Koya, London

5.26.2015

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.

Menu

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)

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Square Meal

http://www.koya.co.uk

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