Features Director Andrea Thompson samples what might just be the best sushi restaurant in London.
London’s sushi restaurant scene is dominated by buzzy large-scale chains where it’s as much about the vibe, the celebrity guests and the big name DJs as the food. But there’s an exciting new little opening in the heart of Belgravia that’s putting the emphasis back squarely on the cooking. Kouzu opened last month – November 2014 – with more of a whisper than a shout. And yet it is already making big waves. The Prince and Princess of Monaco have already popped in for dinner and it’s drawing serious sushi connoisseurs every night who are keeping it consistently booked up.
With a specially selected all-Japanese kitchen staff poached from the best of the capital’s rival Japanese restaurants, its headed up by the highly acclaimed Kyoichi Kai, one of the founding chefs of Zuma, who more recently worked at The Arts Club. Kouzu, which like the best members clubs, currently has no signage outside, is housed in a palatial historical Grade-II listed period mansion just opposite the prestigious Goring hotel near Victoria. Inside the interiors are sumptious and sleek with a huge modern lighting display of coloured balls overhead as you enter.
Take a pre-dinner drink at the lively cocktail bar on the ground floor where you’ll find a diverse sake menu as well as an excellent cocktail list to work your way through before dinner (the selection of fresh Japanese fruit based champagne cocktails is out of this world). The best seats in the house can be found at the sushi counter in the impressive mezzanine sushi bar, reached via a winding staircase. Here you can watch the sushi chefs (or artists) at work and take recommendations as we did on the dishes of the day. You also get to see the humorous interactions between them in Japanese as they busy themselves away through the night sharing jokes and tips as they compete to send out the most beautiful looking plates.
The menu is streamlined yet varied with a great assortment of sashmi, Nigiri, tempura as well as a comprehensive menu of dishes from the charcoal grill. But believe me, absolutely anything you go for will be excellent. Every single dish we tasted merited a ‘Oh my god – that’s amazing’ or ‘that is literally the best thing I’ve ever tasted’ response.
You can’t go wrong here, but if you want the chefs recommendations that made us swoon, go for the spicy tuna roll (THE freshest tuna you will have ever tasted with a slightly crunchy accompaniment of red onion, fresh chili ichimi pepper, rice cracker, spicy mayonnaise and sesame seeds), the spicy californian roll (generous portions of white crab meat avocado, cucumber, pepper, mayonnaise and tobikko) some melt in the mouth salmon sashimi and a portion of prawn tempura with a spicy mayonaise. Every single dish came freshly made, ornately presented on a little plate; delicately flavoured little sharing platters of loveliness.
The hot dishes were just as breathtaking and perfect for sharing. We went for the roasted corn-fed baby chicken with chilli sauce (the softest, moistest, most delicately flavoured chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat), the marinated chopped lamb with herbs, rocket and spicy miso sauce (what can I say? Divine) and the Piece de resistance – the marinated black cod with a rich yellow miso sauce, with fennel and celery salad. This was without a doubt, we agreed, the best black cod we’d ever tasted in London, New York, L.A – anywhere (sorry Nobu).
This is a restaurant that is set to change the way Londoners see Japanese dining. So committed are the owners to serving up the very best and freshest fish that they are closing for over a week during potentially the most lucrative period of the year (over Christmas) because they are not confident that they can keep up the quality of the fish they serve during the holiday period and are determined not to drop their standards and use frozen fish like their rivals. Impressive stuff.
We say, if you’re serious about sushi, get yourself down and check it out before the masses descend. Just remember, you heard it here first.
Kouzu: 21 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0JW. For more information, visit kouzu.co.uk