Monday, 8 February 2016

Oka Restaurant, Kingly Court, London

Located in Kingly Court, in London's Carnaby district, Oka Kingly Court is a dinky little restaurant I visited for lunch recently with Him Indoors and my brother in law. 



Oka lists itself as a Japanese, Pan-Asian and Fusion restaurant. However, I would suggest that other than a couple of dishes, it is very much a sushi and robota restaurant, with strong Japanese character. We did try a Mongolian and a Korean influenced dish

We decided to begin with some sushi, with the intention of moving to cooked and hot food later on in our lunch.

Tuna Hosomaki, £4.95


These home made, hand made sushi rice rolls were wrapped in nori seaweed, served with pickled ginger and kizami wasabi. This type of wasabi is not the same as in your standard sushi joint. Here the wasabi is chopped into tiny pieces and pickled with herbs. Given that many sushi places do not use actual wasabi and use horseradish dyed green, this was a fascinating difference. The Hosomaki were generous on the amount of super fresh fish, where other restaurants might try to skimp on the seafood. They were, in addition, not overly heavy on the rice. The nori was crispy since the Hosomaki were made to order and brought to us immediately. 

Tuna Nigiri (usually £3.95 for 2, we ordered three and paid pro-rata for one extra)

I'll confess: tuna is currently my favourite fish for sushi. I've tried eel, salmon, prawns, sea bass, squid, octopus, and mackerel. But fatty tuna and tuna are my favourites. I therefore demanded tuna nigiri as a non-negotiable part of my lunch. (I'm one of those people who has certain "non-negotiable" food items... When I go out for Spanish Tapas, Padron peppers are a quid pro quo!) 



Look at that fish! Nigiri is often a sliver, an apology for a slice of fish on top of a large block of rice. The rice is often just like the towering stone monolith on the front cover of "Who's Next"; huge and out of all proportion. Rice is cheap, fish is not, so there is usually a lot more of the rice than fish. I was impressed with the amount of tuna, which was fresh and flavourful. More of the kizami wasabi and pickled ginger, and a good amount too (don't you hate it when they skimp on the condiments?!) and I was a very happy bunny. Yes, that is a cup of cold sake you can just about make out. Delicious, floral and clean tasting sake to wash my sushi down. My idea of heaven. 

Salmon and Unagi nigiri

Salmon nigiri (£3.50 for two), Unagi (eel) nigiri (£5.50 for two), we ordered three and paid pro-rata for one extra.


The salmon was flavourful with great "bite", any fan of al dente pasta will know what I mean here. Nothing is worse than mushy seafood! The freshwater eel was served cooked and bound to the sushi rice with a band of nori. Before you exclaim about the fact the eel was cooked - this is necessary as raw eel can cause health risks. The tender eel had delicate flavours and was perfectly cooked. 

Dragon roll with prawn tempura, asparagus, spicy mayo, topped with avocado £8.50


This is a sushi dish made up of interesting clashes, contrasts and combinations. Like the "yin/yang" symbol often seen in Far Eastern culture, the idea is to achieve balance of opposing forces. The soft, ripe avocado contrasted softness with the al dente just-cooked asparagus. The tempura, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The rice bringing the mayo and competing flavours together. The protruding prawn tails were a wonderful presentational device, making the dish look exciting and vital on the plate. 

Seared tuna Tataki with spicy ponzu served over daikon salad £11.50


I am a new convert to Tataki. Usually you will find either beef or tuna options. This is unsurprising given their relatively red and meaty characteristics. Coated in sesame seeds or as it is, the tuna or beef is seared rapidly on a hugely hot grill, so that the first couple of millimetres of thickness change colour and texture. The middle remains red and reassuringly raw. I wouldn't dare make it at home without better knowledge of how to make it safely, but in these capable hands, I was pleased to give it a go. The spicy ponzu sauce gave some sweet, spicy and slightly citrussy tart flavours, a great foil for the meaty fish. 

Spider roll with kimchi mayo, topped with avocado and tempura crumbs £8.50


"Spider rolls?! I'm not eating spider!" I sense the scepticism and resistance. But please, don't worry. Hear me out! Battered and fried soft shell crab are the filling to these intriguing sushi rolls. The legs curl when cooked, forming the strange, other-worldy "spider" legs protruding from the two centre rolls.

The shell and batter outside is crispy and crunchy, but the middle remains soft and moist. Ripe avocado adds richness, along with the kimchi mayo (spicy!) and the whole ensemble works with the house made kizami wasabi and pickled ginger. 




Bulgogi beef fillet served over salad with plum sauce £9.95


This is one of the "fusion" dishes; bulgogi being a traditionally Korean dish and plum sauce being Chinese influenced. The meat had been marinaded with the bulgogi marinade mix, full of soy sauce flavours and a touch of sweetness. The meat was tender and had been infused with the flavours of both the grill and marinade. 

Mongolian rack of lamb served with homemade kimchi and spiced mayo £16.50


Another fusion dish, it is interesting to note that the majority of fusion or pan-Asian dishes on the menu are main courses. This rack of lamb was not so much a rack as some cute little cutlets. At £16.50, it was not cheap, but the meat was beautifully marinaded with spice and gutsy flavours. Spicy, with considerably heat, the lamb was seared on the outside and yielding, tender and beautiful on the inside. Frankly, there was no need for the mayo given the wonderful tastes in the lamb and the fiery kick of the homemade kimchi.

We had a great lunch here at Oka. The restaurant is small, but because we went on a weekday lunchtime, we didn't need to worry about it being crowded. I would recommend booking if you intend to go for dinner, as there are few tables and I imagine it is popular in the evenings. We enjoyed being able to see the dishes being prepared before our eyes.  The service is very good; staff are knowledgeable about all of the dishes, sensitive that some of the menu items are unfamiliar to many, and genuinely helpful and enthusiastic. 

I would definitely return to Oka. The location is very good for the West End, the pricing whilst not cheap, is reasonable given the quality of the food. I'm delighted to have discovered the place!

Oka Kingly Court, Soho
1st floor Kingly Court,
Carnaby Street,
London,
W1B 5PW
0207 734 3556
Email: kingly@okarestaurant.co.uk

Snigdha paid for her meal and that of her companions. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this review.

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