Recently, I took my daughter Zoe to London for a girly day of shopping, Christmas present swaps and of course a Japanese lunch. As many of you may know, my daughter is a huge sushi fan. But where to go? We needed it to be close to the shops all around Oxford Circus and after a bit of research, I stumbled upon Oka in Kingly Court just of Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street is fab, it’s got a great vibe and its hip and trendy as I nostalgically recall many fun shopping trips here when I was “hip & trendy” a long, long time ago! I love Kingly court, it’s got some great eateries such as Shoryu and Bone Daddies if you’re a fan of big ramen bowls, burger and pizza joints, there’s so much variety and when I noticed there was a Japanese, I was immediately sold.
I also really like how there are strings of fairy lights everywhere which must add a magical touch in the evenings, it’s like a big open courtyard dotted with restaurants. Up a flight of stairs are several other restaurants and Oka. It was absolutely packed so we were worried we wouldn’t get a table and with a hungry teen desperate for sushi, I was a bit concerned. They told as it would be an hour wait although I could see a couple of tables free suitable for two people and everyone in front of us were groups of three or more. However, the waiter returned and said he’d get a table ready, hurrah.
The restaurant is tiny inside with a small bar area with maybe 4-5 stools which was an option but it’s such a tight squeeze, it really wasn’t for us, the restaurant has a nice buzz about it. As we were being seated, Zoe was huffing under her breath that she was really squashed and yes, tables are packed close together, but I understand because space is limited, it’s not a place for romantic twosomes here! Having had a look at the menu the day before, I already had in mind what we’d be ordering and if there was sushi, it was going to be just fine.
WHAT WE ORDERED
Tempura is one of my favourites and I chose a Mixed Vegetable Tempura platter priced at £7.50. It looked good, but it was a strange mix. A big slab of butternut squash which really isn’t something you’d normally have as tempura, asparagus, Japanese leaf, pepper and onion. It was a strange mix, it looked the part but to be honest I was rather disappointed because the squash was too thick and undercooked, the batter was not gripping it and with one bite, the best bit (crunchy tempura) was a mass of crumbs on my plate. The asparagus was also quite raw, onions should have been replaced by aubergine, courgette or broccoli florets which make a nice tempura. It was quite unappetising, yes, the batter was tasty, but the selection of vegetables were underdone, and the squash was unnecessary, it was all rather disappointing. Perhaps if I had ordered a different type of tempura such as prawn or soft-shell crab, it would have been better.
We chose nigiri as well as sushi, for nigiri, we had mackerel and prawn as Zoe is allergic to salmon. Each portion comes with two nigiri, the mackerel was £3.95, and prawn £4.25, reasonable I thought and very nice, Oka had redeemed themselves after the poor Tempura.
We ordered two portions of sushi, 12 pieces in total so I chose unagi (£6.50) which is eel, a Japanese delicacy which I adore and when it’s cooked the proper Japanese way stewed slowly in a sweet mirin, soy and rice vinegar sauce, it’s something so sublime and tantalising. The second portion was tuna (£5.50), both were really tasty, so far so good. The only thing we weren’t happy about was the consistency of the wasabi which is usually paste-like in texture and therefore very easy to pick up with chopsticks but this being liquid was impossible to scoop up, a small spoon would have come in handy. Zoe loves wasabi and because she couldn’t apply any to her sushi, she was getting really annoyed. I think she was feeling constrained because of the close proximity between her and the tables coupled with the wasabi disaster, it left her frustrated. I was feeling a bit upset for her and wished I had taken her to Ohisama in Baker Street where we had fantastic Japanese last October.
By far, the best dish we ordered was the Dragon Roll sushi which was filled with prawn tempura, asparagus and spicy mayo topped with avocado (£9.50). Zoe’s eyes lit up when she saw it and despite the continuing disappointment with the wasabi, it more than made up for the earlier upset. I must admit, it was utterly gorgeous, and I was so happy that Zoe finally had a smile on her face! For drinks, we had coke and green tea, the tea was a mistake, I should have ordered a cold drink or a glass of cold sake which I really like, it’s quite a mild tasting spirit but the potency kicks in later.
My summary of Oka would be it’s a restaurant that caters for hungry shoppers who are mainly passing by. I don’t really believe how they can have a loyal customer base, but I may be wrong, perhaps the other branches do. Overall, I would say it isn’t an authentic Japanese restaurant but credit to them for producing a few really tasty dishes. If I must compare any Japanese restaurants I’ve eaten at, the only comparison can be Ohisama in Marylebone but that’s only because it’s more a casual lunch venue – believe me, the comparison seriously ends there because Ohisma IS an authentic Japanese, that’s plainly obvious by their clientele who are all Japanese! and that’s always a good sign. If you’re happy to have a “Japanese type” lunch in vibrant settings, then Oka is worth visiting, I’d kind of compare it to the authenticy of Wagamama, you get the idea of Japanese I’m talking about, it’s nearly there but not quite. To make up for any upset, after we were done with shopping, we headed over to Fortnum & Masons where we indulged in their scrummy ice cream creations, it more than made up for lunch. The Ice Cream Parlour menu can be found by clicking here.
With drinks and service, our lunch cost £47
1st floor Kingly Court,
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