Sunday, 26 October 2014


Another one of my monthly visits to The BackBench at Koya - visit number 7!
This time going solo again for the lunch seating straight after an invigorating morning of dancing - always good to build up an appetite beforehand.

Held once a month, The BackBench menu is especially created by the talented Chef Junya, utilizing the freshest ingredients in season. Limited to only five seats per seating, it enables him to present diners with exciting dishes that go beyond the Specials board. 
I didn't go for the sake flights, but I did start off with this sweet glass of Nanju Bijin "Ume Rose".

And now moving on to the food... 

| Ashed Overgrown Beetroot, Irizake and Red Shiso |

The beetroot was first grilled in charcoal, before being kept in ash overnight, resulting in the more intense flavours. The smokey flavours were complimented by the deep aroma of the irizake - some old-school seasoning made from cooked down sake and umeboshi (pickled plum).

| Mustard Spinach and Hazelnut | 

Here was a simple dish of mustard spinach topped by a lovely paste made from fresh hazelnuts. The hazelnuts weren't fully ground down and still had a bit of a nice, crunchy texture.

| Kombu Cured Mackerel |

Delicious fresh slices of mackerel topped with grated mandarin skin and served with a ginger soya sauce. The Cornish mackerel was cured in kombu, a type of edible kelp, which gave it a firmer and denser texture. 

| Venison Sashimi, Horseradish, Cook's Cabbage, Green Shiso and Nira Flower |

This was my first time trying venison sashimi, which had a light game-y flavour, and the grated horseradish gave it a bit of a spicy kick.
I ordered the sake pairing for this dish - Kamoizumi, Shusen "Three Dots" Junmai. It was served warm and had a lovely aroma of shiitake mushrooms with some earthy, woody tones - which went well with the venison and the mushroom rice after.

| Scottish Mushroom Rice and Egg Yolk |

Rice has always been a staple food for me since childhood, but because I don't really have it that often nowadays, a simple dish like this does excite me... The rice had a slight sticky texture and had absorbed all the delicious flavours of the mushrooms, topped with a brightly coloured egg yolk which was still nice and gooey on the inside. 

| Cornish Mylor Prawn, Mallow and Fermented Tofu |

Cornish Mylor prawns cooked tempura style and a mallow leaf - both really light and crisp. On the side was a cube of tofu that had been fermented in koji and was really smooth and creamy, almost like a cheese-y texture.

| Red Mullet, Marrow, Turnip and Miyagawa Mandarin |

I got the head (!) which although had quite a few bones, was still really delicious with firm flaky textures. A pleasant dish with light, clean flavours.

| Pheasant, Negi and Manganji Miso |

The meat was perfectly cooked with a tender yet slight springy texture. Full of flavour and nicely complimented by the sweet and salty flavours of the manganji miso.

| Pheasant Soup and Alexander Udon |

Being a huge noodle (and carbs!) lover, the udon dish is always one of my favourite courses. Although there were no additional toppings in it today, the warming flavours and aroma of the pheasant soup was enough to tantalize my tastebuds.
And their handmade udon is still one of the best udon noodles that I have eaten so far.

| Kabocha Pumpkin and Stout |

A nice twist and interpretation of the creme brulee dessert version. A shiny and crunchy caramelized top which cracked open to reveal the smooth and creamy centre.

| Sake-Kasu Ice Cream and Bergamot |

And last but not least, the sake-kasu ice cream which has had a regular appearance on the menu since the first BackBench - I would know this since I have been to all of them so far...
But of course I would never get bored of it - I mean, who doesn't love ice cream AND alcohol?
For those of you who haven't tried it before, it is basically made from the lees left over from the sake production, which give it a nice, boozy punch.

And we have once again come to the end of another amazing BackBench experience.
I have been fortunate enough to have been able to attend every single one so far, but sad to say, I will be missing the next one in November as I will be away in Malaysia...
Which may be good news for one of you lucky ones who will be able to keep my seat warm for me!
The next one if on the 17th and 18th of November, so make sure you get those dates in the diary - I'm sure it will be as amazing as all the other ones. 

Thank you once again to Chef Junya and team Koya who have as usual done an excellent job. And a word of thanks to lovely Anna who helped send me replacement photos for the first three dishes after memory card reformatted itself and wiped out all my photos... you're a star x

For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:

The BackBench #1
The BackBench #2

The BackBench #3
The BackBench #4
The BackBench #5 
The BackBench #6

The Cheekster, signing out x

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