Tucked away in a side street off Broadway Market in Hackney is this tiny restaurant dubbed by the Koya family of restaurants as the “little sister” to their more formal Koya Soho and City outlets.
It’s all about casual eating. The menu, shown on wood planks on the wall, is small, and at its heart are udon noodle and dashi dishes, hearty yet easy eating dishes.
The service resembles the fast-paced dining of the train station noodle bars found in Japan. You choose at the till, and after ordering, you are given a receipt with a number that eventually appears on an overhead screen to let you know the order is ready to pick up.
There are just a handful of closely packed small square tables with very little elbow room. Somehow though that discomfort falls away to make way for the fun of the experience and the enjoyment of the great food.
Their dining ethos encompasses Japan’s famous tachi-gui (standing while dining) with a standing counter where around eight people can scoff a bowl of udon on the move.
There’s also another 25 covers for outdoor dining and all dishes are available to take away.
You can go noodle (udon) or rice-based (don) and between the two of us we got both and picked up a few sides as well.
Ko Meaty – an udon dish – is a slow-braised beef shin with chilli oil dish served in a very meaty broth. It comes with thick noodles and chunks of beef in a bowl.
We found the meat to be a tad fatty but nevertheless, it was succulent and tasty. The broth was spiced enough to leave behind a tingling tongue without any burning heat.
The Curry don is a deep filled bowl of rice doused with curry sauce and a tempura egg with flaming yellow yolks. This was highly flavoursome but not hot and turned out to be a hearty meal that left hardly any room for the side snacks.
But I gave them a go anyway.
The chicken Kara Age, is a Japanese style deep-fried chicken thigh served with onion sauce. This turned out to be a bit of a star, surprisingly light with delicious soy sauce and mirin flavours and actually if this was matched with noodles or rice would be a fantastic meal in itself.
We also chose the Namayasi salad. This is green leaves and shiso salad. with sesame seeds. The leaves come from the Namayasai farm in Sussex, and are picked and delivered the same day and were fresh and crips on our plate. The flavours were nicely balanced courtesy of sesame seed oil, onion and rase seed oil and miso – basically, this is a Japanese take on French dressing.
Otsukemono – this is a small plate of homemade pickles which included really delicious pickled fennel fronds.
This is casual dining done well and despite the cosy nature people flock here grabbing a seat as soon as one comes up.
Check out the menu