Koya is a simple, but neatly designed, Japanese restaurant located in the trendy London district of Soho.
They are known for their udon, the thick Japanese noodles, which can be eaten in soup or dry form with the soup or sauce on the side.
I had read, Koya Udon can often have a long queue of hungry people waiting for their turn to get in, especially on the weekends (sounds like Tokyo to me!).
We went on a weekday, and arrived a few minutes before opening for lunch at 12 noon, and we were able to get the first table in the restaurant, though it did fill up quite quickly after we arrived.
The menu was quite simple, about 5 different types of udon, with beef, tofu, pork, duck, or saba fish, and then you could choose to order each type of udon hot in hot soup (atsu-atsu), cold with hot soup (hiya-atsu), or cold with cold sauce on the side (hiya-hiya).
There were also a few donburi, or rice bowls, on the menu as well. Full menu here.
Ying and I decided to order the saba udon in soup and also a gyudon donburi, a bowl of rice with thins strips of marinated beef piled on top.
The staff were all very nice and friendly, the service was good, and the atmosphere was warm and friendly.
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Our noodles arrived on a tray, steaming hot, with a wonderful Japanese broth aroma.
Everything we ordered at Koya restaurant was nicely presented, just as nearly all food in Japan is (presentation is so important in every type of Japanese food).
Being a rice lover, most of the time over a noodle lover, I dug straight into the beef donburi.
The bowl contained rice at the bottom, covered by thin tangly strips of beef, marinated in sweet and salty soy flavored sauce. The beef was then topped in a handful of thinly sliced green onions, and a scoop of pink pickled ginger.
The beef was awesome quality, extremely tender, bursting with flavor, and compared to versions of the same dish I ate in Tokyo a few months prior, it was nearly equal in quality.
It was served with a light miso soup, that included a few strips of tofu and some strips of mild green onion, and I really enjoyed it.
The only thing I think that could have made it better, would have been a raw egg cracked in the middle, oozing into the hot rice, as it would commonly be served in Japan – that would have given it the extra edge of richness it needed.
Price – 11 GBP
Next up, I dug into the saba (mackerel) udon.
The noodles were very good, slightly chewy, but not mushy.
The saba fish had a lovely smokey flavor to it, and had lightly crispy edges, with soft fleshy meat.
Unlike udon I had in Japan, I enjoyed the addition of a handful of fresh rocket and other crisp vegetables which they tossed on top, to complete the bowl of udon.
It was really a well balanced bowl of udon, nice subtle flavors, and good quality ingredients. After a few scoops of Japanese chili powder, which added the final extra dimension of flavor, it was quite nice.
Price – 11 GBP
Overall, KOYA serves great home-made style udon noodles and good tasting donburi rice bowls, that include a good balance of flavors. The ingredients were fresh and of great quality.
I loved the donburi, but I wish it would have come along with a raw egg cracked into the middle.
However, I thought prices were quite steep and portion sizes weren’t very big. But then again, they are located in Soho London, where it seems nearly impossible to eat for less than 10 Pounds per person. Coming from SE Asia, I thought it was a bit high priced, but it was good nonetheless, and after all, this is London.
KOYA Udon – London, England
Official website: http://www.koya.co.uk/
Prices: 10 – 15 GBP per dish
Open hours: 12 noon – 3 pm and 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm on Monday – Sunday
Address: 49 Frith Street London W1D 4SG
How to get there: Koya is located in near Soho Square, and about a 10 minute walk from either Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Rd. station. I was at Piccadilly Circus, and walked from there in about 10 minutes as well. Check out the map for easiest directions.
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