High end Japanese in Fulham
Trendy Fulham has a new-ish Japanese restaurant that looks properly the business and might rival Roka for style. It’s all dark wood and vintage glass, clever lighting and cream, feathered design touches. It’s both gorgeous and understated, and really very elegant. With an open sushi bar in the dining room and the sushi chefs working methodically away. There is a lot at Koji to take your breath away, at first glance anyway.
We are excited to be here, and trill happily to each other about how fantabulous this meal will be. It starts well with sliced salmon sashimi on a bed of ice, followed by seabass tiraditos of the sliced fish with a sunburnt pepper sauce flecked just so across the opalescent flesh. At Koji the menu is a mix between classic Japanese and Peruvian, and the result is invigorating.
For the last 29 years or so the restaurant used to be a Chinese called Mao Tai, but the last year has seen owner Mark Barnett partner with the former Nobu head sushi chef Nobuhisha Takahashi to transform the premises into a high end Japanese restaurant.
The raw dishes prove to be remarkable, each plate fresher and more piquant than the last, and both my companion and I whisper 9/10 across the table whilst desperately eyeing up the last morsel of yellowtail with green salsa, chopsticks cocked and at the ready. We fight the good fight and are rewarded with Dragon Rolls of crisped eel, sticky-sweet and swathed in sushi rice and avocado. Swoon.
It is with the cooked items that the score begins, unfortunately, to fall.
Whilst the intensity of the sauces work beautifully on the raw fish, the effect seems more heavy handed on the cooked items. The Wasabi Duck, cooked slightly longer than I like, is doubly damned by an incongruous amount of wasabi chucked across its almost-pink body. On taking a first bite my companion first coughs, and then splutters that she can feel the back of her brain tingle, and not in a good way.
The miso cod, a relative to the black cod served at Nobu, is of a lovely texture but just that bit too sweet, and the pink prawn tempura would benefit from a lighter touch and a more calculated approach.
Desserts are moderate creatures and nothing is too challenging a prospect. The lemongrass crème brulee is universally acceptable, and the chilled chocolate lollipops full of liquid white chocolate are both fun and edible.
With a bit of tweaking I think that Koji could one day rival the likes of Roka and Zuma when it comes to the food, and I will be the first with congratulations if and when that day should come. The raw items on the menu are tremendous and well worth the expense, and the focused attentions of the sushi chefs is lovely to see. It’s a hard one to call, and whilst I wish Koji all the luck in the world, for close to £100 a head I think I might wait for an improvement before going back for the full enchilada. I’d fully recommend sitting at the bar and enjoying the sushi and sashimi however, and do remember to keep an eye out for the inventive specials.
Tube: Parsons Green
Address: 58 New King’s Rd, London SW6 4LS
Tel: 020 7731 2520
Tel: I was invited to review