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Restaurant Review: Koya in Soho

Do you actually care about udon?  Do you actually know what good udon tastes like?  I know what bad udon tastes like but good udon?  That has as many variations as pasta. Just look at wikipedia if you feel like being bored by some obsessive fooding (here). Being in Hong Kong is making me approach food differently.  It is making me realise that I just don’t know enough and what I think is good, well, might not be.

Everyone is in agreement that Koya is good.  Everyone raves about the udon. However, stop for a minute and think about steak instead.  Everyone thinks they know how steak should be ordered. Medium rare right? But go to Argentina.  A place which is born of steak, grows steak, is fed by steak on a day to day basis and how do they serve it? Well done.

Still, I am not saying I have the answers; I loved Koya. Put to one side the fact that I, you (well unless you are a well travelled Japanese person) knows nothing and their udon may or may not be good. Judging it on the basis of taste buds born of al dente pasta and all things Italian I thought it was relevatory. Still neglect the udon for one moment, the broths they come in or to be dipped in are worth the trip alone.

I’m not going to get into the love in about Koya as it is already out there, plastered all over the web.  It is good. It is impressive in its ambition.  It doesn’t only seek to do good udon and broth but the starters are also beyond reproach and worthy of love.  Put it this way.  We went on a Monday, we returned on a Wednesday and we tried to get back in on the same weekend.

Still, where is the ramen equivalent in London?  And can anyone who really knows Japanese food explain why you can’t get tonkotsu udon…? That is what I really want.

Price – £20 a head

PS – for some non food philosophical consideration of the food and thoughts on what you might order you can’t do better than The Grubworm here.
Koya on Urbanspoon


  1. Chris

    Argentinian beef is awful – mass produced, unaged, flavourless and uniformly beet-red all the way through. If the Argentinians cook their steak to well done it's probably just to mask the flavour. They eat a lot of it because it's cheap and they have the space for lots of cattle ranches – doesn't mean it's any good.

    Koya, on the other hand, and as you've discovered, IS good.

  2. London Chow

    Hmm, the reason why you can't get tonkatsu udon is probably because the Japanese just don't have it that way. heheh…

    A Ghanaian friend of mine asked me the same about why Chinese don't do beef fried rice. Well, I supposed the answer is the same as well. Back in Singapore, the deep fried pork cutlet is one of the more popular 'Western food' with fish n chips. But I noted that the English just don't do pork cutlet but do pork chop instead.

    Oh, Wife love the broth as well. Said that it was definitely one of the best she ever tasted. Flavourful yet not too salty.

  3. Mr Noodles

    Out of curiosity, I'm wondering if Chris's POV is based on personal experience of Argentinian beef in Argentina or Argentinian beef in the UK? It can't all be terrible can it?

  4. Tom

    Well my experience of Argentinian beef in Argentina is that it is a mixed bag but an infinitely better mixed bag than London or the UK. London still only has a handful of places which do what I would call a proper steak. In BA they have places serving entry level steaks but they also have places which raise the art. I have rarely ever had better steaks than in little fiestas in the countryside where it is meat and an open BBQ.

    That said, I preferred my steaks (and chicken hearts) in Brazil.

    London Chow – still is strange isn't it. I can imagine udon noodles working so well with pork broth. Maybe you should open up a chain in London so I can have them when I come back!

    Still I think the underlying point is what do an

  5. Tom

    For some reason that didn't finish. But the underlying point is that taste is so individual and it requires a whole host of international travel, food education and open mindedness before you can get to a measured opinion.

  6. The Grubworm

    Koya did what it does very well indeed. I like Udon a lot, even the trashy ones you get vacuum packed in Chinatown. So I was always going to enjoy it. But, as you have said, the broths were a revelation. The pork and miso one i had verged on too rich for the amount, but it sure was tasty. I would have loved it in a slightly smaller portion. Your ducky broth, however, was bloody marvellous, as were the beef ones. So clear, both in taste and appearance. They're the broths i need when i'm ill.

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