Koba is a small Korean restaurant just off Oxford Street. The decoration is modern and neat. The main dining area has a big rooflight- I can imagine the space being flooded with nice daylight during lunch time and mid-summer evenings. Booking is recommended as you will be asked to sit by the bar if this area is fully booked.
The menu is easy to understand as all the dishes feature photos. All the dishes are beautifully presented. Unfortunately, the food is not up to the same standard.
Yook Hwei (Seasoned raw beef with sliced pears) is a dish I always order in Korean restaurants as it can really distinguish a good restaurant from the ordinary. Koba’s raw beef is fresh but the pear pieces are too chunky. Even though the taste is good, the overall texture is less balanced- I have had better ones at Arang before.
Pajun (Korean Pancake with spring onion & seafood) is crispy on the outside and soft inside. With chopped chewy squid, it is a nice combination.
For Barbeque, we had Koba Modeum Gooi, which is highly recommended by the chef. It is a selection of rib-eye slices, beef short rib, pork belly slices, chicken, baby octopus, prawns, melon slices, mushroom and onions. Pork belly slices are my favourite Korean barbeque meat but at Koba, it is a big disappointment. The pork slices are too thin and the dipping source had too much sesame oil in it. If I did not dip the belly slices into the sauce, the meat was tasteless. If I did, I felt like I was just eating oil. The rib-eye slices and prawns were dull. They were not fresh enough for me to taste the natural flavour. It was disappointing.
Dolsot Bibimbap (Steamed rice with seasoned vegetables in a Korean hot stone pot) was just ok. Unlike most Korean restaurants, the waiter did not ask how spicy we would like the rice to be before all the ingredients were mixed. It would have tasted better if there was more spicy sauce in the rice. One of the best parts of Bibimbap is the crispy (burnt) rice at the bottom (we always fight for it!). Unfortunately, there is not much with this one- perhaps the stone pot was not hot enough? The portion was quite small too.
We had Sigeumchi Namool (Seasoned spinach), Kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and Moosaengchae Namool (Sliced Korean radish seasoned with chilli & vinegar) as side vegetables. At least that did not disappoint.
For dessert, we had 3 scoops of ice- cream- red bean, green tea and black sesame respectively. I recommend the green tea, that is the one that is rich in the flavour as its name suggests. The other two are just sweet.
By the way, don’t bother trying the hot ginseng tea. It is weak and tastes mostly of dried red dates . £3 a tiny cup is a real rip-off!
Generally speaking, I can bear bad food in a restaurant if the atmosphere is great- at least I can catch up with my friends. Unfortunately, at Koba, there was a table of 8, screaming and talking very loudly in the main dining area. They behaved like they have never had Korean food before. They SCREAMED when they saw the squid curl up on the grill. (!) By the end of the night, everyone in the restaurant had to speak up or they could not hear each other. I do not mind doing it if I am eating on the street. But for a proper restaurant with this price tag, I certainly expect more.
It is definitely not a restaurant that I would like to go back again.Koba A meal for two without wine- about £85, incl. service. 11 Rathbone Street, London W1T 1NA Tel: 020 7580 8825