I used to work just off Oxford Street near Fitzrovia, where a plethora of underrated eateries (used to and still) reside. Whilst Soho boasts some of the city’s trendy and talk-worthy spots, restaurants around the “Noho” area don’t really get the marks they deserve. Koba, a Korean BBQ spot, is one of these places.
MB and I decided to relive our “just-off-Oxford-Street” days and caught up at this little Fitzrovia gem.
Earlier this year, the restaurant had a refurb. It looks classier than what I remember and seems a bit more upmarket and less Gangnam-style. They’ve also upgraded the ventilation system to those retractable ones which means smoke from the top-table grills won’t cling to your clothes and hair as much. Or, if you’re lucky, not at all.
For starters, we shared some soft-shell crab. I liked how the crab was crisp on the outside yet really meaty and soft on the inside. It sat on a bed of pickled what-have-you’s, chopped chunks of squid and a light vinegary sauce.
My former Korean yearmates in high school introduced me to dangmyeon so every now and again, I crave japchae. Koba’s offering was generous with fillings although I wish it had a little bit more of sesame oil because it was a tad bit dry.
For mains, MB and I opted to share a barbecue set. It came with beef rib eye and short rib, pork belly, chicken, prawns, baby octopus and a teensy bit of veg. We literally had to ask for an extra mushroom for fairness of sharing.
There’s nothing to fear if you’re scared of cooking. Your designated server will start all the theatrics for you.
The rib-eye was quite a highlight and I cannot tell you how tender the beef was. It was thinly sliced, so I left some of the fat cook longer than the meat. When the fat finally burnt to a crisp, I devoured it with much gusto. Sinful, but gorgeous.
We ordered an extra (generous) portion of lettuce because when it came to the Korean short rib (otherwise known as kalbi), I really like it best wrapped in soft greens, rice, spring onion, kimchi and that bean paste that kicks off good heat.
Have you tried this? So good!
The pork belly was decent enough, if not a little underseasoned, and I think it’s all down to the quality of meat. This is definitely far superior than the ones I’ve had in my last Korean BBQ experience.
At this point, I was about to burst off my dress. Last to hit the grill were the marinated chicken, prawns and octopus. I did wonder why these were all cooked at the same time because I’m quite phobic of raw chicken touching all sorts of things. MB assured me it was okay, so I gobbled away anyway. Chicken was okay, prawns were okay…
But this little sucker (no pun intended) could have been amazing if we had not left him toasting forever.
We didn’t have alcohol nor dessert because we were so full. Surprisingly, our bill came to roughly around £40 each. There was quite a lot of food, so that’s a steal!
Koba is possibly one of the better Korean BBQ spots in Central (although I’m told that the best Korean restaurants are in New Malden). I can’t guarantee authenticity as I am still learning (a lot) about the cuisine. However, we did have an ace meal and I’d definitely recommend this over SuperStar BBQ, who needs to learn a thing or two about marinades. Service defo scored points and the vibe makes it even better. The place seemed like a great place to take your mates for some table banter, or even a first date to practice your table manners.
On a super superficial level, I was pleasantly surprised to leave the place smelling like a normal person unlike in some other BBQ restaurants where all I want to do after dinner is to plunk my whole body in a proper bubble bath. MB and I ended up walking along Charlotte Street like looneys in pleasant disbelief, sniffing each other’s hair and clothes. I can hereby confirm, those retractable exhaust fans actually work!