THE BEGINNING – OF A WHIRLWIND LOVE AFFAIR
London has been an insatiable exploration for me. Food-wise more so than anything. Hong Kong had been good to me; it had gifted me with a spectrum of cuisines, filled to the brim with food from hawkers to Michelin star restaurants that ceased to amaze, and yet I never found that one place that always lured me back for more. Never a weekly haunt where the food was simple, affordable but so incredible that you wanted to simultaneously advertise this tucked-away establishment to friends, acquaintances and strangers alike, but also had the urge keep this precious gem of a find to yourself. This was Koya Bar for me. This is also the reason why after a most inebriated night of celebrations of my twenty-four years of survival on this Earth, I had specifically chosen Koya Bar for my birthday meal accompanied by my rarely-impressed mother and my incredibly hungover partner.
From the moment Adam and I had our first meal at the quiet traditionalistic Japanese noodle bar; I think there was just this instantaneous and uncharacteristic love affair with the friendly staff behind the bar, the communal length of table and the lack of conversations from everyone who were too engaged with slurping up their udon noodles to care. And honestly, I can’t blame them. Normally, I have a deep-seated issue whereby I cannot stop talking, whether it be at the movies, or at a restaurant, or when I am lying in bed before going to sleep. But the udon noodles are made to such perfection that sheer silence is the only way to praise them; the elasticity in the noodles is just right, and they can be slurped right from the bowl to your awaiting mouth with ease. It is the reason why eating at this place has become our Sunday ritual.
This udon dish consists of cold udon noodles with a sesame dipping sauce and sliced spring onions to add to the sauce. I realised after the nth time we had eaten this dish that the sauce seemed to be lacking a certain thickness and taste…to which I realised that mixing the extra topping of an Onsen Tamago (poached egg) into the sesame dipping sauce was the penultimate answer and incentive of mine to forge on my love affair with Koya Bar. This is my simplest and most terrible of addictions. It is also the consistent amuse bouche for Adam before he continues his shared addiction and orders one of the daily specials and or another udon dish on the menu. There are Sundays whereby he has three udon dishes and a side dish for lunch. There are no limits to his love of noodles.
Though the Zaru Gomadare is my favourite, these two other udon dishes are a tied close second:
Cold Udon Noodles | Hot Broth with Mushrooms | Miso Walnut Paste
I recommend this for when you want something warm and filling on a cold, cold winter’s day/evening. Do NOT forget to add an Onsen Tamago as an extra topping! It really does make an extraordinary difference in taste and texture to the hot broth. Miracles do happen.
Cold Udon Noodles | Sweet Tofu | Spring Onion | Wasabi | Cold Pouring Sauce
This was a definite surprise. I did not expect to enjoy this dish as much as I did. The mild pouring sauce mixed in with the portion of wasabi gave the dish just the right amount of heat to compliment the umami combination of the sauce and the large slice of sweet tofu. The tofu itself was a great texture, it wasn’t at all soft as I had expected it to be. It was a fairly thick rectangular portion of tofu, I believe to be grilled and marinated with a sweet miso sauce, and had a delicious chewy texture that contrasted the slippery smooth texture of the udon noodles. This dish definitely must, must, must be sampled for those who have a penchant for tofu and honestly, for those who also do not. It will definitely change your perspective, as tofu-haters depict tofu as a soft and tasteless vegetarian protein alternative.
Given my newfound love and adventure for all tofu dishes, I tried the daily special which was Agedashi Tofu (deep fried) with a thick turnip paste sauce and mashed ginger. Taking into consideration that I had already sampled Koya Bar’s permanent small plate of Atsu-Age that I instantly had to add to my favourite tofu dishes, the comparison I had made between the two was so glaringly obvious by my dejected facial expression that Adam had interjected mid-frown whether I would like to order the Atsu-Age instead of finishing the bland tofu I had ordered.
Though the bland tofu dish was my first disappointment after the countless visits to this addictive establishment, it certainly will not deter my ritual Sunday lunches and occasional breakfasts when I can rip myself from the warm comforts of my duvet. It is probably the only reason I can fight the overwhelming urge to stay in bed on a cold Sunday.
THE ENDING – IT’S NEVER REALLY THE END FOR KOYA BAR & I
Nathalie’s Rating: 4.9/5