Monday 16 July 2012

Koya Japanese Udon, London

A quick post about Koya - Japanese Udon, London.

For those that don’t know, Koya is a Japanese noodle house, specialising in Udon. In many ways, it deserves more time and words from me but, then again, their (deceptively) ‘simple food’ speaks for itself.

Located on Frith Street in London’s Soho, since opening a couple of years ago they have won numerous awards and accolades, including a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ (which promises ‘good food at moderate prices).

Great reviews by bloggers and the print media alike (including Time Out, Metro, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent to name a few) have helped to establish Koya as one of the capitals busiest informal eateries – but perhaps more ore telling than the opinions of a few snooty foodists (myself included) is the queue of people that frequently line the pavements.  

In their own words, ‘KOYA is a restaurant of food and space to offer both purity and quality, without exaggeration or pretension.’ Words which, ironically may sound pretentions but after one visit, I’m sure you’ll agree they are not.

Using old school foot kneading techniques, their authentic wheat noodles are made fresh each day; the dashi base stock too is freshly made in house – together they are slurpingly good!

Udon wise, Koya has a number of options: Atsu-Atsu (hot udon in hot broth); Hiya-Atsu (cold udon with hot broth); Zaru Udon (cold udon with cold dipping sauce) or Hiyashi Udon (cold udon with cold sauce to pour) – it was hot outside, so I selected a refreshing Hiyashi Saba.

Hiyashi Saba (£10:50) consisted of a bowl of the excellent udon noodles with a sufficient amount of smoked mackerel (saba) to enable a smoky sensation to every bite. The umami rich sauce and fresh green leaves with lemon completed a healthy, clean tasting meal.

As well as the udon dishes, Koya also offer ‘Donburi’ rice bowls served with miso soup and various ‘Small plates’ featuring salads, pickles, tempura and alike.  

From the specials board I also selected a portion of Baby turnip pickles (£2.80) – I’ve always been a fan of anything pickled whether it be eggs, gherkins or rollmops. Perversely, I think this love stemmed childhood visits to the Horniman and Grant museums where I’d stare fascinated into the jars of pickled primates, dissected domestic cats and dogs, fetuses in formaldehyde and the Grant’s famed ‘jar of pickled moles’. The turnips were less fascinating but I’m sure much more delicious.

The above two dishes would have been enough to make a satisfying lunch but I could not resist also ordering the Tofu and broad bean dumpling with Turnip “Agedashi” listed on the specials board (£6.70). The silken tofu made for a light airy textured dumpling, pleasantly dotted with the bite of the beans.

I’d like to remind my Manchester readers of Yuzu in Chinatown (see here) the closest thing we, in the North, have to Koya and another place worthy in my mind of one of Michelin’s Bib Gourmands – the choice isn’t as wide as Koya but the quality is on par.

Check out the entertaining review by fellow Manchester based blogger, Foods To Try Before You Die (here).


  1. Miss eating hiyashi udon, zaru soba etc in summer in Japan! Have eaten hand kneaded Houtou (noodles from Yamanashi region) when I was a child. Can't forget how thick, chewy and tasty they were.

    Last year when I went back to Japan, I had hand kneaded Kishimen in Nagoya. It was in a small diner, specialising in hand kneaded Kishimen and soba. Not an expensive, michelin starred restaurant but Kishimen was fantastic. Wish I had taken some photo!

    There are so many small every day diners which serve excellent meals in Japan.

  2. Food wise, don’t expect either value for money or taste sensations. Our enduring imagine of Koya, is that they could learn a trick or two from some well known chains. The kamo roast duck breast was basically executed with a flat soy soup, some spring onions and a knock-your-head-off wasabi paste; completely unbalanced.
    Value hunters beware; your dinner money would be better spent elsewhere…


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