Knife work is a cut above at Kazu
Chef’s mesmeric skills at Japanese restaurant that prioritises happy customers over slavish authenticity
16 February, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Seafood is the main event at Kazu, a taste of Japan in Charlotte Street
DEMAND a ringside seat at Kazu, a new Japanese restaurant in Fitzrovia. Chef Kodi is a marvel – his graceful knife skills are mesmeric to behold.
We ditched our table for bar stools to watch him dab wasabi, shape sushi rice and waft a blowtorch over slivers of yellowtail.
Kazu is a modern Japanese restaurant that strikes just the right balance – classy without feeling too austere or intimidating. You’ll find it on the less fashionable end of Charlotte Street, a short walk from Goodge Street tube station.
The design is minimalist yet intimate, with floor-to-ceiling wood and discrete spotlights studding into a black lattice framework overhead.
The chef is Sri Lankan but learnt his craft in Japan. His menu and repertoire are formidable.
I counted well over 100 dishes, ranging from sushi rolls to cow tongue cooked with soy sauce and sake rice wine. Vegetarians and vegans also enjoy plenty of choice.
We kicked off with a lurid green, springy seaweed salad in a sesame dressing. The gyoza dumplings, filled with chicken, were the best I’ve tried. The dough was paper thin, with a crisp crunch from the sizzling heat of the pan.
Seafood, of course, is the main event. Chef Kodi handles each fish fillet with tender care – not surprising, I suppose, when you discover the price per kilo of fatty tuna.
We tried a selection of raw fish: slices of sashimi nestling on a backdrop of fresh green shiso leaves, a hard-to-find herb and classic accompaniment. A dish like this is all about subtlety – the contrasting flavours and textures of each species. Butterfish, for example, has the melting softness that its name describes.
Other dishes included excellent soft-shell crab, cleavered then deep fried in a light batter.
Kinoko Butter Itame was a lovely medley of mushrooms sautéed in butter, best with a squeeze of lemon to lift the acidity.
For dessert, a simple sorbet made with yuzu fruit was an exotic and refreshing jolt of pleasure.
But their twist on the Italian affogato – a scoop of vanilla ice cream drenched in sake instead of espresso – didn’t quite work.
If you’re a sake fan then you’re in luck, however, with a wide range of different styles available by the glass.
Service is charming, inspired by chef Kodi’s drive to prioritise happy customers over slavish authenticity. He adds a bit of extra spice, for example, to satisfy the British palate.
“If a traditional Japanese [customer] came maybe they wouldn’t be pleased with my style,” Kodi says.
Prices range from reasonable to eye-watering if you splurge on raw fish.
Kazu offers a set lunch for £16.50, with grilled mackerel or salmon, miso soup, rice, salad, and dessert.
Make sure you order one of the sushi rolls, £8-16. Cut into chopstick-friendly slices, they are excellent value to share.
The signature “Charlotte Roll” is a glowing rainbow of colour and texture – and a sure bet for becoming an Instagram star.
64 Charlotte Street, W1T
0203 848 5777