Japanese fine dining at it's best
Kouzu, Belgravia Review
Kouzu is a new, contemporary Japanese restaurant set in a Grade-II listed period mansion from the 1850s in the heart of Belgravia and is headed up by Chef Kyoichi Kai previously of Zuma and Arts Club.
It’s a surprisingly intimate corner space with an extensive cocktail bar downstairs and a floating mezzanine level above, which is home to an omakase sushi bar, where you can have a personal (and undoubtedly expensive) 1 by 1 sushi course from one of the highly skilled chefs.
Kouzu opened a couple of months ago, so it’s still pretty new to the London scene and I was invited down to experience dinner on the house. I invited my friend James along as we’d both spent time in Japan and miss it dearly.
There were endless quirks in Japan that we loved, one of which was the staff in every restaurant and even some shops shouting “Irasshaimase!” when we entered. It just means ‘welcome’ but the unison of all the staff always made us smile and we were surprised and impressed that the tradition is being used at Kouzu! Lovely touch.
We were greeted by the seemingly all European front of house staff (I’m assured the kitchen staff are all Japanese) and seated downstairs on a small table for two. The space was nothing like I’d expected. It was much smaller – partly due to the triangular shape of the building and the tables along our side felt very close together but there are a few larger round tables available for groups, which feel much more intimate and there’s a 7 seater private room downstairs, with your own chef if you really want some privacy.
Our excellent waiter Joao explained the few restrictions on what would be included free of charge (including the £85 Wagyu Steak) and we ordered some Edamame (£4.50) and a couple of cocktails while we looked over the mouth-watering menu. James had the tasty Funassyi Margarita – Tapatio Blanco, Nashi-sake, Pear Juice, Nashi Pear & Lime, Agave Syrup (£9.50) and I had my first Smoky Whisky Sour – Bowmore 12y, Lemon Juice, Egg White, Lemon Bitters (£9.50), which was stunning. The smoky whisky adding a completely new twist to my favourite drink.
Kouzu’s menu is impressive and rare in that there’s nothing on it I didn’t want to order. From the starters we had two new stream sashimi dishes – Yellowtail with Truffle Dressing – sliced yellow tail, shiso, myoga, ginger, spring onion, ponzu truffle dressing (£15.00) and the Beef Fillet Tataki – charcoal grilled fillet, oriental sauce with julienne salad (£17.50).
Both of these, like pretty much everything we ordered had a perfect balance of flavours and textures. Super fresh Yellowtail with a delicate salad and dressing, with just enough truffle to boost flavour without overpowering the dish. The beef was full of flavour and each slice had a lovely chargrilled crust around it’s rare centre and the salad was strong enough to compete with the meat and the rich sauce – I could happily eat it all day long.
The sushi menu is focused around Sashimi and Nigiri with a few classic and modern rolls thrown in for good measure. We ordered the beautiful Spicy Tuna Roll – tuna, red onion, fresh chilli ichimi pepper, rice cracker spicy mayonnaise and sesame seeds (£11.00) which had a generous amount of tuna in the middle with a crunch on the outside and just enough heat. Again, the balance was perfect.
I spotted O-Toro on the menu, which comes from the belly and is the fattiest (and most expensive) part of the highly prized tuna. Toro is classified in to o-toro (super fatty) and chu-toro (medium fatty) and because this part of the fish only yields a small portion, the price is through the roof.
James had a lovely Octopus Nigiri (£4) and I ordered the O-Toro Aburi Nigiri, which is a cool £8.50 per piece. You can have it natural or ‘aburi’, which means that it’s quickly seared, just long enough to start the fat melting in the bed of seasoned rice underneath. It was comfortably the best piece of sushi I’ve ever had but also comfortably the most expensive. Sometimes you get what you pay for and I’d definitely recommend splashing out on this delicacy. I immediately ordered two more as soon as I’d swallowed the first.
Our main courses we the highly rated and ever popular Roasted Black Cod – marinated black cod with miso with fennel, celery salad (£28.00) which was generous in size, incredibly tender and full of flavour from the marinade. A chunk of cod, with the salad and miso dressing underneath made for a pretty flawless mouthful of food.
Joao recommended we try the Roasted Baby Chicken with chilli sauce – roasted corn-fed baby chicken with chilli sauce and picked vegetables (£22.00) and we thanked him for doing so. I love fried chicken and this is just about as good as it gets. Crispy coating, juicy chicken, another stunning sauce and again a generous portion.
We also wanted some tempura prawns and Joao suggested that rather than the straight tempura, which is £12 for 3 pieces, we should have the Prawn Tempura with Spicy Mayonnaise – tempura prawns, salad leaf, chives and dressed with spicy mayonnaise (£13.00). The tempura itself was lovely but we left most of the salad was far too strong, almost salty.
With room for dessert we ordered a few to share. I love tea based desserts so the Hoji Tea Crème Caramel with buckwheat walnut streusel and salted caramel ice cream (£7.50) was an obvious choice and didn’t let me down. All the parts were delicious on their own but again, together equalled a stunning balance and combination of flavours.
James’s pure hatred of chocolate / fruit combinations ruled out the Dark Chocolate Mousse, apricot brandy sauce and hazelnut ice cream (£10.50) so we had Tart au Mont Blanc with rum & raisin ice cream (£9.50) instead, which neither of us were fussed by. There didn’t seem to be any real flavours coming through, it was just a super sweet treat and neither of us have a particularly sweet tooth.
Lastly, a scoop of Black Sesame Ice Cream (£3.50), which was beautiful. Think peanut butter ice cream and you’ll know roughly what to expect but the deep black colour, that made blend in to the volcanic looking dish it was served certainly added an extra dimension to it.
The prices do mean that Kouzu is a special occasion restaurant for most people (myself included) but the ambience and decor doesn’t quite hit the mark if that’s the case. It needs to feel more high-end, more luxurious, more special (eg. Roka and Yauatcha). Even just turning the lights down would help and I’m not sure why the sushi bar isn’t downstairs. I’d much rather watch the masters at work while I’m eating than watch someone making cocktails.
That is the only fault I can find though.
The food we had at Kouzu was exceptional and there were plenty of dishes I’ll be telling people about for months to come and plenty I’d come back and happily pay for myself.
|Yellowtail with Truffle Dressing||£15.00|
|Beef Fillet Tataki||£17.50|
|Roasted Black Cod||£28.00|
|Roasted Baby Chicken||£22.00|
|O-Toro Aburi Nigiri x 3||£8.50 each|
|Spicy Tuna Roll||£11.00|
|Hoji Tea Crème Caramel||£7.50|
|Tart au Mont Blanc||£9.50|
|Black Sesame Ice Cream (scoop)||£3.50|