OKA Japanese Restaurant, Kingly Court – review

Kingly Court is tucked away between Carnaby Street and Regent Street. It’s an area famed for smart boutiquesOKA Japanese tempura and cosy eateries and for its ‘swinging‘ reputation of the 60s when the air was filled with the heady aroma of joss sticks and other kinds of smoke and the streets were filled with chanting Hari Krishna types from Basildon. Now it’s a magnet for those seeking good food and ambiance in abundance.

The Kingly Court complex has three floors of shops, cafés and restaurants. The courtyard is attractive and might remind one of similar venues in California; it’s covered in the winter, thankfully. It offers 20 or so restaurants of every culinary hue as well as free wifi. All this is hidden away just a few minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly tube stations.

OKA Robata Grill and Sushi is found on the 1st floor. It’s sister to OKA in Primrose Hill which has been so popular. It’s a small restaurant and the menu is described as pan-Asian although it has a distinct bias towards Japan. The décor is more pan-Asian than Japanese and reminded me of similar eateries in Singapore.

The menu isn’t over-long or fussy. They haven’t tried to include token dishes from all around Asia but have remained faithful to some traditional Japanese standards, with the occasional nod to the left in the direction of Korea. This isn’t pretending to be a Japanese tea house with miniature plates and the prospect of rumbling stomachs on the homeward journey. OKA offers sharing plates appropriate for its international clientele.

We ordered tea, although the drinks list OKA Japanese beefincludes Dewazakura ‘Oka’ Sake, Japanese ‘Yamazaki’ whisky and Sapporo premium beer along with cocktails. The tea arrived in substantial mugs and they were welcome on this cold winter night.

Chicken Karaage is ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants across the capital and it’s here too. A delightful starter along with some sushi. We ordered 8 pieces of sushi rice roll wrapped in seaweed with a filling of Unagi – Japanese word for freshwater eel. It was served with ginger and kizami wasabi – fresh wasabi chopped and marinated in soy sauce. Prawn tempura was the best I have tasted in a long while. The batter was exceptionally light and crisp. The seafood was served with sweet chilli sauce.

We chose both meat and fish for our shared mains, along with Japanese rice. Black Pepper Bulgogi beef strips with Goma salad and spicy plum sauce was one of those aforementioned Korean dishes. Korea is a close neighbour to Japan so it’s no surprise to see Bulgogi at OKA. Another considerable portion to share.

OKA Japanese salmonSalmon marinated in honey, soy and mustard and garnished with crushed roasted cashews must surely be the OKA signature dish. This definitely represents the philosophy of sharing. It’s a substantial cut of salmon that was cooked to perfection on the Robata grill. It remained moist and flavourful with delicate charring on the edges. This is a must-try at OKA.

Desserts have never been a big thing in Asia but OKA offers sweets that would tempt anyone, whatever their ethnic origin. Freshly baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie dough sounded intriguing. It was truly moreish and tempting. The dough had a soft, comforting and puddingy consistency and the coconut ice cream atop added a contrast of texture and temperature. Might sound a silly sort of dessert …until you try it. A sweet triumph.

OKA isn’t intimidating Kaiseki Japanese dining. This is Japanese food in a casual environment at very reasonable prices. The style works very well with the Kingly Court location. A great addition to the complex.

OKA Japanese Restaurant
1/F Kingly Court
Carnaby Street

Email : info@okarestaurant.co.uk

Phone : 0207 734 3556

Visit OKA here


Read other articles about Japanese food, art and culture here


Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018