Food Blog | Cooking Blog
The most recent addition to the Fulham fine dining scene, Kozu, is an absolute must for anyone interested in Japanese cuisine. It brings the expertise of esteemed restauranteur Mark Bennett (Mao Tai) and renowned chef Nobuhisha Takahasi (previous head chef at Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town), offering upmarket and refined Japanese food in a sophisticated and glamorous setting. The plates are small and the flavours are powerful, which makes the menu ideal for sharing whilst sipping something from the expansive cocktail menu or sake list. The bar menu is particularly light, enabling the young trendies that flock from their various corners of South West London to share sushi platters and cold tapas at the restaurants' front oak bar. For a more formal experience, the open planned space is peppered with chocolate brown tables that accommodate up to six people looking for a sit down dinner. Whether you are looking for something light or something decadent from the charcoal grill, Kozu guarantees mouth watering food that extends beyond what you might find in London's other upmarket Japanese restaurants. Bennett's background in Chinese dining comes through in the menu and there are plates that resemble modern twists on Nobu's timeless classics. High quality, gorgeously presented dishes that are likely to tingle the tastebuds of even the most reticent Japanese eaters, brilliant ambiance, outstanding service and delicious booze. Are any of your boxed unticked?
Whilst choosing what to order, the plus one and I begun with a plate of spicy soy garlic edamame that made it impossible for us to attend to our menus. There is something so brilliant about knowing that edamame beans are low in calories and not terribly filling that makes them impossible to resist on any occasion, but when glazed in soya sauce and tossed in a sweet chilli and garlic seasoning, they really are something else. Eating each bean became a point of conversation and we found ourselves shamelessly using the empty bean shells to soak up as much of the sauce as we could before the plate was taken away! The conventional "edamame with rock salt" sounded incredibly boring to us now... We were similarly enthused by our first course of dishes from the "cold tapas" section of the menu. This included a bang bang chicken salad with sesame seed dressing (one of my favourites from Mao Tai) and a yuzu salt and pepper squid with a creamy dipping sauce. Both were delicious: the salad crunchy, light and dripping in the incredibly moreish peanut sesame sauce and the squid warm, tender and coated in an incredibly light and unoily batter. What stole the show for me at this point, however, was the creamy yuzu dipping sauce intended for the salt and pepper squid (I say "intended" because I simply had to ask for more, and it ended up accompanying various other of our dishes that evening!) It is light, spicy and loaded with the delicious rare Japanese lime flavour that comes through in so many of the citric dressings and dipping sauces on the Nobu menu. Absolutely delicious - even if you don't get the squid, that sauce is a must try.
Next, we sampled a delicious mixed seafood wasabi ceviche which included salmon, prawns, scallops, tuna and eel tossed in finely chopped chives, shallots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and a sharp and tangy citric dressing. The portion was small but my god does it pack a punch; we found ourselves wanting to enjoy the ceviche morsel by morsel in order to appreciate each piece of the soft, raw fish that had been seared in the Japanese lime. Fresh, light, delicious and utterly indulgent - it's not often that you get such an eclectic combination of sashimi grade fish together on one plate! We also ordered a salad of field greens, a classic that I have always loved from the Nobu menu. The ultra light dressing is what really makes this one: lime, finely grated ginger, finely minced shallots, pepper, Japanese rice vinegar, and I don't even know what else. It is sour and sharp, yet markedly sweetened by the gratings of onion. Such a simple dish, yet so beautifully complicated. Of course, we couldn't resist trying at least one of the grilled gyoza dishes from the hot tapas menu, and the plus one aptly went for the pork and ginger gyoza. They were a welcome addition to the meal, leaving me wishing that more Japanese restaurants offered dim sum! The rice batter of the dumpling itself was wafer thin, which made each one seem unindulgent, and more reminiscent of clean sushi eating. Yum yum.
Next, we made our way through to unbelievably generous portions of fish, each consisting of a whopping seven pieces. The tuna tataki was particularly impressive, each steak lightly seared in spicy ponzu sauce and topped with a garnish of finely grated ginger, onion, radish and roasted garlic shavings. The tuna itself was soft and fleshy, with a rich flavour that was beautifully balanced by by the zing of the citrus ponzu sauce, and the crunchy texture from the onions and roasted garlic made each mouthful a genuinely multi sensory experience. In contrast, the salmon sashimi was clean, simple and unashamedly unmodified, with each piece of salmon dressed in nothing more than a light dollop of spring onion salsa. The steaks were thick and delicate in taste and the texture was soft and creamy as any good salmon should be. The plus one and I, being avid fans of raw fish, absolutely loved both of these dishes, but a word of warning to anyone with a less assured willingness to eat different types of sushi: it really is just about the raw fish. If you like the texture and the taste, this is your place. If you want some rubbery imitator masked in ginger, wasabi and everything else, this is not your place. This food is clean, fresh, simple and honest.
The sushi course exceeded my expectations dramatically, as I think I supposed that the rolls would be boring in comparison with the more unique fish dishes elsewhere on the menu. They were not boring at all. We chose to sample regular maki rolls (as opposed to temaki hand rolls) and went for one portion (6 pieces) of spicy tuna and avocado and one of shrimp and avocado. The rice was so soft and so sticky that handling the rolls really did require the application of chopsticks. Everything about the rolls tasted fresh: the fish, the perfectly ripe avocado, the soft and moist seaweed and the unbelievably sticky rice. I always think that a good test of sushi rolls is whether their impression survives the omission of soy sauce, ginger and wasabi, which these certainly did. Using wasabi almost felt like a crime - we didn't want to do anything to mask the subtle flavours of the fish. We also ordered a soft shell crab tempura maki roll, which I actually do not know how to do justice with words. Aside from the fact that there were some nine different vegetables chopped into the roll, the soft shell crab itself was warm and sweet, surrounded by a perfectly light and crispy batter that balanced the soft moisture of the rest of the rice and seaweed. I really cannot do anything but say, with absolute conviction, that I think you would have to be clinically insane not to drop your jaw at that one.
Grilled aubergine spicy miso
From the hot tapas part of the menu, we sampled two of my all time Nobu favourites: grilled aubergine spicy miso and tempura prawns with tempura dipping sauce. The aubergine was presented in a different way (at Nobu, it is usually served in long strips such that the aubergine is cut lengthways) with the crispy chargrilled skin holding up the mushy warm flesh of the vegetable meat. The flesh was sweet, permeated with the honey miso sauce and the skin was crispy, hard and packed with that distinctive smokey flavour of aubergine. The sauce is so moreish, so unlike anything else, you really need to just go and try it. It may be sickening in vaster quantities, but this small dish gives you just the perfect amount of sweetness. The tempura were similarly outstanding, the batter so light and so crispy that you could really experience the sweet meatiness of the jumbo prawns, and the light rice vinegar dipping sauce was the perfect accompaniment. As you can see below, we actually ended up (okay it was my suggestion, I cannot blame the plus one) ordering the vegetable tempura, as we (I) wanted an excuse to just a little bit more batter coated deliciousness in that light and tangy sauce. Nobody doesn't like tempura, and this is the shit.
Lastly, we sampled a beef fillet teriyaki which was soft and tender, served rare and dripping in a dark and very rich, almost winey teriyaki sauce. The beef was delicious, although after all of the gorgeous raw fish I found myself slightly regretting the transgression to meat away from seafood. For anyone who isn't mad on sushi, this offers a truly delicious dish that can hold its own as the centrepiece of the meal. We also tried a salmon kushiyaki, a portion of salmon squares grilled on skewers and drizzled in a truffle teriyaki sauce. Delicious, delicious, delicious. The perfect end to a meal that only seemed to crescendo in quality. I would highly recommend Kozu to Japanese food lovers as well as newbies far and wide, as its menu really does span a vast range of unique and contemporary dishes that are colourful, diverse, fresh and incredibly well put together. Hats off!