I haven’t quite ruled Kurobuta out just yet. Having visited the restaurant with seafood hating companions I would like to try a wider selection of their menu however with so much choice around I won’t be rushing back anytime soon unless I'm in the area.
I’ve wanted to go to Kurobuta ever since salivating over tea smoked lamb chops on Celebrity Masterchef earlier this year. When I want to eat something I go hunting so I convinced my boyfriend and a couple of friends to join us for dinner at the Marble Arch branch of the trendy Japan-punkesque diner.
Kurobuta very much follows the tapas style sharing is caring trend which seems to be fairly popular at the moment. The menu is full of intriguing and delicious sounding dishes with the words ponzu, yuzu and miso dotted around everywhere.
We were advised to have around two to three dishes a person so naturally being a glutton I interpreted that as meaning at least three dishes each. Food arrived quickly as and when they were cooked. The first arrival were sweet potato and soba-ko (???) fries which essentially looked like thinly battered shoe string potatoes fries which I could of eaten a bucket of. It came with an addictive kimchee infused mayo and a jalapeno sauce which resembled green detox juice. Fries were quickly followed by flamed edamame beans coated in sake and butter, a great enhancement to these little beans. I insisted we try the beef fillet tataki topped with onion ponzu and garlic crisps which gave a welcome contrast to the tender meat.
What our group had really been looking forward to were the dishes from the Robata section of the menu- dishes which are slow grilled over hot charcoal. The star of the show here at Kurobuta are the BBQ pork belly in steamed buns and in truth I wish I’d ordered three portions to eat for myself. These are the best steamed buns I’ve ever eaten. The pork belly is mouth wateringly soft with just enough fat so that this delectable piece of piggy melts in your mouth. The steamed buns have just the right spring in the dough and are just the right thickness so the meat to bun ratio leans in favour towards the meat side. This was definitely my favourite part of the meal, an opinion which was shared by everyone at the table.
The steamed bun dough was also used to make the buns for the Wagyu beef sliders which was full of flavour but felt that it was just another beef slider. The Wagyu beef, sadly ground into beef mince, doesn’t add anything special to the burger (except for the price).
Our buns and burgers are followed by miso roasted aubergine with candied walnuts which was an absolutely genius dish of salty soft aubergine with a crunchy compliment of sweet earthy walnuts. My second favourite dish of the evening. After the remarkable aubergine dish I felt the meal went a little downhill with pumpkin tempura which was completely forgettable and fried chicken which was the biggest disappointment of the evening. The dish was essentially a portion of eight chicken nuggets covered in a fine bland breadcrumb coating with some bone and cartilage thrown in the filling. The last of the savoury dishes were honey and soy ribs which was enjoyable but needed a good smothering of sauce and a little more wow to make it standout as a good rib dish.
To finish our meal I chose an Earl Grey tea crème brulee which to my surprise was deconstructed. Deconstructed crème brulee? No. Just no. Crème brulee should be crème brulee. Our friends shared a pistachio almond cake with chocolate mouse and a raspberry sorbet which I was rather envious after tasting it. I was rather surprised about the lack of flavours gracing the dessert menu such as green tea, red bean and other exotic citrus fruits.
I left Kurobuta with mixed feelings like meeting a hot date with some major personality flaws. The restaurant itself is so fashionably cosmopolitan with some fantastic tasting dishes but in comparison there are some dishes which I felt were really disappointing especially if you take into consideration the price. Two wagyu beef sliders were £16 and the ribs, which apparently was a rack (the smallest rack I’ve ever seen) was £14. Wine choices were limited and even the cheapest option was still quite expensive. In the end I almost paid what I would have at a Michelin star restaurant, which I wouldn’t hesitate to pay if the meal was absolutely excellent. But Kurobuta is no Michelin star restaurant, it doesn’t try to be but the pricing for the portions sizes made it feel even more over priced.
The concept of Kurobuta reminds me of an excellent contemporary Japanese restaurant in Sydney called Sake, not just because a lot of the staff seemed to be antipodean. Sake is a perfect marriage of Japanese and Western cuisines with some creativity and innovation subtly infused into the food. This is what I think Kurobuta needs to be but for me it’s just not quite there yet.