I’d wanted to go to Kurobuta for a while – it’s been one of those places I constantly get as a recommendation, as in “oh, you’re Japanese? Have you been to Kurobuta?”
I booked a table for two ahead of time on the Zomato app. They were fully booked from 7pm, but we managed to get a 6.45 table at the Marble Arch branch. Curiously, it didn’t really fill up until about 7.30, so not sure what that was all about, but by the time we left the place was pretty packed so it’d be best to book to avoid disappointment.
I ordered what is now my new favourite cocktail on the recommendation of my enthusiastic waiter, the Green Bastard. (The cocktail, that is, not the server). It had all of my favourite things in a glass – Hendrick’s gin, midori, cucumber and lime – tart, refreshing and perfectly amazuppai – the Japanese word to describe something that’s both sweet and sour (but in the best way possible).
Kurobuta attempts a Western twist on the classic Japanese izakaya, and the theme is consistent throughout – from the atmosphere and decor to the dishes and menu itself.
In traditional izakaya style, Kurobuta offers a wide selection of small, tapas style plates, ideal to eat family-style – my favourite way of eating anything. Ordering at Kurobuta presented more of a challenge than usual, as everything is so appetising – and the combinations so unusual.
After much debate (the waiter had to come and go a few times) we settled on six dishes between the two of us, as well as a few bottles of Asahi black for the mister. Couldn’t get much more out of him on the subject beyond “it’s beer”, but the Asahi black is a dark lager beer – if you’re a fan of Guinness then this is worth tasting.
The first dishes to arrive where the porky scratchings with yuzu kosho dip. Pork scratchings isn’t something I’d ever end up buying in a shop, or attempt at home, but every time it’s on the menu I inevitably end up ordering it (with no regrets). Duck and Waffle do great ones in my opinion (okay, okay, they’re pigs ears if you’re being picky about it), but the Kurobuta ones are in a league of their own. The light crispness is reminiscent of tempura batter, but the way it melts pleasingly on the tongue, along with the distinctively porky aftertaste confirms that it is not. If I come back as a pig in my next life, then this is the fate I would hope for – to end up as these porky scratchings. Served with a yuzu kosho dip, these aren’t overly sickly either, and felt relatively guilt-free – though make no mistake, these most definitely are not!
The porky scratchings were shortly followed by Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks, served with a truffle ponzu dip. I don’t know how they managed to squeeze so many of my favourite things into one dish, and once it arrived I was even more delighted to find that the artichokes had been shaped into attractive chopstick shapes and deep-fried. These were beautiful, although I must admit I much preferred the yuzu kosho dip from the porky scratchings, and found myself dipping these into that sauce instead.
The next dishes followed in quick succession: yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu soy, miso grilled hot wings, wagyu beef sliders and a spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies. The yellowtail was seasoned nicely, although the slivers of sashimi weren’t particularly generous, nor was it the best quality yellowtail I’ve ever had, but was artfully presented and pleasantly piquant.
The flavours and texture of the spicy tuna maki was really pleasing, although I couldn’t help but wish the spicy sauce (sriracha, I’m assuming) was integrated within the roll instead of spread liberally on top. That being said, I really enjoy this fusion trend of coating the outside of the maki in tempura batter – I love the flavour and texture combination of the buttery batter next to the cool flesh.
The wagyu beef sliders and the miso grilled hot wings were clearly the more masculine choices, and while tasty I couldn’t say I’d order them again. The wings were the perfect balance of smoky and spicy, while the miso glaze gave the dish a bit more depth – but it wasn’t anything particularly spectacular.
The Wagyu beef sliders had been the source of much excitement all week. The mister was unbelievably excited about what the menu promised as a steamed bun, served with crunchy onion, pickled cucumber and umami mayo. What arrived fell far short of spectacular, and if we go again we’d spend the £20 on some of the more Japanese offerings instead.
For dessert, we both went for the yuzu and coconut mochi ice cream, which is always a winner.
Kurobuta was a fun dining experience. In my opinion, the Western twist on Japanese dishes outdid the Japanese twists on Western classics, but I would definitely go again with close friends and family.
Including a side of rice and drinks, Kurobuta set us back £120 including service.
Kurobuta is located at 17-20 Kendal Street, Marble Arch, London W2 2AW, with another branch in Chelsea.(3.75 / 5)