64 Charlotte Street • London W1T 4QD www.kazurestaurants.com
Casual Japanese dining at affordable prices has arrived in Charlotte Street
I should of course be used it by now, but the traditional Japanese restaurant greeting of ‘Irasshaimase!’, shouted out when you come in the door still makes me jump.
It means ‘come on in’ or ‘welcome, we are ready to serve you’. Another example of the exquisite Japanese way of social interaction in action.
Kazu London on a corner location up at the less restaurant-populated end of Charlotte Street, is itself very welcoming; a minimalist copse of restful wood furniture on different levels with a main kitchen presumably downstairs and upstairs a sushi bar where Head Chef and co-founder Dham Kodituwakku wields his supersharp knives and bellows his cheerful ‘Welcome’ at guests.
The glass counter in front of him is filled with more fresh fish than Sealife London and while these aren’t moving about as much, it can’t have been that long since they were. Good Japanese restaurants are very fussy indeed about their fish
Looking about I can see quite a few Japanese people dining, which is reassuring, and the small terrace outside looks busy too. Inside it’s tranquil. The menu is of course somewhat incomprehensible to me, I have never managed to master all the Japanese ways with food and I can be a bit of a stick in the mud choosing.
I do for once eschew the edamame beans, though. I like them, I am even growing them on my allotment this year, but let’s give them a miss today. We make an order, somewhat at random and sit back.
It’s always a bit of a lottery how things come and when, but that’s part of the fun. And this is a Izakaya restaurant which means that informality and sharing plates is the order of the day
In fact, what turns up first is the beef tataki. I like tataki, I like saying it, it sounds like a drum-roll on the edge of the snare. The method requires that the marinated meat is only slightly seared, indeed it’s really only politely shown the heat, then sliced thinly and served dressed with marinade and ponzu sauce.
It’s very good, the marbling visible in the meat giving away its high quality, the ponzu sauce as ticklyingly citric as it should be. Each chopstick pick up is perfect, and thanks to P’s rather inept stick-wielding, I get more than my fare share.
I love gyoza, those pot-sticking dumplings of deliciousness. These are vegetable ones and prove to actually be the one dish I am not bowled over by, they are a rather bland and the dumpling skin rather stodgy. Not even the dipping sauce can bring them to life.
Ah but the next dish is a real winner, visually and for taste. On concentric circles of baby spinach leaves is arranged a pile of cubed salmon, raw or perhaps cooked in citrus, I am not sure.
I am sure it is excellent, the fish is buttery and firm, it succumbs to the bite with a bit of a gasp. One complaint, I wanted even more.
That would have meant I’d perhaps have eaten less of the deep-fried rock shrimp tempura with spicy yuzu sauce, which would have been a shame. These weeny, tiny shrimps could easily have been overpowered by a clumsy tempura batter, but these had no worries and were in expert hands
Delicately coated, crispy outside and sugar-sweet inside, these were tiny morsels of perfection that were easily tweezered up to be dunked in the spicy yuzu sauce.
At first glance, I thought the sauce was Millennial Ketchup, aka Sriracha, and my heart sank but it wasn’t and of course was far better. Not too hot, not too cool; like the three bears’ porridge it was just right
Finally, and most impressively came Fisherman’s Roll, although I suspect not many fishermen get to eat this divine mixture of chopped tuna, salmon, butterfish, yellowtail all marinated with spicy miso, topped with seared salmon and pickled wasabi.
You might think this fish in fish concoction would be a confused taste experience, but no. The textures elide into each other as do the flavours. I am not sure if one should each piece whole, but I did. It causes a few moments of silence as you appreciate the layers.
I finished with something very unusual, a sake affogato, vanilla ice-cream with ‘Time Machine sake’ made in Kyoto to a 300-year-old recipe. I wasn’t sure how to eat it so I alternated swigs of sake with spoonfuls of ice cream.
Rather lovely, actually.
Leaving I said (a quiet) thanks to chef, who recommended we come back and try some of the other menu choices, I can see why as there are in fact enough to repay several visits. The sushi bar alone would keep me happy for days.
Yep, Kazu is a ‘welcome’ addition to the Charlotte Street row of dining riches.
The Set lunch menu is extremely competitive and includes grilled black cod, which comes with miso soup, salad and a dessert for only £22.