Posted on Friday, 5th June 2015
Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green is a joint collaboration between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant. The Koji concept centres around contemporary Japanese dining, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi being carved out at the beautiful sushi bar, to meats and seafood caramelising sweetly on the robata grill. On the a la carte menu is an array of modern Japanese dishes that draw influences from South America and Europe.
Koji offers a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. Towards the front of the restaurant is a cocktail bar offering light snacks and the sushi bar where diners can choose to eat their meal whilst watching the sushi craftmen at work. In the restaurant proper is a buzzy restaurant where diners can relax in well-appointed surrounds.
We started with the summer roll with soft shell crab (£15) which was gloriously fresh and summery. The crab was sweet and meaty with a crunchy coating, and it had been paired with seasonal asparagus, tangy pickled ginger and some fragrant shiso leaf. To hold together all the deliciousness was an outer roll of beautifully made soft Vietnamese rice paper. A yuzu dressing added a citrusy and refreshing touch to the roll.
Next we tried a selection of sushi and sashimi, with the nigiri of eel (2 pieces – £7.50) and snow crab (2 pieces – £7) and sashimi of salmon (3 pieces – £6.50) and tuna (3 pieces – £7.50) all being wonderfully fresh and tasty. The rice in the nigiri was a little wet however and crumbled slightly on contact.
We also enjoyed the salmon takaki with ponzu sauce (£12.50). The salmon was fleshy and its lovely fatty flavour married beautifully with the acidity in the ponzu sauce. But particularly special was the hamachi sashimi (£17) served with a topping of green salsa made with green chilli, coriander, onion and ponzu. This was one of the highlights of our evening. The fish was full of flavour, and the contrasts between the spiciness and the tanginess of the salsa complemented the meatiness of the fish perfectly. The result was a dish that was not only delicious, but cleverly constructed and well balanced in its flavour composition.
Wild pink prawn tempura (£15.50) proved to be small bite sized pieces of prawn cooked in a crunchy batter and a yummy togarashi chilli sauce which had a gentle kick to it. These were addictively moreish.
Finally to some meat, and the wagyu beef cooked on the robata grill had been delicately seared to a perfect pink and was decadent and deliciously fatty. The beef had been topped with some fried garlic chips that added a crunchy aromatic contrast, and finished with a tasty ponzu dressing that was light and delicate.
A dessert of passionfruit crème brulee (£6.50) was glorious. Its texture was delightfully creamy and light, and it offered a sweet and tangy passionfruit flavour that was particularly engaging. Also tasty was the baked yuzu cheesecake (£7.50).
Koji has a comprehensive cocktail, sake and wine list, as well as a very interesting reserve list for serious wine buffs. We tried the sake sampler which consisted of three sakes (£18.50): Uragasanryu Koka which was aromatic & fruity; Shirakabegura Kimoto Junmai which was dry, light and clean tasting; and Shirakawago Sasanigori, an unfiltered saki with a mellow smooth flavour and a slightly sweet finish. All three sakes were delicious and interesting to try.
Koji certainly held its own against the many upmarket Japanese restaurants in London. Its menu was vibrant, contemporary and delicious, the drinks selection was varied, and the smart décor combined with the wonderful service made Koji a ‘go-to’ destination in my eyes. Just lovely.
1) All the food was delicious, but a particular favourite was the hamachi.
1) No real dislikes.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5