Koya is a Japanese udon restaurant on Berwick Street in Soho. Whenever I’ve walked past there’s always been a mahoosive queue out the door. When we joined the end of it one evening for a spot of dinner, we were pleasantly surprised to be seated rather quickly.
If you’re uncultured like me, udon is a type of thick wheat flour noodle, (thanks Wikipedia) usually but not always served in a bowl of mildly flavoured broth. So it’s basically ramen with thicker noodles – well sort of.
The restaurant inside was plain and simple which is apparently very traditional. The atmosphere was really relaxed and so was the service. In between courses we were asked to move to a smaller table so a bigger party could sit there – elsewhere I’d find that a bit annoying but here it just felt normal.
To start we opted for the sakana ten (£8.90) which was tempura fish. We didn’t catch what exactly they were but each piece was coated in a gloriously crisp and greaseless batter. It was the first time I’d actually enjoyed a battered shiso leaf too. It came with a side dish filled with sesame seeds and spring onion which added flavour.
The kamo roast (£7.10), or roast duck, was cooked perfectly – pink moist meat topped with a layer of slightly chewy but well seasoned fat. I could have done with double the amount though as it was quite small. The dollop of paste that was similar to wasabi was the hottest thing I’ve ever encountered – my eyes streamed with tears after the tiniest taste. Morbidly addictive though.
From the hot udon, hot broth section I opted for the buta miso (£9.90) which was pork with miso – apparently their most popular dish. My gentleman companion went for the Gyusuji (£11.40) which was beef. Both were served at molten lava temperatures – our poor waitress even spilt some broth on her hand and exclaimed “fuck, that’s hot!”. I couldn’t have agreed more. Once cooled however they were both delicious – my pork broth had a slightly thicker texture which we preferred over that of the watery beef one. The flavour of both was superb though; really intense.
They don’t do desserts which seemed a shame but never the less we loved Koya. Our blasphemous waitress looked after us perfectly from start to finish and the whole place felt really charming. Personally I think I prefer the richness and thicker broths that ramen have to offer but even so I’d definitely return.