yamahai 50 Nama (Hedonism Wines, £39.40)

Yamabuki Gold, Koshu Aged Sake (Japan Food Hall, £41.68)

Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo (Japan Gourmet, £31.40)

Houraisen WA Junmai Ginjo

Hakutsuru, Junmai Nigori Sayuri (Wai Yee Hong, £10.95)

Urakasumi Umeshu (Hedonism Wines, £64.60)

These were all the sake that was available for tasting. Truthfully, not going to comment on the sake because I don't remember the tasting note of it but I do know I absolutely love the umeshu. Plum wine is something that I don't get to drink much of it in UK but I'm horrified by how inflated the price is. It's priced at £64.60, Hedonism Wines is the only seller seemingly. The RRP is ¥1200 which is roughly less than £10. I'm guessing all the sake prices are quite inflated too. Ginrei Gassan is the only one that seems to be unavailable to buy in UK and Hourisen Wa I can only find it in two restuarants' drinks menu price respectably at £88, Matsuri St. James and £75, Tsunami. With an estimated of 2.5 markup price, roughly around the £30-35 mark if bought in a shop.

Wagyu Beef - flat iron cut(?)

Teapot and Tea Tasting Cups

All I can say is wow to this amazing event organised by the Japan External Trade Organization and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. It was a honour to witness a speech given by the deputy prime minister of Japan, Taro Aso. Not only that I walked away with unbelievable amount of knowledge about Japanese tea, I also had the chance of meeting the people behind Jing Tea makes me want to put my foot into the tea world and achieve my dream even more than before. A great end to the night was the amount of freebies received. Oh yes, I received a pack of wagyu beef (and tea leaves, teapot, soya sauce). I simply cannot deny wagyu beef when it is free.

InterContinental London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane
London, W1J 7QJ
Email: london@jp-food.jp
Twitter: @jpfoodlondon @JETRO_info