I finally made it to Koya, that celebrated Japanese udon restaurant on Frith Street in Soho. I’d not found time to make my way there in the year and half since it opened and I’ll be honest with you, the knowledge of queues to get in every day really put me off. I sucked it up one Saturday though, roped in my good friend Roxanne and we met in front of the restaurant just before it opened for lunch. Moments after we sat down on one of the wooden benches out front, a queue started to form behind us. Whoa – this was serious. All the early queuers were rewarded with tables and everyone who arrived after they opened found themselves in that queue. We had a table! And we were hungry – of course we would try their homemade udon but we also greedily ordered two of the side dishes.
From the specials menu chalked up daily on the blackboard, Roxanne chose the Baby clams and Girolles steamed in sake (£8.20). Being quick to cook, these arrived first and we dripped the clammy juices down our arms while slurping them down. An extra spoon wouldn’t have gone amiss here as we were sharing.
I wanted to try their tempura and so ordered their Yasai Ten Mori, assorted vegetable tempura (£8.30). It may not have been cheap but it was excellent – light, non-greasy and crisp.
I was very pleased with my Buta Miso (Atsu-Atsu – hot udon in hot broth) (£9.40) – the thick brown paste dolloped on top of my noodles was porky bits in a salty, savoury miso paste. I stirred this through and it made for a most comforting bowl of noodles. The udon noodles had that wonderful bite that you only seem to get from being freshly made and were just amazing.
Roxanne also enjoyed her Tempura (Atsu-Atsu) (£9.90), which came with a large tempura prawn. If I have this next time, I’d ask for the prawn to be served on the side, keeping it as crisp as possible.
An Onsen Tamago (£1.80) (hot spring egg) on the side was beautiful and surprisingly reminded me of the soft boiled eggs of my childhood. I had expected it to be slightly more cooked but it was still good.
It was quite a bit of food between us and we could have ordered one less side dish and still have been comfortably full. I don’t regret overeating that day however – it really was all excellent. What in the world had been stopping me from visiting before though?! Oh yes, that queue but you can show up just as they open, like we did, and avoid it altogether. I’ll be back (I can’t wait to have the cold noodles next time!).
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG