A hip atmosphere, cutting-edge Japanese dude food dishes that balance shouty flavours, indie music and cool cocktails. Surely we can't be in Chelsea?
When Marble Arch’s Kurobuta launched a pop-up version on the King’s Road, Chelsea sat up and took notice: anything cutting edge is rare in this manor. So successful was the punky Japanese joint that it eventually relocated to this larger, permanent premises a few doors down.
The new Kurobuta Chelsea has been given a bit of a polish – despite its menu of Japanese dude food and blasting indie music, tables are well-spaced (with generous, curtained booths for the lucky few), the food offering has been extended to include waistline-friendly sushi and sashimi, and there are even private rooms.
Founder Scott Hallsworth, former chef at Nobu Park Lane, has created a series of hit dishes that sound like they have been dumbed down, but which confidently balance shouty flavours. From the ‘junk food Japan’ section of the menu, the tuna sashimi pizza – a crisp tostada topped with wafer-thin slivers of tuna and clusters of wasabi-infused fish roe – delivered both on flavour and texture. Elsewhere, sticky cylinders of sweet miso-grilled aubergine were meltingly moreish, while steamed buns filled with thick slabs of robata-grilled pork belly drenched in sticky, peanutty soy sauce had us licking our fingers. Not everything worked so well – beef fillet tataki with shards of deep-fried garlic had a highly acidic marinade that overpowered everything else.
The bar at the front of the restaurant is a destination in itself, offering Asian beers, modish shooters with blush-inducing names, and well-judged cocktails featuring oriental booze from saké to Midori. Now that Kurobuta spin-off Joe’s Oriental Diner has taken over the previous (pop-up) premises, Chelsea’s cool credentials are on the up.