I've never been a big fan of Udon... Koya's done nothing to change that
“The simplicity of Udon noodle allows a variety of accompanying ingredients, which creates variety within the menu. From hot soup to salad, the simplicity of Udon brings out the best qualities of the other ingredients. Utilising the best fresh produce that this country has to offer, including seaweed from the coast of Wales, seafood from the fish markets of London, traditional English root vegetables, to Asian mushrooms developed and produced by local farmers, the concept is to apply Japanese authenticity within a local context.”
While I was in Japan for a couple of weeks, which you can read about here, I never really understood why Udon was so popular. While I could appreciate the flavours, for me the noodles were too plain and the broth too subtle so the idea of going to to Koya, who’s menu is almost exclusively Udon based (apart from some side plates and donburi options) wasn’t really exciting me but with so many good reviews I felt like I owed Udon another shot.
Antonia and I went before going to Book of Mormon. We’d tried going to Koya before with a friend of ours but due to the 45min wait ended up going round the corner to Princi. This time there was only had a 5min wait while a table paid their bill – result. The interior feels clean and modern, minimal without being dull and there’s a small area at the back next to the open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. As far as I could see, none of the kitchen staff were Japanese, which was surprising. There are boards on the walls that repeat the menu as well as a paper menu on your table.
I quickly learnt how seriously their taking this as I spotted the different sections on the menu showing the variations in serving and accompaniments for the all important Udon.
- Atsu-Atsu: Hot Udon in hot broth
- Hiya-Atsu: Cold Udon served in it’s own dish with a bowl of hot broth to dip the Udon
- Hiya-Hiya: Cold Udon with a small amount of sauce to dip the Udon
- Hiyashi Udon: Cold Udon with cold sauce to pour over your Udon
Having only had Atsu-Atsu in Japan I was keen to try something else and after speaking to our waiter he recommended I try Hiya-Atsu, which is more of a summer style thanks to cold noodles.
Along with a side of Kamo Roast which is roast duck served cold in a light broth (£7.10) Antonia ordered the Tempura Atsu-Atsu (£10.30) and I had the Buta Miso Hiya-Atsu (£9.50). The roast duck was lovely and light and beautifully cooked, Antonia’s dish had a generously sized tempura prawn that was still sizzling from the fryer, on top of the Udon broth. The tempura itself was excellent but the broth was like the broths I’d had in Japan – underwhelming.
My dish however was delicious. The marinated pork in the bottom of the bowl was stunning – intense, rich (almost too rich), moreish and the broth, being miso based was just as good but. It was nice having the Udon served cold so you could dip it and the noodles themselves were as good as any I had in Japan. I also had an Onsen Tamago (poached egg) which when dropped in to the broth only added to the smoothness of it.
I’m warming to Udon but it still doesn’t excite me and I’m not in a hurry to go back to Koya. They make all their Udon on site by hand, which I have a lot of respect for but overall I found the menu to be overpriced. Over £10 for one piece of tempura, broth and some Udon feels like a lot of money but it seems people are happy to pay it so good luck to them.