11 Rathbone Street
London W1T 1NA
020 7580 8825
Recently, we’ve cut down the number of times we’ve been eating out, as A feels that we’re getting fat, and need to eat more healthy home-cooked food where she has every say on what goes into each meal.
However, today, 2 of our friends flew into London today for a holiday in Europe, so we decided to eat out, and have dinner at Koba, which was a good choice location-wise, since it’s just a few minutes walk away from where we stay. Since this was a last minute decision, when we called to make a ‘reservation’ we were told that we could go anytime, but we would need to return the tables by 8pm. That wasn’t a problem at all, since service was quick and the food didn’t take too long to arrive. Besides that, we didn’t pay much attention to the service, as we were busy chatting away, so the service rating in this entry might be a little inaccurate.
Our waiter brought us this little dish with 4 small round white marshmallow looking things, and proceeded to pour some hot water over them while they expanded. He told us what it was, but 2 of us at the table heard him call it ‘radish’, and were extremely intrigued by it, and asked him if we were meant to eat it immediately. Turns out, there were not radishes, but ‘wet tissues’. That was quite an embarrassing episode, and it was a good thing none of us tried to eat it.
Anyway, we ordered some dishes which we have read so much about from other food blogs. First up was the Jab Chae (Stir fried vermicelli with beef & vegetables), which was stickier than what we expected. However, it did have a lot more ingredients in it than the version in Bi Won, but we felt that we preferred the texture of Bi Won’s slightly better.
The next dish was the Kimchi Pancake. The pancake was delightfully crispy, even the pieces in the middle, and definitely less oily than the pancake at Bi Won. We all loved this dish, and even the carnivore we were dining with had to admit that he liked it, despite the Kimchi.
K was very excited to order the next dish, which was Yook Hwei (Seasoned raw beef with sliced pears). This came delicately assembled, with the beef stacked nicely on the pear, and the raw egg yolk balancing on it all. However, we were only given 2 seconds to look at it before our server mixed everything together. It was definitely a pity not being given the chance to admire it a little more, and to take photos of it before it was mixed together. Our 2 dining companions were very apprehensive about this dish, since the beef was obviously raw, but they gamely tried it, and kind of liked it. We absolutely loved it, (being far more adventurous) and were very surprised by how the pear added another dimension to the dish. The beef didn’t taste raw at all, and it wasn’t too overpoweringly marinated, as many tartar dishes are. In comparison, the French beef tartar is one dish that tastes raw, and is very strongly seasoned. We felt that this dish was successful without being clichéd, and loved the pear with the beef.
Our Kanpooggi (deep fried chicken in batter with sweet chili sauce) was alright. A thought that the crust was a little too hard. We also had some barbecue dishes, which we asked them to cook in the kitchen, as we didn’t want our clothes to smell of bbq.
The Dak Bulgogi (sweet and spicy chicken) wasn’t spicy at all, but was well marinated and tender. It wasn’t an outstanding dish though, and didn’t leave a lasting impression.
The Joomulluk (marinated beef) was very flavorful, and it overcooked while we waited for our rice to arrive before digging into it, which was quite a pity. It was definitely better than the abysmal one we had at Bi Won, and we could see that if we had eaten it immediately when it first arrived, that it would have been very, very good.
We also had Bokeumbap (Koba special fried rice) and the Yookhwei Dolsot Bibimbap (steamed rice with raw beef and vegetables in hot pot). The fried rice was full of flavor, and, to the carnivore’s dismay, filled with vegetables. He spent most his time trying to pick the vegetables out of the rice, and soon gave up. (Moral of the story: make your kids like vegetables!) The bibimbap came with an absolutely generous amount of vegetables and raw beef, which cooked very nicely in the hot pot. We both felt that the bibimbap was far better than the one at Bi Won, as it had so much more depth and flavor. The only flaw perhaps, was that, just like Bi Won, they gave far too little sauce to mix the rice with.
Overall, we feel that the food at Koba is more sophisticated and well presented than Bi Won. However, Bi Won has a very homely charm about it, which is what Koba lacks. We’d be very happy going to either for our Korean fix, depending on whether we’d like to have a simple, rustic meal, or a more refined, well thought out meal, for that day.