Wednesday, 2 June 2010
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 (www.koya.co.uk)