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April 13, 2015

LifestyleRestaurants & Bars | by Vicky Ilankovan

sushi counterThere is no shortage of high-end Japanese restaurants in London’s Belgravia, each boasting that their menu is the most innovative, their fish the freshest, and their chef the most renowned. Kouzu – a relative newcomer to the scene, opening at the tail end of last year – certainly ticks all the boxes. Chef Kyoichi Kai (formerly of Zuma and Arts Club), oversees an all-Japanese kitchen, and offers a broad menu ranging from sashimi and sushi to charcoal grill dishes, tempura and salads, all made using ingredients from top of the range suppliers from the UK and Japan. We were eager to visit and see if Kouzu could offer something that its counterparts could not.

ScallopWith a name meaning ‘Composition,’ design aesthetic is certainly at the forefront of Kouzu. Housed in a Grade-II listed mansion from the 1850s, complete with floating mezzanine dining and omakase sushi bar, a ground floor restaurant and bar, and open-plan kitchen (with a secret private dining room for 7), it is an impressive spectacle. The interior is sleek and contemporary whilst maintaining the barebones period façade and mouldings. The palette of greys, whites and light browns lend themselves to modern Japan, with the huge cocoon light sculpture creating a private and intimate setting, despite the size of the building.

We were seated at the omakase sushi bar so that we could salivate over the food that was being expertly prepared before our eyes and question the chefs on what everything was whilst sipping on bespoke creations from the ‘Kouzu Twisted Cocktail Menu’ (we recommend the perfectly blended Smoky Whisky Sour with Ardberg 10y, lemon juice, egg white foam, sugar cane syrup, and lemon bitters).

We began with the sliced yellowtail, marinated in yuzu kosho and topped with grapefruit, avocado, shiso leaf, mixed micro herbs and truffle. The truffle was not at all overpowering, allowing the citrus notes to play with the thinly sliced fish. Both the presentation and flavour were refined and balanced.

Next came the sweet and sticky pan-fried foie gras heated in a thick, smoky, teriyaki sauce and served with both wasabi and mango sauce on the side. The mango added a fruity warmth that gave off a different sweetness to the teriyaki, whilst the wasabi added a bite that tempered the sugars.

The depth of flavour and aesthetic appeal of the dishes had impressed us so far, however, they did not prepare us for the Chef’s Selection of Omakase Sashimi. The composition was stunning, with large cuts of tuna decorated with shiso leaf and yellow petals lying on a small wooden sushi rolling mat, lording it plates of scallop sandwiching lemon slices; sea bream resting on slices of lime, topped with twirls of carrot; juicy pink shrimp that lightly ceviched themselves next to the lemons they were propped up by; and large popping fish roe served in a little blue dish.

IMG_7881 copyEverything tasted as good as it looked and – whilst the portion was very good – we could’ve happily eaten another.

Part of us didn’t want to continue as our palates were happy and we were worried that a lesser dish would take away from what was shaping out to be a fantastic evening. We needn’t have worried.

The grilled black cod came out served with orange segments, crunchy seasoned cabbage and a nutty yet citrus sauce. The fish was soft and perfectly cooked and the textures worked in harmony to finish our savoury courses on a high.

We elected to sample two chocolate desserts: a dark chocolate fondant filled with milk caramel ganache, serve with salted caramel ice cream, and a white chocolate mousse with lemon cream, hazelnut streusel and fresh lemon sorbet. Both were pleasant – the fondant’s warmth contrasting with the ice cream, the tartness of the lemon cream admonishing the sweet white chocolate – yet we were not blown away by either as we had ben with the mains. However, the aesthetic composition didn’t fail to impress.

Kouzu’s owner Alex Kechagia has worked wonders creating this haven of creativity, life and vibrant beauty in an area of London which is so often stuffy, predictable and resting on its postcode. We wholeheartedly recommend that you visit soon; we will certainly be returning.


Vicky Ilankovan – Lifestyle Editor