Full of youthful zeal but serving dishes as old as time, Kurobuta on Chelsea's King's Road is a bright, fluorescent mark on a white, otherwise squeaky clean road. Twirling and twisting an array of authentic Japanese recipes with modern methods and contemporary flavours, the kitchen plates up a selection of delectable, tapas-style dishes that brilliantly linger on your palate and explode with taste after every forkful.
Kurobuta's many faces work well together to create a great casual dining experience. Combining the laid-back vibes of an Australian beach hut with the lively, vibrant buzz of a street side Japanese eatery, everything is lightly covered in a sprinkling of Indie Rock, thanks to the many posters spread across the walls and the music played overhead. Somehow, this bag of juxtapositions seems not only to work, but work well. With a collection of hollow trunks used as seats, the unfinished table tops, goldfish tanks and colourful bar adds just the right amount of edge without drifting into the realms of 'bizarre'. Though this might sound overwhelming, the dim lighting helps to calm things, creating an almost soothing vibe and setting up a weightless atmosphere that's suitable for a meal of Japanese Tapas dishes. Balance is key here, and Kurobuta seems to have gotten it just right.
Onto the main event. Similar to Pacific fusion but not quite crossing that line, the kitchen plates up a diverse menu of traditional dishes that have had contemporary influence applied to them; more so in some cases than others. To start, we enjoyed the salmon gravadlax and avocado tartare, served with dill mayo and rice crunchies (£10.50). Refreshing and flavoursome, the taste of the raw fish is soothed by the acidity and saltiness of the dill, while the crunch of the rice crackers creates an enjoyable clash of textures. Next was the wonderful Wagyu beef sliders (£16.50), topped with pickled cucumber, Umami mayo and sandwiched in a delightfully soft steamed bun. Though modest in size, the balance of these miniature burgers is truly memorable and will have you desperately savouring every bite.
Following this was the tea smoked lamb, slathered with miso seasoning and smokey nasu (£15.50). Though slightly fatty, the flavours were once again a real treat, delivering a fiery sensation on your tongue that's softened by the zesty taste of the lemon. Followed closely by delicious miso-spiced grilled baby chicken pieces, marinated by a spicy lemon and garlic sauce (£12.00), and piping hot, refreshingly light shrimp tempura with kimchee mayo (£10.00), your palate is certainly stretched. But without question, a highlight of the menu has to be the rich Japanese mushrooms, served with gorgonzola and pine nuts, and grilled on a Hoba leaf (£9.75). With smokey undertones provided by the burnt leaf, the entire dish is brought to life by the melted cheese and crispy pine nuts. The chefs certainly have something special here.
But slightly sullying things, the portion sizes were less pleasing. Though perfectly constructed and tasting exquisite, to really feel well-fed, you have to order at least four plates each. With loft prices, things can begin to feel slightly out of reach.
Atmosphere & Clientele
Make no mistake, Kurobatu has plenty of character. Shimmering with energy and a Rock N Roll vibe, the entire restaurant is vibrantly decorated and has plenty of youthful vigour. And with such a 'devil-may-care' approach, it naturally draws diners from across West London. The venue encourages bookings but, given its casual feel, is more than happy to greet walk-ins with a welcoming smile. Unlike many of the other nearby restaurants, Kurobuta is honest and sits openly with its love of Japanese recipes and laid-back dining. Crucially, the atmosphere is infectious and purposely breezy, and will never fail to leave you smiling.
The philosophy here is quite simple; delicious Japanese recipes, twisted by modern influences and served in a light environment. Though not what you'd expect from a King's Road restaurant, it carries itself in a remarkably different way and will undoubtedly continue to draw in diners looking for a fresh culinary experience.