Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Koya: Udon noodle specialist in Soho

I love New York. I love the way it's at the forefront of all the best (and worst) food fads the world has to offer, the way the city buzzes with fabulous restaurants both new and old, the fact you can get a superb steak or burger (or anything else) on just about any block, and the way that all the city's inhabitants are completely obsessed with good food and eating out. One thing New Yorkers are already right on to is a good bowl of noodles.

Koya reminds me a lot of New York - and it's not just the hungry mob of noodle lovers winding down Frith Street to its understated shop front that does it.

Koya is New York good, it's Tokyo good - it leaves the noodles you know from Wagamama for dead. And it's right in the heart of London.

In Japan, restaurants specialise in only 1 thing until they perfect it - you don't go for the best sushi at the same place you get your world beating tempura. And if noodles are the thing, they'll specialise in only 1 type of noodle to the point of mastery, be it udon, ramen or soba. In this spirit, Koya specialises in udon noodles in basic, canteen style surrounds. Its udon - fat, white, wheat noodles - are made fresh daily in the traditional way - by foot.

The cold udon with hot beef broth (hiya atsu) are divine. The noodles are served, topped with shredded nori (seaweed), on a traditional bamboo mat on the side of a steaming hot bowl of broth, laden with delicate slices of beef and spring onion. It's hearty, slurpy and bursting with flavour, while the noodles are satisfyingly supple. I'm going to find it hard to order something different on my next visit.

The Peanut Gallery's cold, wriggly udon with a light tempura (on the side) and a delectable dashi dipping sauce are also good, although I don't think the tempura is the best thing on offer.

We share a tasty side dish of slippery, marinated mushrooms (kinoko tsukudani).

There are also cold udon with cold broth or dipping sauce for pouring over (hiya hiya) and hot udon with hot broth (atsu atsu). You can add onsen tamago (a slow cooked egg), flaky sprinkles of tempura and other bits and pieces. We're looking forward to going back and working our way through the menu - if we can beat the queues.

Chewy, slurpy and delicious. And at around a very reasonable £15 per head, what's not to love? Let's hope this is the start of a good thing - more places like Koya in London.

Koya, 49 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SG (

Koya on Urbanspoon


  1. I LOVE this place so much. So far the best dish I've found was the cold udon in the hot pork & miso broth, with an onsen tamago cracked into it. Delicious, and now I get PROPER cravings for the noodles.

  2. Humbug. Been here but the beef brisket noodles at Wonkys is only £3.80 and the spaghetti carbonara at the Pollo Bar is £6.50. Both portions are bigger and more satisfying; and not an ounce of pretension to boot. No apologies for sounding like a spoilsport but at least I tell it like it should.

  3. You finally made it there! I tried to get in the other day and had missed their lunch opening hour - damn as it looked so good...

  4. Best noodles I've eaten outside of Asia. Can't wait till I return ....

  5. This is how dorky I am. I have been reading great reviews like this and getting all excited and have reserved it for 2 weeks time. However, this drove me to go and actually look at the outside on the way back hom eto tempt myself??!

    Thanks for the further tempting!

  6. Great post - went to Koya last week for lunch and loved it, didn't have to queue for hours either as we'd feared. Definitely a new regular spot.

  7. Lizzie - The noodles are seriously addictive - I have cravings too. I'll definitely have the pork ones next.

    Bellaphon - Apples and oranges I'm afraid. And I didn't find Koya pretensious at all.

    Gourmet Chick - I've had a few false starts myself, but it's worth the wait. I hope I'm not contributing to overhype - they are just noodles afterall, but damn fine noodles at that.

    Dave - Well, that's a big stamp of approval.

    Tom - Hah! That's so ultra dorky, but I did a walk-by myself! Completely understandable. Hope you enjoy it.

    Salty - Thanks! You did so well to avoid the queues - it might be better timing at lunch time.

  8. I went there a few weeks ago and loved all the dishes i tried. I don't understand the comparison with Wong Kee or Pollo, am I missing something? Anyway, fantastic place, and great review.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  9. Great write up, am now looking forward to a visit even more. And, like Tom, am tempted by a pass-by just to check it out (and maybe take a good sniff in the door to catch the aromas).

  10. Koya is so awesome isn't it?? and isn't it more awesome that it's like 5 mins from your place?? :)

  11. Luiz - Thanks, I love it too. Have since been back for the pork hiya atsu - also delicious, although the beef is still my fav.

    Grubworm - If I see someone just stick their nose in the door, I'll know who you are!

    Catty - Exactly! Gotta love that!

  12. I love Koya too - the mushroom and walnut miso is to.die.for. We took our Japanese friend last night who was also very impressed. There is just no excuse for Wagamammas when you have places like this popping up. I'm seriously addicted to Koya now.

  13. Reciplace - Alright - time for me to try some of the vego options.

  14. I've still yet to make it here - I am the only person who has not been! Ok well that's what it feels like, at least. Noodle noodle noodle. Cheap as chips too. Ticking all the boxes, that's for sure.


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