A pop up with real staying power – Kurobuta is a triumph. Lucky then, that this temporary eatery serves as a taster for what to expect when Scott Hallsworth (of Nobu and Wabi fame) opens the permanent Marble Arch branch.
Nestled unassumingly on the King’s Road, Kurobuta can be tricky to find for those not in the know – look for the number 251 rather than the restaurant name. Large windows look into the fashionably minimalist, wood panelled interior, with diners (if they’re lucky enough to get a reservation) offered a seat at a bench in said window, or at one of the very intimate tables – the pop up seats 38 in a space that could cosily take 20 at a push.
Kurobuta is intimate due to the nature of its size, and the soft lighting only adds to this. It’s perfect for a date then, but expect your table neighbours to be able to hear everything you’re saying. Similarly, expect to be able to eavesdrop on London’s fashpack – you’re sure to hear where the next hot new opening is if you listen carefully. The staff are fantastic; friendly, attentive and incredibly knowledgeable of the food they serve.
The food at Kurobuta is pretty faultless; each dish is well thought out and perfectly executed. Start off by nibbling on some sweet potato and soba-ko fries – deliciously crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. For a twist on the classic, why not also order flamed edamame with sake, lemon, butter and maldon salt? You won’t be disappointed.
The Robata BBQ is seriously impressive and the real highlight of the menu. The BBQ pork belly in steamed buns comes served in actual bread buns, which is unexpected and heartier than dim sum, and it’s accompanied by a tasty and salty peanut sauce. This section of the menu also boasts the most expensive dish on offer at £32 – and you can see why. The black cod miso-yaki is some of the best fish you will taste and well worth the somewhat hefty pricetag, though the warm salmon with yuzu-truffle-lemon sauce gives it a run for its money. The salty, flaky salmon is cooked in a vacuum pack that gives it a partially raw texture but delicately cooked taste, which is perfectly accompanied by the fragrant sauce that manages not to overwhelm the dish.
If you’re the sort of diner who can’t visit a Japanese restaurant without eating raw fish, fear not. The sushi section boasts soft shell crab tempura maki with kimchee mayo and yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu-soy.
The crispy skin duck confit with watermelon, daikon pickle and spicy peanut sauce is yet another success on this impressive menu; the flavours and textures working well together for those who don’t fancy fish but don’t want the calories of a heavy, meaty dish. If that’s not a concern, however, don’t think twice about ordering the tea smoked lamb with smokey nasu and spicy Korean miso, served medium rare and with a real depth of flavour that you'll remember for weeks to come.
The dishes are recommended to share, with around 5 options for two on offer (though it’s likely that just about everything will catch your eye). If you haven’t gone overboard and ordered the entire food list, you should have room for the deconstructed desserts. These are off-menu, but ask for all three if there’s space. The best by far is the pistachio dessert – a velvety, green nutty sponge torn up to resemble moss and scattered artfully on the place alongside berries, decadent chocolate mousse and blackcurrant parfait. The carrot cake with meringue, yuzu curd, shortbread and berries is also delightful, and worth a try.
The drinks are every bit as good as the food. Often sake infused, they are artistically named – why not sip a delicious Dancing Geisha or a Misty Mountain? The Bonzai Kitten is Moorish, and the Schichimi Margarita is worth a try. Gin fans will love the Green Bastard too - the usual Hendicks and cucumber twisted with fruity Midori - gorgeously refreshing. More manly foodies have ditched the cocktails and are already raving about the Kirin frozen head beer, served ice cold with a frozen head of foam - although more suited to a warm summer's eve, it's certainly the most innovative way to stop your beer getting warm.
Expect queues – word’s got out and everyone in West London wants to give Kurobuta a try before it moves to a more permanent home in Marble Arch, which is sure to be a huge success. If you can get a table, this little Japanese pop up is definitely something to put on your 'must try' list for the remainder of 2013.