I wish I had taken photos of my dinner here, but I just couldn’t stop eating for long enough to get the camera out. And some nights, I just don’t feel like taking pictures – it really is ALL about the food. Needless to say, the meal we had at this dinky Japanese noodle bar in Soho last week was beyond excellent.

If you’ve been a bit ‘blah-ed out’ by the bland bowls of Japanese-style noodle soup in chains such as Wagamamas (which I find about as exciting as dish water), you should really give Koya a go, as the soups here don’t resemble these at whatsoever. The restaurant makes its own fresh udon noodles from scratch. These are the fat, wormy ones that have a satisfying chew to them. You can get them in hot or cold broths with all sorts of seasonings, toppings and adornments. The broths are out of this world – they all taste different, according to which soup you choose. I blissed out with a bowl of clear, smoky bonfire-flavoured broth, chewy udon noodles on the side, and a plateful of crispy tempura prawns and veg to add in whatever amounts I chose. My husband had a bear-hug of a bowl of warm miso broth with pork, really salty and satisfying, with side dishes of fermented beans and a jewel-bright mound of seaweed.

Starter plates are not to be missed either – we wolfed down the crispiest tempura treats, such as sand eel with samphire, and prawns coated in jagged fragile light batter. House pickles were thin disks of beetroot marinated in spicy vinegar. I had a strange but not unpleasant cold Oolong tea that came in a can like a Coke.

We ate like lords, seated at the ‘bar-style’ counter at the back of the restaurant where we could observe the chefs making the noodles by hand. There was a great atmosphere – staff were attentive but not overbearing, the hubbub from the diners rose to the rafters, and the chefs focussed silently on their tasks, churning out plate after plate of beautiful tempura and steaming bowls of aromatic soups. This is food that makes you feel good on the inside, and it’s really good value too.

49 Frith Street


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