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March 2, 2015
Koji in Parsons Green is the joint venture between Mark Bennett (the proprietor of Mao Tai) and Nobuhisha Takahashi (the former Head Sushi Chef of both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town. It is safe to say that our expectations and excitement levels were high.
The restaurant is large with an attractive bar sat under feather lights, with an elaborate 3D motif on the wall. The cocktail menu is classic but fun and matches the outgoing vibe of the bar while the restaurant leans towards the intimate and offers a sizable sushi bar. Sat next to the decorative ornamental garden we had views of the sushi bar and the collaged artwork on the walls.
The menu at Koji is extensive and there is something for every Japanese cuisine whim. From ‘snacks’ to ‘robata charcoal grill’ to ‘maki’, we were surprised to see the terms ‘cold and hot tapas’ on the menu.
We opted for a wide range of dishes to try a little bit of everything. The edamame with spicy garlic soy sauce and togarashi floss were up first and we loved the soft heat of the dressing. The wild pink prawn tempura with creamy togarashi sauce was outstanding: delicate, crispy and full of flavour, the dish was essentially a tempura version of a prawn cocktail served in a cute bamboo basket. The yuzu squid with creamy dipping sauce was also pleasant and came with three sauces: yuzu, togarashi and jalapeno.
From the grill we’d recommend the chicken yakitori with truffle drizzle – perfectly grilled skewers of meat with an aromatic honey glaze that we could have eaten all night long. Our Spanish waiter, Mark, was knowledgeable and charming. He recommended we try the Rioja Blanco Bodegas Ostatu, Castilla y León, to match the variety of flavours and textures. It was a great pairing that broke through the fried part of our meal but also highlighted the raw assortment.
Our selection of maki, nigiri and sashimi consisted of toro, tuna, salmon and hamachi. Incredibly fresh and delicious, each piece was lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. The flavours, as well as the textures of the fish were quite superb. Having opted for the ‘fresh wasabi’ we had the chance to make our own from the root using a sharkskin grater. This added a little drama to our dining experience, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We also recommend the Sake Tasting Tray of the fruity Uragasanryu Koka, the soft Shirakabegura Kimoto Junmai and the cloudy and rich Shirakawago Sasanigori. It capped off the menu well, and was served in lovely handmade glassware.
Our whole evening at Koji was entertaining, satisfying and worth the not-for-every-pocket price tag. However the selection of Top-40 style music that one would associate with the late T4 crowd was rather strange. Considering the young-minded affluent types of Parsons Green packing out the restaurant from 8pm, we were hoping for a soundtrack to match the contemporary, modern Japanese vibe of Koji.