49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG
Koya is a rather new restaurant in Soho, serving Japanese udon. They have a couple of rice dishes (donburi) and side dishes as well, but the star of the whole restaurant is their udon. We’ve read many mixed reviews about Koya. The good reviews were just glowing – raving about how wonderful the udon was. The not so good reviews however, were a lot more tentative in their criticisms. None of them seemed to say outright that the food at Koya is bad. There seemed to be a kind of regretful lack of cultural/food awareness that explained why the author didn’t enjoy their meal. Most of such reviews would mention something along the lines of ‘perhaps we didn’t order the right dish’, with a note to return for a second try.
Our opinion: we think the food at Koya is really good. We had Buta miso (Pork and miso) udon and a Ten Curry Don (Prawn tempura and curry with rice). The Ten Curry Don came with the single largest piece of prawn tempura we have ever seen, and the curry was really nice. There was a very generous portion of curry, and it was full of flavor. The prawn was slightly over-cooked and a little underwhelming taste-wise as compared to the curry, but that tends to happen with extremely large prawns – it’s hard to cook them perfectly.
The star of the meal was the udon. The noodles were slippery and fresh, and there was a very nice ‘bite’ to the udon – almost like a good pasta done al dente. The udon came in a nice clear broth, which quickly became incredibly tasty once the miso was mixed in. The broth was far tastier than the miso soup, which was like a throwaway side that came with the curry don. That was definitely the best udon that we’ve ever had, and judging by the largely Japanese clientele that day, it’s probably one of the most authentic you’ll find in London.
We also had a side of Onsen Tamago (poached egg), and it was delicious, though K would have liked it slightly more runny. Another side that we had was the Kakuni (Braised pork belly with cide) which was also really good, but not as tender as the one we had at Asakusa.
Service at Koya is generally really good and courteous, just like what you would expect of a homely Japanese restaurant, but sometimes we struggled to get their attention, especially when it got quite busy. Overall this is definitely one place to check out. The udon isn’t cheap, but as far as we can tell, it is very authentically Japanese and undiluted by the need to pander to Western tastebuds.