I’ve made it to my tenth BackBench at Koya! This time going solo for the 6.30pm sitting after a long day at work. I made sure not to have anything too heavy during the day, so as to ‘prepare’ my tummy for the feast that lay ahead…
For those of you who have followed my previous BackBench posts, you probably know by now how much I love Chef Junya’s cooking. He believes in using only the freshest ingredients, which means that the majority of his cooking involves the use of great quality British produce.

I was the first to arrive, as always, and started off with some hot Japanese tea made with roasted tea leaf stalks, which had a stronger nutty flavour.

And now moving on to the food…

| Raw Mussels & Wild Fennel Shoots |

Although mussels can be harvested all year, they are usually best in the cold winter months in terms of taste and quality, before they begin spawning in spring and summer. These were topped with some wild fennel that were foraged, which can be found all year round, as opposed to regular fennel which are usually in season during the summer months.

A couple of refreshing and tasty mouthfuls to start us off.

| Kombu Cured Brill & Wild Onions | 

The brill was cured in kombu, an edible kelp, which absorbed the moisture, resulting in a much firmer and pleasant texture. On the side was some wild onion, yellow ginger, and  daikon and chilli, which gave it a nice spicy kick.

| Mochi & Alexander Flower Buds Miso |

Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is still able to thrive further north. There was a slight bitterness to it, which is usually a sign of spring. The mochi, made from sticky, pounded rice, which is considered a seasonal dish in spring, was grilled so that the centre was warm and slightly chewy.

This may not look very photogenic, but it was still one of my favourites – a simple, satisfying, and comforting dish.

Chef Junya also did warn us to be careful not to choke on the mochi, as you may have heard about the news in Japan earlier in the New Year…

| Shiro-miso Soup with Swede, Scottish Girolles & Wild Chervil |

The swede, often an underused vegetable in the UK, was boiled in water with a bit of sake and salt, and had a pleasant sweet taste. Served in a warm bowl of white miso soup with Scottish girolles, and topped with wild chervil for extra fragrance.

|  Scottish Kombu, Tokyo Turnip & Bramley Apple |

The Tokyo turnip and bramley apple were cut into cubes, which were really juicy and refreshing. It was also fun not knowing which was which until you bit into it. The kombu was the first batch of the year, and Chef Junya felt that it was best to be enjoyed fresh.

| Young Stinging Nettle & Cured Egg Yolk |

The egg yolk had been cured in salt, which had a gooey centre, that we used as a dip for the lovely and crisp nettle tempura. 

| Lamb Sweetbreads & Calçot |

The meat dish this time was lamb, which is another sign of spring. The calçot and lamb sweetbreads were grilled over charcoal, giving them a delicious smokey flavour – similar to Kyoto style of cooking, which Chef Junya loves.

Somehow I have just realized what sweetbreads actually are…and not usually something that I would normally eat. But surprisingly I did enjoy it, as it was really tender and delicious. Sometimes it is just best not knowing what you’re eating until you have tried it.

The guy next to me seemed to have some ‘texture issues’ with this dish, as I eyed the leftovers that he had on his plate…


| Hay Smoked Mackerel & Fermented Rhubarb |

The mackerel was cured in salt and then smoked, and served with rhubarb that had been pickled in salt for a couple of weeks, resulting in a slightly fermented taste.

A beautifully executed dish, and my favourite one of the evening.

| “Senbajiru” Udon with Brockmans’ Turnip & Sea Radish |

“Senbajiru” or otherwise known as “Fishermen’s soup”, is a very traditional Osaka soup, made using the mackerel head and bones. An economical method of cooking which Chef Junya is partial towards as it reduces unnecessary food wastage. The Brokmans’ turnip had been boiled so it had a nice, soft texture. The udon was slightly thinner than usual, but still as delicious, and the soup was very clean and light. 

As always, the udon dish which is something I look forward to each time, did not disappoint.

| Amazake Sorbet & Seville Orange |

And finally dessert was amazake sorbet, which we had at the last backbench except this time served with Seville orange that had been boiled in water. Amazake is a traditional low or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice. The natural sweetness from the amazake sorbet and the bitterness of the Seville orange proved to be a delectable combination.

All the portions were just about right, and I left feeling very satisfied as always. 
Thank you to Chef Junya for all the delicious food, Ana for the lovely company, and the rest of the Koya team. I’m already looking forward to the next one which falls on the day just after my birthday, which I have of course penned down in my diary already…

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 BackBench #10

The Cheekster, signing out x

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