Tuesday 17 April 2012

Oodles of noodles - Koya, W1 Soho

What started out as a light gentle stroll during lunchtime ended up in one of the most hyped up, Japanese udon-ya in Soho. I have wanted to try this noodle restaurant for ages but one reason or another, I've never quite managed to. And as if luck were on my side, this renowned 'prepare to wait in the long queue at lunchtime' joint has not a single soul in sight standing by the Noren (Japanese curtain). Perfect! I thought, it's meant to be.

Even without the usual queue by the entrance, the noodles bar is far from empty. Every one of the utilitarian wooden chairs and tables were filled with diners slurping away at their udon. Well, maybe not slurping but there were definitely a sense of excitement and buzz among the lunchers. On either side of the stripped down and understated room were clean, simple wooden menus hung along the entire length of the walls. I was immediately greeted by a waitress, with a tiny hint of a bow.

'For one? Hai! These way please,' and with a smile, I was led straight through to the back of the room where there was a bench and counter overlooking the lively kitchen. I quickly parked myself on the bench and navigated the menu.
The daily specials were inscribed with chalk on a black board by the Maneki Neko, the waving cat. Everything on the specials looked rather tempting but I eventually settled for the grilled horse mackerel(£7.70), one of my favourite fish. And from the wide selections on the main menu, I've gone for the Tempura prawn udon (£9.90).

One good thing about sitting by the kitchen is definitely the chance to ogle at the chef doing their thing and it's no different here. Each station had a specialist chef and there was a harmonious sycronisation as they waltz along preparing each bowl of steaming udon. The broth were prepared and passed over to the next chef; hot, freshly cooked udon was then ladled with the steaming broth and individual toppings.
Within  minutes of ordering, the mackeral was laid before me - a beautifully butterflied amber-coloured fish that had been grilled to perfection; sweet, flakey flesh with a salty soy flavoured and subtle nuttiness from the sesame seeds.
The hot steaming bowl of udon arrived soon after and what a delightful sight. The big, juicy tempura prawn was covered in a batter so light that it look as if it was ready to float out of the bowl any minute. The udon was thick, bouncy with a chewy bite à la al dente and the accompanying broth was deceptively flavoursome and rich.

The meal cost £19.36 with 10% service charge and as for the bottle of filtered water, it's free.  I left sated and happy.

49 Frith Street
(Lunch 12-3pm and dinner 5.30pm-10pm)
Koya on Urbanspoon
Square Meal


  1. you have to try the cider-braised pork belly there!!

  2. I actually think the Tempura is their least favourite dish of mine - the mushroom and walnut miso hot broth is on another level. I always get cold noodles as you get the texture differences between the cold chewy noodles and the softer type once they've bathed for a bit in the hot broth. 

    The onsen tamago topping cracked straight into the soup is also awesome. God I have such a craving now. 

  3. Oops - that's meant to be MY least favourite dish of THEIRS! Sorry. 

  4. Oooo...like the sound of that. Will do the next time I'm back to koya, hopefully soon. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

  5. Thanks for the recommendation Lizzie. Being my first visit, I thought I'll try the tempura cause normally that's a sign of a good Japanese restaurant if it's done well. It was good  but did turn soggy by the time I was halfway through the udon. The udon noodles itself was so good that I'm definitely planning a return visit to try out your recommendation soon. :)

  6. www.vialaporte.com10 November 2012 at 18:23

    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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