Lunch Mon—Fri 12pm—3pm; dinner Mon—Thu 6pm—10.30pm, Fri—Sat 6pm—11pm
Contemporary Japanese has arrived in Victoria, served up in a period corner building that opens into a large, airy space split into the main restaurant and well-stocked bar downstairs and a sushi bar on the upper level, up the spiral staircase past a statement chandelier. The decor is sophisticated and minimalist—even the chandelier feels modern and sleek, like giant glowing dandelions hanging head down from the ceiling.
We are taken upstairs to the floating mezzanine area and seated at a table by the stairs that felt surprisingly private; there were a few other tables upstairs too, primarily business groups and a couple of what looked like dates, as well as a similar crowd downstairs.
The all-Japanese kitchen team is headed up by Kyoichi Kai, once head chef of Zuma, so they know what they’re doing. We ordered a mix with some suggestions from our waiter and some items that jumped out at us, both beginning with hot starters of spicy prawn tempura and foie gras with stilton and teriyaki sauce. Not being able to eat prawns myself I always watch in some fascination as people rip apart their alien-looking little bodies—which this friend did with gusto. They were particularly meaty specimens, apparently, and the salty crustiness of the dish and flavours all worked harmoniously together.
My foie gras, pan-fried and paired with stilton and teriyaki sauce, on a bed of sweet potato, perhaps sounds rather unlikely. The flavours were absolutely perfect though, meltingly amazing together as the velvety textures merged into one another. I genuinely wished I could order a second for my main… and maybe another for pudding.
The next stand-out of the night was the seared nigiri, recommended by the waiter. Their sauces were ideal with the slightly altered taste provided by the searing, and they needed no additions—we both agreed they were a must-order.
The sea bass with yuzu garlic from the grill, meanwhile, was classically delicate and tasty enough, though was perhaps rather drowned by all the other strong flavours at the table so was our most underwhelming choice. The salmon and avocado maki divided us—my friend thought it was good but nothing special, whereas I was a huge fan of the twist on the flavour given by the yuzu mayonnaise, something that made it far more fascinating to my tongue than simple well-made maki with fresh ingredients.
We finished with the matcha azuki delice, which is somewhere between a fondant and cheesecake (yes, that is as good a thing as it sounds) and full of the matcha earthiness that offsets the sweetness of desserts so well.
We drank a Chablis from Burgundy, a bright wine with refreshing peach flavours. The bar downstairs is also well stocked with options and the in-house cocktail concoctions are well worth a try—as is Kouzu itself. Make a stop to enjoy their soy saucery if you’re in the area and you won’t regret it!