Ruby Munson Hirst visits the latest Japanese restaurant to hit the London dining scene.
Kouzu is the latest Japanese restaurant offering stylish and impeccable standards of dinning. This isn’t a place for the faint hearted – it is bold, serious about food and packed full of flavor. On arrival, we received a rapturous welcome from the staff, who greeted us with traditional Japanese shouts of ‘Irrashaimase!’
The building, which is just of Grosvenor Gardens, Belgravia, is reminiscent of an old bank, with a huge door that opens into modernised opulence. Glass, marble and shiny furnishings draw in the cavernous space making it feel intimate and special. There is a sushi bar on the first floor, room for around 40 pairs of diners on the ground floor and private chef’s table on the lower ground floor.
We were hosted on the ground floor by an army of well-informed staff, chefs and a very welcoming Maître d’. We weren’t there to be fed; we were there to be indulged in the finest cuisine, cocktails and wine. Diners need make no effort – the staff do everything for you: advise on food, create bespoke cocktails and ensure you are continually attended to. The attention to detail is consummate and guests should expect nothing less than perfection in presentation and service.
We wanted to try a cocktail first, so as recommended by the head mixologist, we opted for the Yuzu Bellini. I had never tasted Yuzu-shu, the Japanese liqueur, used to make the Bellini, but the tangy lemon freshness was the perfect match for Prosecco. Next followed hot towels – to wipe away any trace of sugar and prepare us for the crunchy bite of warm, salted edamame beans and a chilled bottle of Gavi.
I’m no sushi expert, so again we sought the recommendations of the staff to help us pick a selection of dishes to start. What followed was a fantastic and varied selection of styles that kept our taste buds excited and our eyes alive. From the new stream sashimi menu, highlights included the lime cured sea bass and the tuna tartar which packed a punch with the chili and sesame sauce. The mackerel, yellowtail and squid nigiri were delicious and crushed my preconceptions that any type of raw fish can be eaten indiscriminately. Moving into more familiar food territory, the tempura didn’t disappoint with prawn and asparagus enhanced by a light coating of golden batter.
From the Grill section of the menu, we shared a meat and a fish dish. The 200g beef fillet steak was glorious – tenderly cooked and loaded with flavour. The Salmon Namba Yaki was more delicate – the Sake lees and chive marinade created an exquisite (and previously unexperienced) taste.
Whilst the dessert menu boasts a mouthwatering selection of delights, including black sesame ice-cream and hoji tea crème caramel, we had been seduced by our first Yuzu Bellini and returned to the cocktail menu to finish with another sweet treat. Pursuing my new Yuzu-shu fascination, I opted for a Japanese inspired pink grapefruit Margarita. The steely bite of silver tequila combined with the agave syrup was a bittersweet joy.
Every element of our Kouzu experience was delivered with luxurious finesse. With no pressure to give up our table – despite a packed house – we enjoyed four hours of unadulterated gastronomic delight.
Enquiries: Kouzu, 21 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1 0JW / 0207 7307043 / http://kouzu.co.uk/