I confess, I had no idea what to expect. Yes, it was going to be Japanese. But a Sunday Brunch Buffet? How was that going to work? In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, Japanese food comes in two varieties: first – casual noodles; second – etiquette-riddled kaiseki cuisine. So how would a Sunday brunch buffet work then, between those two possible options?
Kurobuta the restaurant was a surprise. None of the minimalist and pale lines of so many Japanese restaurants in London. Think beach bar or a nightclub specialising in food, that just happens to have exceptionally good live music on Sundays. It’s urban and completely fitting the location and the local clientele. Think fun and young.
Every Saturday and Sunday, Kurobuta Marble Arch offers a Brunch Menu with Live Buffet. That doesn’t mean the food is still moving, only that it’s freshly cooked and that is, after all, the ethos of Japanese cuisine. The buffet starts at noon and last seating is at 4pm. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for a set price including wine and beer, with options to upgrade to unlimited prosecco. There are also items from the regular menu which one can order as extras, and there are a couple of those which I can recommend.
You will be welcomed with a glass of punch or a cocktail and be shown to your rustic table, and then it’s on to the food! First there is the Build your own Ramen station with small bowls of noodles awaiting their hot broth, and on this day it was either pork or miso with toppings and condiments on the side to personalise each portion. Yes, Japanese really do have soup with almost every meal and a good miso soup can be addictive – with or without noodles.
Kurobuta Fried Chicken is a winner. These crunchy nuggets are spiced to perfection. One can then grab a bowl of hot rice and top that with slivers of beer-grilled steak, with perhaps a garnish of finely chopped spring onions and some green chilli. That’s the charm of this style of dining – one can compose multiple taste and texture combinations.
Salmon Sashimi Pizza with Truffle Ponzu and Wasabi Tobiko is an absolute fusion star! The pizza base is actually thin and delicate fried pastry that holds the beautiful topping which is finished with striking tobiko. That’s flying fish roe, often used in some kinds of sushi. Sometimes tobiko is coloured, as in this case, with wasabi to make it green and spicy.
Tofu Wang-Taki is light bean curd, and the Sushi and Sashimi need no explanation. And then there was a bowl of Onsen Eggs. These are traditional Japanese low-temperature cooked eggs which were originally slow-cooked in the water of onsen or hot springs in Japan. The eggs have a soft texture, being poached inside the shell and they are often served with the shell removed in a small cup with a sauce of broth and soy sauce.
But there are also regular menu dishes. BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy sauce is a signature dish here and it’s no surprise. The buns are first steamed and then torched, which gives a more rustic and hearty appearance. The meat is meltingly tender after hours of marinating and slow cooking. But that peanut sauce is for which to die!
Nasu Dengaku – Sticky Miso Grilled Aubergine with Candied Walnuts – is another dish not to miss. These well-presented chunks of butter-soft aubergines are glazed with a flavoursome sweet and savoury preparation and sprinkled with both black and white sesame seeds and topped with walnuts. I would pay for that recipe!
Mochi Ice Cream is on the regular menu and it’s one of my favourite Japanese desserts. It’s a combination of the chewy rice-cake wrapper filled with tangy Yuzu ice cream. A cool end to a delightful meal!
Kurobuta Marble Arch is unexpected but it works and I can see it’s the way forward as an informal introduction to often-intimidating Japanese food. It’s friendly and inclusive. There are no issues with a complicated sequence of courses. There is not the threat of an inelegant low table nor the pitying glares of waiters as one’s ineptly juggled sushi disintegrates in the soy sauce; and is it rude to eat noodles without slurping? I have had sleepless nights of remembered humiliation over such disasters. No, you are simply in for a good time with good food at Kurobuta.
Kurobuta Marble Arch
17-20 Kendal Street
London W2 2AW
Monday to Sunday all day bookings from noon to 22.30
Reservations: 020 7920 6440
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018