Kurobuta, which is the creation of chef and owner Scott Hallsworth, has become so popular that he’s moved his Chelsea outpost down the King’s Road to an even bigger site (he’s turning the old one into Joe’s Oriental Diner).
We rocked up on a Wednesday evening, having not booked and the place was rammed to the rafters. All they could offer us was to perch on the end of the large communal table in the private dining room which was far from ideal – sometimes a restaurant should just say no. The staff were so busy running around that they’d keep forgetting to come down to our dungeon and serve us (it really did feel like a dungeon). It was freezing cold too.
The menu was vast, to say the least. We started with some pork scratchings with a yuzu koshu dip (£4.50). I’m not sure I’ve ever had a successful pork scratching in a restaurant – they’re always so inedibly dry with little flavour – until now that is. These were gloriously chewy and almost sticky with a real smack of pig about them.
Squid kara-age (£8.50) looked like it had seen better days and the portion was a bit miserly, but the flavour was spot on. Proper crispy too.
I hate myself for ordering the wagyu beef sliders, as two of the things cost £19. That’s £9.50 for one mini burger! It wasn’t very nice either. The steamed buns weren’t the milky, soft, sumptuous pillows I’ve had before – these had a stale, crusty top. How can a steamed bun be crispy? The beef lacked flavour and was luke-warm. The grease-laden onion ring that topped it was not pleasant.
The BBQ pork ribs (£14) were plentiful but they were let down by being cold. Then the sushi arrived which perked us up a bit. Spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies (don’t ask) (£8.50) and the shrimp tempura dragon maki (£11) were really very good.
The free range chicken kushi-yaki (£9) was cut into chunks but it was like no-one had checked to see if the chunks were actually edible or not. A couple were just bits of pure bone and cartilage. The flavour was lovely though.
We finished with pork belly in more of those crispy “steamed” buns (£13). Again, good flavour but not quite warm enough.
I imagine on a good day, sitting in the main dining room, Kurobuta is probably rather good. And it was heaving, so it must be doing something right. But for me, it just didn’t quite hit the spot.