If faced with the cruel conundrum of only eating one thing for the rest of my life I think I’d choose sushi. It’s quite a clever choice if you think about it because there are so many different types, in all shapes, sizes, and flavours. Of course traditionally each of these variations has its own name- nigiri, temaki, sashimi, but outside of Japan most would consider ‘sushi’ to be an acceptable catch all. Well that may be a push but it’s what I’d argue anyway to the person who made me choose.
You’re sitting there thinking I’d get sick of it pretty quickly but honestly, it would take a while. There was a time when I almost did eat sushi everyday; during my law school years I was a Midland Sushi devotee but in a moment of fickleness, shafted them for Sushi Bi and their crispy chicken roll topped with Japanese mayonnaise. Even when I moved to a different office in Wellington’s CBD Siberia of Molesworth Street I made the regular trek to Woodward Street for my beloved sushi lunch. Those were the days indeed. I hadn’t realised how lucky I had it until I got to London and was faced with the prepacked, cold and sweaty sushi of Wasabi and Itsu. It’s edible but not as enjoyable to eat as those individually selected pieces which were only rolled minutes before being placed in the cabinet.
So after being uninspired by the chain cheapies, I decided to take things up a couple of notches and try the other end of the scale. Most Londoners already know the Kurobuta backstory- opened by Aussie Scott Hallsworth of Nobu fame, it started life as a pop up, was successful enough to find a permanent home in Chelsea where it clearly excelled because a Marble Arch branch then followed. Being fairly new to town, it only caught my attention at Taste of London Winter where we had those killer lamb chops. It was whilst still licking my fingers that I made a mental note to try this place out.
We arrived to find a slick-looking dining room with the requisite semi-exposed ceiling, large hanging lights, and a minimalist communal table in amongst the tiny two-seaters. The atmosphere is completed by the eclectic soundtrack choices and trendy staff decked out in plaid and tattoos- this place screams ‘I’m cool and I know it’.
There’s a decent sake list so we figured it would be rude not to indulge. We settled on the ‘autumn leaves’ served at room temperature, a fruity, sweet number, and started to narrow down the menu.
First out of the blocks was a yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu soy; a delicate plate of yellowtail with the most inoffensive hint of wasabi, made heavenly the zingy yuzu soy it was swimming in. Next was a spicy tuna maki rolled in little tempura crunchies– what are these you wonder? Just imagine a perfect sushi roll filled with saucy hunks of spicy tuna, then covered with mini rice bubbles; the extra texture they give is surprising and just damn good. We finished this first round with the intriguing sweet and sour snow crab with yuzu kosho mayo sushi; the two pieces had a decent amount of crab, though they were more sweet than sour, it was none the less a delicious little morsel wrapped up with a crisp nori.
The next round consisted of slightly meatier dishes, the first of which was the squid karaage with jalapeno dipping sauce. No rocket science or fancy plating here, this was a dish of moreish fried goodness made even better by the bright (literally and figuratively) sauce. Equally tasty and unphotogonic (or it could just be my poor skills) was the miso grilled baby chicken with spicy lemon garlic sauce. I generally like anything miso is associated with and this was no exception, it helped that the pieces were still moist and the skin was crispy with some nicely charred bits!
We then sunk our teeth into the famed BBQ pork belly steamed buns with spicy peanut sauce and… well… were a little disappointed to be honest. The buns of my dreams are soft pillows filled with unctuous slices of pork belly lightly slathered in something soy based, sticky and a little sweet, so unfortunately these did not make the grade for me. I know Kurobuta char the buns (I’ve seen Scott on the vid) to give them a slightly crunchy effect but they came off a little dry and chewy, and the pork needed lashings of the not-spicy-enough peanut sauce for any kind of flavour.
But all was forgiven when the roasted scallops with yuzu truffle egg sauce and yuzu tobiko arrived; this was the dish of the night. I don’t need to tell you that the scallops were plump and well seared, what you should know is that they were drizzled with the most luxurious sauce oozing with truffle flavour, and were sprinkled with tiny bursts of brightness from the tobiko. Just yum.
Then because we are truly piggy, we finished off on a fresher note with a salmon gravadlax and avocado maki with dill mayo. It was not only a pretty way to end but a tasty one with a generous amount of salmon both in and on top of the roll… I probably could have eaten another. Did I mention I really like sushi?
We did manage to hold back and for once not fall into the trap of having eyes bigger than our stomachs, probably for the best too because these dishes of deliciousness can quickly add up. Kurobuta triumphantly satisfied my sushi cravings and delivered some other interesting bites so I’m putting it out there, we will be back!
Have you got any other sushi restaurant recommendations? Clearly I will welcome them with open arms and an empty stomach!