Update: Koya closed in 2015 when chef Junya Yamasaki returned to Japan. Koya Bar continues, though, and now demonstrates similar special skills on its blackboard.
In these, our ramen days, one could almost be forgiven for forgetting or not knowing about London’s best noodle restaurant: Koya. That’s not to say it’s not busy – you will still queue for seat until the tail end of service – but until PR builds for the opening of their second site next door, Koya’s impeccable udon noodles may fall under many people’s radar. Which is a bit silly. Because as enjoyable as some of the ramen spots are, Koya occupies another level.
For a long time, I found it difficult to diverge from my staple of tempura veg (Yasai Ten Mori) to share, followed by cold noodles, hot pork and miso broth (Buta Miso Hiya-Atsu) to greedily keep to myself. I still commend that order to any first timer. But my One Good Reason to go, go, and go again to Koya, is actually their Daily Specials board.
A word of warning: very occasionally, a few of the smaller items will feel a little spenny. But, more often than not, if you order from the blackboard you will strike gold. Options always reflect the best of Japanese technique and flavour, often combined with a unique take on British ingredients.
The scallop, broad bean and pea shoot dashi, pictured above, struck a perfect balance between freshness and comfort. I remember seemingly simple but mighty effective miso marinated wild salmon and soused mackerel dishes; grouse and girolles with mustard garlic leaves; insanely more-ish curly udon fries with a miso ketchup; and, recently, a no frills but beautiful grilled red mullet, and a monkfish and monkfish liver udon noodle soup – which was probably the best thing I have eaten this year, and is likely to still be in the mix in December.
Like I said: go, go, and go again.
Koya – 50 Frith Street, W1D 4SG
One Good Reason
The Daily Specials board. Keep an eye on owner John Devitt’s twitter feed @KoyaUdon for what’s in store. You will never be disappointed with the special udon …