Japanese small plates, drinking den
Having begun life as a pop up, Kurobuta, set up by Aussie born ex Nobu chef, Scott Hallsworth, now has permanent sites on the King’s road and just off Edgware Road.
My sister had been to Kurobuta a few times and had been going on about it, so on our way into Central London, we decided to stop off for a spot of lunch at their ‘Marble Arch’ outpost which is a little misleading in it’s location specification; as far as I’m concerned the pillars of Marble Arch are the Odeon and Primark! It is a good 10 mins walk from either.
If you are on a bus, get one going to Edgware Road rather than Marble Arch and get off near the Natwest bank that is adjacent to Kendal Street.
When we found it (the signage is a little obscure), we asked to sit by the windows as it was absolutely roasting that day.
Lots of Aussie folk work here which lends the spot a laid back vibe together with the decor, which Scott himself describes as ‘shabby chic’. I’m all for a laidback casual dining look but to be honest, I thought the finishing could have been a little tighter. It feels like a lot of places these days throw in low hanging lights into their establishment, to infuse it with instant cool but it’s been so done to death, that it almost does the reverse.
The layout and decor of this spot reminded me of Namu Gaji which I think executes this type of pared back look with greater success. The service when I dined here was a little off, the lady serving us was attentive but had a nonchalant / bored demeanour which I must admit griped me. Having said this, when I came in to take pictures for the blog, the manager and all the staff that day were super lovely, so think I just had a miss on that front that particular day.
The corridor of the toilets and toilets themselves are adorned with posters of Soundgarden, Nick Cave and the Pixies which informs the soundtrack of the restaurant.
Anyway, down to the important stuff – the food. Essentially it is a ‘Japanese’ small plates drinking den, a bit like an ‘izakaya’ set up. You have everything from sushi to BBQ bits to salads to ‘Junk Food Japan’ that features such items as Tuna Sashimi Pizza with Truffle Ponzu, Red Onions and Green Chillis.
If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll have gathered I don’t eat red meat and pork (for reasons I won’t bore you with right now) but there were still plenty of options that I could sample which was exciting. I went with the Grains and Greens Salad with Honey Soy Ginger Dressing (£7.50) which was perfectly cooked (nothing worse than soggy greens) and would have been top notch all round had they exercised a bit more restraint with the honey.
I paired this with the Baby Shrimp Tempura with Kimchee and Kimchee Mayo (£10) which again was well cooked; the tender shrimp coated in a light crispy batter thankfully wasn’t laden with grease and married very well with the kimchee mayo and was a decent portion too (I didn’t count the number of shrimps on my plate which is always a good sign). Also, had a side order of hijiki (£6.50) which was lush and some edamame beans flamed in sake (£4). My sister assures me that the meat options are the bomb and she loves the Wagyu beef slider (which seems to me ridiculously priced at £19).
The very next day I was back but this time to the King’s Road , the original pop up space that has secured a longer term deal. This venue is much smaller and more intimate, seating 38 or so peeps.
For some reasons, the Chelsea outpost looks better than the one in Connaught Village, it works better in a smaller confined space, the details and overall aesthetic just looks a bit more polished. The lady that served us when we dined here was pretty dopey and when I came here to take pictures a few days later, the manager was welcoming but rather dismissive. The other staff were really friendly though, so service here I would imagine could be a bit hit and miss. There are plans to open up the roof terrace in September but this may be reserved for private events – all tbc.
This time, I opted for the Miso Grilled Baby Chicken and Spicy Lemon Garlic Sauce -which was tender and flavoursome but could have done with more of a chilli kick.
Ooh and how could I forget! I had the Nasu Dengaku: Sticky Miso Grilled Aubergine with Sesame Seeds (which I had ordered the day before as well) and this for me is one of Kurobuta’s star dishes (£8.50). The aubergine had a great consistency; soft but not mushy, encased in roasted sesame seeds, giving it a delightful crunch; then you had the sweetness of the miso punching through, which made this little dish a winner in my eyes and a must order. Also, had the Squid Kara Age with Jalapeno Dipping Sauce, the squid was tender, the coating crisp and the sauce was good but not wow.
When I revisited Kurobuta this past weekend to take some snaps, they were super accommodating in the Connaught Village branch, kindly offering up dishes to be photographed and even threw in a complimentary Tuna Sashimi Pizza (£11). I think this dish is a little pricey for the portion and the ‘pizza’ wasn’t really a pizza, more like a thin crispy bread base BUT this dish was terrific – the super fresh tuna was melt in your mouth delicious paired with the truffle ponzu, red onions and green chillies.
On the whole, I liked Kurobuta and would definitely go back but it didn’t set my world on fire, I think partly because I found a lot of the dishes to be a little too sweet. That was partly due to my own choices. So, perhaps it’s a matter of making sure you get a balance of plates: sweet and savoury or just asking for an extra side of chillies. They also need to train all their staff to be of a certain level, so service is consistent. Also, be aware of the cost of each dish because you could end up racking up a substantial bill.
Cost: c.£35 per head (3-4 dishes) excl. alcoholic beverages (cost really depends on dishes ordered)
x2 locations: Chelsea and Connaught Village
LAST VISTED AUGUST 2014