Monday, 15 November 2021

Koya Ko, Broadway Market

Much as I will always have a soft spot for Koya (and specifically their new Broadway Market spot Koya Ko), there are certain aspects of an evening there that, well, let's just say need addressing.

The first thing is the strangely opaque (and I don't just mean the colour of the miso broth) way dishes are described on the menu. I would say quite an important thing to know when ordering a bowl of noodles is not only whether a dish is hot or cold (this is illustrated, and so fine) but also crucially whether it comes as a soup or not. This is not, for some bizarre reason, mentioned, and so requires you asking the (admittedly friendly and patient) person taking the order about each dish in turn to find out whether it's just a plate of noodles or a big gorgeous heartwarming noodle soup. Particularly at this time of year, I will always want a broth. And while 'Tempura' does, 'Triple Pickle' doesn't. 'Kaiso Classic' does but 'Saucy' doesn't.

Fortunately, everything we ended up with was wonderful. But before I get to that, my second niggle. The place is tiny, with tables set at rather Covid-unfriendly elbow-clashing intervals and with sometimes a queue to order taking up any remaining space in the middle of the room. True you can eat outside, but that's becoming increasingly impossible, and you can take away, but if you want to enjoy your dinner hot and presented as beautifully as they do in the restaurant itself, you'll really want to eat in. And because this is Broadway Market you'll be sharing that steamy, noisy space with giant child's buggies, which have to be bumped down a set of narrow stairs on the way in and then somehow be parked up in a room barely big enough to hold the furniture it already has. Let me be very clear, kids in restaurants is not the problem here, it's that some spaces are just not designed for it however much they wish they were.

But forget about all that because just look at this food. Firstly the prawn tempura which came adorned with a single absolutely massive prawn in a fantastic batter which started off crisp and light then generally became a soft, fluffy element of the soup itself. The broth was clean and clear, seasoned subtly but not overwhelmingly salty, and of course the udon noodles were supremely good, probably the best you can get in London. At least, if there are any better around, I haven't found them yet.

To circumvent the issue of 'Triple Pickle' not being a soup, we ordered a 'Plain' udon in broth, and a side of pickles. Both were fantastic, particularly the daikon which had a really addictively pongy - in a good way - funk.

And this is 'Kaiso Classic', four types of seaweed adorning another winning arrangement of slippery, meaty udon noodles and warming soup. Into this we cracked a 'Tamago', not the kind of sweet omelette thing you see in sushi places but a single whole egg very cleverly (and presumably very slowly) poached in its own shell. The white was wobbly and soft, the yolk runny, and it combined brilliantly with the noodles.

With a couple of green teas and a (very nice) house lemonade, the bill came to about £15 a head, which I hardly need to point out for food of this quality and consistency, and sheer technical ability, one of the great food bargains of London. It's a victim of its own success perhaps but that was always likely to be the case in this part of town, and I should point out in the interests of fairness that a solo repeat visit at lunchtime was a much more sedate and comfortable affair, sat at the bar chugging back a pork and miso bowl with seasonal greens (that would be lots and lots of watercress then) before heading off happy and full.

And look if you don't like queuing or noise or elbows, there's always the Soho branch, which is still brilliant and has a slightly more expanded and ambitious menu with ingredients like duck and beef tendon to dazzle and delight. There's also a branch in the Bloomberg Arcade and I've never been but you know what, that's probably pretty amazing too. Koya are one of London's real gems, food of thoughtfulness and invention and skill served for a ludicrously small amount of money, and if that makes them ludicrously oversubscribed too well, that's just the price we'll have to pay. And I'd pay it happily, over and over again.


No comments: