Kurobuta Japanese at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge:
An Izakaya is, apparently, the Japanese equivalent to a gastro-pub. The idea, that tapas style food based on Japanese classics is served throughout the day to accompany drinks. I enlisted the support of The-Hedonist for an evening at Kurobuta, Harvey Nichols, one of three outlets opened over the last few years by Scott Hallsworth whose heritage is Nobu – where he worked his way up to be head-chef before returning to Australia. Once back in the UK he ran a popular and successful pop-up before opening the first Kurobuta.
On one corner of Harvey Nichols fifth floor, alongside the bar, Kurobuta looks, for all the world, like a trendy spot in Japan. The odd rubber dinosaur sits alongside Japanese posters and prints, sake bottles and minimalist floral displays. A wirework ceiling gives the whole space a warehouse feel. And, there’s an open kitchen at one end and a bar at the other.
As recommended we start by ordering cocktails – a Sake Caipirinha (£10) for The-Hedonist with smashed limes and fresh lychees with signature brew plum sake and Kwai feh lychee liqueur. It looks a little like a mohito and I sneak a taste without knowing what he’s ordered. Unsuprisingly it tastes of lychee but with a freshness and fragrance as if the fruits had just been picked from the tree. Beautifully balanced and very refreshing.
I’m not entirely sure what inspired my choice of Porn Star Martini (£10), made with vanilla vodka, passion fruit and lime. It was full of citrus from the lime with a pleasant sweetness added by passion-fruit. I started with the unadulterated drink before topping up with the shot of Prosecco served on the side, something that resulted in an altogether lighter, sweeter drink.
We somehow seemed to manage to order a lot of food. Starting with delicious crisp and light sweet potato and soba-ko (buckwheat) fries which came with a pair of dipping sauces that I found entirely unecessary.
And a delicious plate of flamed edamame with sake, lemon, butter and maldon salt. The char and dressing gave the whole dish a pleasant sweet tang.
By the time the crunchy kale salad arrived a few minutes later, we’d somehow devoured most of the first two dishes. Dressed with sesame ponzu, the kale was crispy and light without a hint of grease, though I suspect it had been deep fried.
Next up spicy barbeque Octopus with a roof liftingly hot Aji Panca sauce. It was pretty good, although I left the majority to The-Hedonist as he wouldn’t be eating the Wagyu sliders with crunchy onion, Umami Mayo and Yaki Niku sauce.
£17 gets you two of these, but I was trying hard not to eat too much so ordered just one. Once it arrived I half regretted that – an ultra tender melting patty of meat with a spice yaki niku sauce, a dollop of umami mayo and a wafer of crunchy onion, all sandwiched in a bun which was closer to the sort of thing you’d find in a Chinese bakery than to a conventional burger bun. Very delicious, sometimes I am glad that I don’t have to share.
I did, though, have to give up the majority of the Kombu roasted Chilean seabass (£18) with spicy shiso ponzu, a perfectly cooked portion and nicely spiced portion of fish kept meltingly moist and flaky by the kombu wrapper.
Our final savoury dish was a deliciously sticky portion of miso grilled aubergine with candied walnuts (£9.50). Almost good enough to tempt me to turn vegetarian…
For dessert I had a beautiful dish listed on the menu as honey and pistachio with honey ice cream. Honey crunch, pistachio cake and Japanese Suntory jelly. I did offer to share but I was really rather pleased that my offer wasn’t accepted.
In the meanwhile, The-Hedonist had a beautifully dressed plate of mango, yuzu and coconut mochi ice cream (£7).
Throughout the evening we drank Konishi Gold sake, which at £17.50 for a carafe was light elegant drink with notes of citrus, cucumber and pear.
Now, originally the idea was to go along and try the special menu which Kurobuta is currently running for Father’s Day. It’s a one-off limited edition which is available just for two weeks from 13th June and comprises a seven course menu with matched Nikka brand whisky
It sounds remarkable – Chef Scott Hallsworth has worked with Nikka Brand Ambassador Stef Holt to expertly pair a selection of Japanese dishes to a range of Nikka whiskies, including the brand’s newest single malts: Yoichi and Miyagikyo. The six-course menu features whisky cocktails as well as the option to try neat whisky serves, and dishes to complement the flavours in each whisky, such as scallop sashimi, malted nasu amd Koji cream; hot smoked salmon, onion miso sauce and nashi salads; grilled unagi and foie gras with puffed soba and green apple balsamic; and confit duck with gen Mai cha broth.
The menu costs £55 for six courses and the whisky matches and if you want to try it you’ll need to be quick!
To book please call 0207 920 6443 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org