Punchy. Edgy. Japanese food with a twist. That’s how we’d describe Kurobuta London. From that Sticky BBQ Pork Belly Bun to an inventive take on tapas, there’s plenty to discover and appreciate about Japanese cuisine here. We speak to Scott Hallsworth – the guy behind the Izakaya and author of the upcoming book Junk Food Japan – to find out more about the dishes and his inspiration…
What sparked the beginning of Kurobuta?
It was the desire to bring exciting Japanese cuisine to the mid-level food market. I wanted to create a party feel rather than a tradition restaurant vibe. Everyone loves Japanese food and there were plenty of great options for the high end and fast cuisine but there was a gap in the mid-market that Izakaya fitted perfectly.
What is it about Japanese cuisine that inspires you?
It’s the in-depth and exciting flavours that got me at first. With Japanese food there is always a new flavour to try out and as a chef you are always learning –which is great. You can take Shojin as an example, a vegetarian Buddhist cuisine like no other vegetarian food – Japanese food just takes it to the next level.
With Japanese food there is always a new flavour to try out and as a chef you are always learning which is great.
You spent seven years at Nobu – the eponymous Japanese restaurant by Nobu Matsuhisa. what’s the best or most valuable experience or skill that’s remained with you from your time working there?
I think the most valuable thing is the skills I learnt from managing a big kitchen with high expectations. These skills transfer so well in small kitchens as you can really focus on the details and ensure everything is running as smoothly as possible.
Can you tell us about the things you’ve learned from trips to Japan in terms of cooking and dining traditions. Which of these insights have you applied to your own restaurants?
The concept of the Izakaya has come from my experience in Japan. The Izakayas are really relaxed and informal places to go a grab a drink and share some great food. It is that that inspired me to start Kurobuta.
What can food lovers expect to find in Kurobuta – what traditional Japanese ingredients or dishes can we discover, as well as twists on Japanese cuisine?
I think the key thing is Umami, this is one of the five basic tastes and is very typical in Japanese food. Big, bold flavours are very prominent on the menu and that is what we are really about.
Big, bold flavours are very prominent on the menu and that is what we are really about.
Kurobuta started as a pop up and evolved into a restaurant. What makes pop ups so popular and important at the moment in the food industry?
I think it is a great chance to try something new and different before putting in all of the money and investing. It also gives younger chefs the opportunity to break into the industry.
With your new book Junk Food Japan planned for 2016, can you tell us about your favourite or most inventive ‘junk food’ you’ve come across…
I think the Kurobuta Tuna Sashimi pizza is a great example of this, it is junk food style but with a twist to make it refined enough to serve in our restaurants.
Kurobuta | www.kurobuta-london.com
Chelsea 312 King’s Rd, London SW3 5UH | Marble Arch 17-20 Kendal Street London, W2 2AW | Harvey Nichols fifth floor Knightsbridge Dining, 109-125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ
Keep an eye out for Junk Food Japan here!
Images: Georgina Cope.