Blimey, is it the TENTH BackBench at Koya already?! 

Well the tenth since they started, but only the ninth for me as I missed the one in November – I know, even I was appalled at myself…

So there I was at my regular seat for lunch on Monday, eagerly anticipating for the first course to be served. Instead of sake I went for the safe option of cold brew oolong, knowing what alcohol does to me at that time of the day…

We arrived slightly early and watched as Chef Junya was prepping the crab for one of the courses. 

| Mochi, Hare, Salsify & Dandelion Zoni |

Zōni or o-zōni is a Japanese soup containing mochi rice cakes, and is strongly associated with Japanese New Year celebration. It was also a tradition to eat rabbit/hare in the old days – a bit of a historical and cultural theme going on here. Even though we are almost at the end of January, it was still an interesting way to start off the first BackBench of 2015 – the soup was warm and comforting, the hare tender and the mochi had a pleasant chewy texture.
If only everyday was Japanese New Year. 

| Rhubarb Ohitashi |

Ohitashi is a traditional Japanese side dish, and a popular way to eat boiled greens. Ohitashi means soaked, whereby the vegetable, commonly spinach, is soaked in Dashi sauce. Chef Junya decided to give the dish a bit of a twist by utilizing rhubarb, an ingredient commonly used in desserts. I must say that I am not much of a fan of rhubarb, but the way it was prepared may have made me change my perception of it – it had a crisp and crunchy texture and really fresh flavours with a hint of sharpness. I can’t quite remember what the paste was made of, but it tasted like miso…

| Kombu Cured Mackerel & Tokyo Turnip |

The kombu cured mackerel has always been one of my favourite dishes to order whenever I dine at Koya. The mackerel is unbelievably fresh (supplied by the one and only Matt @cornishgrill), and cured in kombu, an edible kelp commonly used to flavour Japanese soups, noodles and stocks (dashi).

This was served with some cubes of Japanese turnip, which are generally more moist than English turnips, and spicy mustard.

I would be happy to eat an entire kombu cured mackerel…

| Steamed Oyster, Celeriac & January King Cabbage |

We had fresh oyster at the last BackBench, and this time it was steamed. I have to say that I still prefer fresh oysters in general, but nonetheless it tasted good. And I even had an extra serving as Mr P kindly offered his to me – I wish that he would have done the same with all the other dishes.

| Brockman’s Turnip Tempura |

Chef Junya used an English turnip for this dish, which has much deeper flavours as compared to the Japanese turnip used in the mackerel dish. The whole turnip was deep fried for approximately 20 minutes, resulting in a really crisp coating and a soft, but not too mushy texture on the inside. This was served with some salt and chilli powder.

| Crab & Jeruselam Artichoke |

I am usually excited for every BackBench, but the sight of crab on the menu just took it to the next level. The Brown crab was grilled over charcoal to produce more intense flavours. And as you may have seen in the very first photo at the top, the crab was being carefully shelled and picked – guess that takes the messy bit out of the way.
I don’t think that Mr P would have appreciated me flinging bits of crab legs at him…

| Red Mullet Mandarin Miso Dengaku & Searadish |

 I was secretly hoping that I would get the tail which is my favourite part, and I did! 

Or maybe I was whispering under my breath a bit too loud that he overheard me…either way it worked out well for me.

The red mullet was cured with some salt and mandarin miso. The flesh was really fresh with a nice, flaky texture. And that skin…so full of flavour.

| Mallard & Wild Onion Nanban Udon | 

The udon dish is often the dish that I most look forward to as I clearly LOVE all things noodle-related. The broth as usual was really clean and warming, the mallard nicely seared and there were those cute wild onions again that Chef Junya foraged.

| Amazake Ice Cream | 

No sake-kasu ice cream this time, but instead we had amazake ice cream – a traditional sweet, non- (or low-) alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice.

| Seville Orange | 

And some candied Seville orange peel to finish, which went well with the ice cream. 

A great first BackBench of 2015, and still one of my favourite seats in London.
Thank you once again to Chef Junya and the Koya team, and see you at the next BackBench.

For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:

The BackBench #1
The BackBench #2

The BackBench #3
The BackBench #4
The BackBench #5 
The BackBench #6
The BackBench #7
The BackBench #9

The Cheekster, signing out x



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