Tofu with ponzu sauce and stir-fried glass noodles Photo: Jennifer Wong

Refurbished in 2015, Koba looks warm and inviting with its contemporary yet unassuming, sober decor punctuated with wooden furniture and an artistic display of Korean ceramics.

Set in a somewhat hideaway location in the streets of Soho Koba has, over two decades, garnered its own loyal following, as is often evident from a queue formed outside the restaurant. As attested by the presence of Koreans among the diners, it is a sophisticated establishment known for its affordable Korean traditional dishes and table-top barbecue cuisine.

Its signature thinly sliced beef marinated with soy (bulgogi) is rich in taste, and one has to be quite quick in turning over the beef slices to get it right. Bulgogi is best served with barbecued spring onions.

Sliced beef marinated with soy (bulgogi) Photo: Jennifer Wong

True to Korean cuisine, you get an assortment of tapas-style appetizers, including homemade kimchee and marinated beansprouts. The deep-fried tofu starter demonstrates the chef’s sophisticated skills, the tofu inside so silky in texture, coated in thin, crispy batter, and seasoned with the delicate, refreshing taste of soy ponzu.

Their dol sot bibimbap (rice with mixed vegetables, a staple dish found in almost any restaurant in Korea) is freshly prepared, with a generous portion of flavorsome beef, delicate, thinly-sliced vegetables nearly arranged, and a raw egg on top, cooked before your eyes and served in this instance piping hot from a stone bowl (dol sot).

Dol sot bibimbap Photo: Jennifer Wong

Another favorite is soft tofu and seafood stew with fragrant, steamed rice (soondoobu jjigae) makes a sumptuous, hearty main course, especially ideal for mid-winter dining.

Another well-known Korean dish — stir-fried glass noodles (Japchae) — proves a delicious, lighter meal sampling of Korean cuisine, the noodles achieving an al-dente texture.

It is worth mentioning that, other than the emphasis on fresh ingredients and authenticity, the dining experience is made more pleasurable with the care the restaurant puts into the presentation of its fare. Service is overall efficient, although more a little more attentiveness would create a better experience. 

With a range of top, small estate French wines to Korean soju cocktails blended with lemon juice and tonic, and non-alcoholic options such as traditional burdock tea, it will not be hard to choose a perfect drink to go with your choice of food.

The restaurant is more keen on preserving classical Korean dishes than on dishing up fusion interpretations. Whether it is to satisfy your bibimbap craving or enjoy a tabletop barbecue with friends, this place — just a stone’s throw from the West End theaters and museums — is always worth a visit.

Address: 11 Rathbone Street, London W1T 1NA
Reservations +44(0) 207 580 8825

Koba in London Photo: Jennifer Wong

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