I’ve never been wowed by Japanese food. I’ve had moments of, ‘nice’, and ‘fine’, but nothing that’s really made me sit back and fall in love with the country’s cuisine — it’s all been a bit bog-standard. That was until I settled into Kurobuta’s menu on the King’s Road.
The brainchild of Aussie chef Scott Hallsworth — alumni of Nobu — Kurobuta is a buzzy, hipster kind of place, where the light’s are low, the volume’s high and the kitchen beams with a confident swagger. It’s first date material, or a friend’s birthday hangout. It even lived up to the cliché with a member of the Made in Chelsea clan dining on the table next to me.
Snacking on flamed edamame, with sake, lemon and butter, washed down with a beautifully crisp sauvignon, we rattled through the menu. It’s Japanese, tapas-style with dishes made for sharing, and within minutes of ordering, our first plate appeared: a delicate, rectangular portion of tuna sashimi pizza with truffle ponzu, red onions and green chillies. A superbly crunchy thin base, topped with the softest tuna, it was elegance on a plate. Next up we demolished the beef fillet tataki with onion ponzu and garlic crisps — red in all the right places with a wonderfully zesty hit to each mouthful.
And they kept on coming, each dish a knockout, from the BBQ pork belly in steamed buns with spicy peanut soy (soft, sweet, salty), to the sticky miso grilled aubergine with sesame seeds — moreish and almost meaty. The stand-out dish for me was the tea-smoked lamb with smoky nasu and spicy Korean miso — I ended up licking the sticky glaze straight from the bone. And the baby shrimp tempura with kimchee mayo was seriously tasty — the dish I keep on craving now I’m back in the East End.
Kurobuta is elegant and on-trend. It’s Japanese cuisine but not as you know it — and a triumph for Hallsworth. Good job there’s another in Marble Arch.
££: Snacks from £5; other dishes £7.50-£17.
More info: 312 King’s Rd, SW3 5UH, kurobuta-london.com