There's a gorgeous new Japanese upstart in the prestigious white columned streets of Belgravia and it is Kouzu.
A fine dining restaurant headed by Chef Kyoichi Kai (of Zuma and Arts Club prestige) and his impressive all-Japanese kitchen staff, this contemporary Japanese restaurant is housed in a grand historical Grade-II listed beautiful period mansion from the 1850’s. I waltzed through the towering palatial entrance door to find Kate waiting by the stairs leading to the omakase sushi bar on the upstairs floating mezzanine level.
We were ushered to our table on the ground floor with a view of the sleek cocktail bar opposite. Unbeknownst to us the silver open-plan kitchen hide a secret door to a private dining room where seven diners could enjoy a private chef at their beck and call to create bespoke dishes in front of their eyes. How delightful! Although Kate and I missed out on that wonderful privilege our experience at Kouzu more than made up for it with their creative gastronomical offerings, attentive service, and being tickled silly by the sight of the adorable succulent pots (a sure way to make me smile) under the mezzanine stairs.
|The omakase sushi bar on the upstairs mezzanine level.|
|Oh hai Kate.|
Kate and I whet our palates with the customary bowl of edamame, perfectly salted with flecks of coarse salt that added a satisfying texture and just the right amount of saltiness - I can't abide bland edamame and I'm happy to say that Kouzu's edamame to salt ratio was just so. The attentiveness to balance in even this simplest of starters was a good sign of things to come.
We started with four selections from the new stream sashimi menu.
The sea bass with salsa and green pepper sauce was perfectly tangy. Lime-cured with salsa, micro herbs and pink peppercorns, it was a tantalising starter that tickled my tastebuds. Even the greens, which I usually avoid didn't escape my chopsticks - every ingredient was chosen to perfectly compliment each other and make for the perfect balance or flavour and texture.
The award for prettiest starter must go to the salmon with yuzu soy dressing. Salmon, the humblest of fish, was elevated to refinement thanks to the presentation of shredded ginger - which Kate couldn't get enough of - and the inclusion of garlic was a bold choice that paid off.
Kate chose the yellowtail with ponzu truffle dressing. Again, the combination of truffle dressing with shiso, myoga, ginger, and spring onion was unexpected but a very pleasant surprise. My only wish was that there was more spring onion, but then again I'm not as experienced as Chef Kyoichi Kai to decide how much of my favourite toppings (they are usually the more pungent ones!) should garnish a dish, especially those as delicate as sashimi.
I forgoed the beef fillet tataki for the tuna tartar with spicy sauce and I'm glad for my choice! This dish was an absolute standout. I love a tuna tartar as much as the next person and I've had many, but this one stood out for it's winning combination of chilli sauce and sesame seeds. The spiciness is something I usually associate with steak tartare which you may know is my absolute favourite, but where the 'earthiness' of steak tartare's raw egg is were ribbons of mixed salad which balanced out the fieriness of the tuna.
Next, the mains.
Kate and I shared a salmon and avocado roll - there wasn't much to say, it's a straightforward dish whose composition doesn't leave much room for the creative flair of the chef, but well prepared nonetheless - and a platter of nigiri.
We chose four from the nigiri menu: seared eel, scallop (interesting to eat raw, but not quite for me), o-toro (delightfully fatty!), and ikura. I've never been a huge fan of nigiri - I'm more of a sashimi girl, my infidelity to my heritage is betrayed by my 'meh, whatever' attitude to rice - so perhaps you should ask Kate for a better review of Kouzu's sashimi. Judging from the way her eyes lit up when I said 'Go on, take the rest of the ikura' I think it's safe to say that the nigiri platter hit the spot.
Now here's an opinion of mine you can absolutely get behind - my enthusiasm for the roasted black cod, from the special menu. Given that I never eat cooked fish if I can help it (I'm serious, I either eat ceviche, sashimi, or nothing at all) it is high praise indeed when I say that I couldn't get enough of this! The black cod, marinated with fennel and miso to give it a wonderfully creamy texture, achieved a paper thin yet nearly-cripsy skin which I simply could not get enough of. The sweetness of the cod skin and the citrusy tang of the clementine (I think) slices was a marriage of flavour that could be best described as harmonious. Even non-cooked fish lovers would enjoy this, I think!
I realised that in this review I've used the word 'perfectly' five times (including this sentence) but that superlative is well deserved. Chef Kyoichi Kai's skill, balance, and sense of aesthetics made for an impressive culinary experience of flavour and presentation which I felt was best displayed in the new stream sashimi starters. My advice would be to order everything on that menu - all six dishes - for yourself and perhaps a main (I thoroughly recommend the black cod). We washed it all down with cocktails: Smoky Negroni for Kate, a fiery but sweet whisky cocktail better suited throughout dinner rather than at the end of a lunch, and a Yuzu bellini for me which went down a treat despite a rather comprehensive lunch - such is the testament to a good meal, to leave the diner comfortably full yet without the 'heavy' feeling.
Altogether, a meal for two of four starters, a main, a sushi platter, two bolls of edamame, a roll, and two cocktails would come to just over £150, excluding tip. Kate and I were invited to review Kouzu but all opinions and words here are my own. You can find Kouzu at 21 Grosvenor Gardens, SW1W 0JW, Belgravia.