Kouzu opened in November 2014, the restaurant name meaning "Composition”. The dining area is set out over two levels, with a sushi bar and room upstairs and a further ground floor dining room. The entire restaurant can seat 80 people at one time. Head chef Kyoichi Kai is originally from Kyushu and worked for ten years in Japan before moving to London in 1988. He has since worked at restaurants including the now closed Suntory, for several years at Zuma and most recently as head chef of The Arts Club in Dover Street.
The wine list offered around 60 labels, ranging in price from £22 to £1,360, with a median price of £48. Mark-up levels average a hefty 3.3 times retail price, which is pretty high even by the ambitious standards of central London. Examples were Banfi Pinot Grigio San Angelo 2013 at £29 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for just under £10, the lovely Chateau Musar 2000 at £80 for a wine that retails at £25, and Grand Puy-Lacoste 2007 at £120 for something that will set you back £36 in the high street. There is no relief in mark-up terms at the high end of the list either, with Sassacia 2007 at £600 compared to a shop price of 151. The wine list could do with a rethink, and I gather that this is under consideration.
Tuna tartare (£15) was enjoyable, the fish of reasonable quality, garnished with a few salad leaves and with a subtle hint of spice (14/20). Prawn tempura (£15) arrived as four pieces, with a light, crisp batter and prawns that had good flavour (14/20).
I tried sushi of mackerel (£3.50) and of eel (£4). The fish itself was fine but the rice was cold, when it should be body temperature (13/20). I was dining downstairs and the sushi bar is upstairs, which accounted for the issue. If you are to try sushi here then it is best to sit at the bar and have the sushi chef prepare things in front of you: here the sushi rice is the correct temperature. Sun Ocean is the main fish supplier, along with Atari Ya.
The sushi downstairs came with what transpired to be real grated wasabi root, but I think it had been left to long between grating and serving, as its distinctive creamy texture had disappeared by the time my plate arrived. On a second visit the sushi upstairs, prepared in front of the diner at the counter, was noticeably better. After sea bass with micro herbs there was sushi of squid (the least good of the sequence), yellowtail, eel that had been killed fresh rather than bought frozen, and good quality Irish tuna in its usual three forms (akami, chu toro, toro). Rice is from Toyoma prefecture in Japan. Beef was imported from Kyushu and was of high quality (easily 14/20) and roasted duck breast with sansho pepper was pleasant, though for me a touch more pepper would have been an improvement (13/20). I also tried a dessert of carefully made Mont Blanc, with yuzu sorbet on the side (14/20).
Service was capable, my waiter efficient and friendly. When you enter the restaurant the staff have been trained to shout “Irasshaimase” (“Come on in”), as is often the case in restaurants in Japan. The bill, with just water (£4.50) to drink, came to £47.25, which is not cheap. There was no concessionary lunch menu, so the price in the evening would be the same, but I did not try a main course on the first visit, which were priced around £22. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £75 or so. This is far from a bargain but Japanese food costs if you are to do it properly, which they do here. Overall Kouzo offers an enjoyable experience, with some real effort being made to get high quality ingredients, a pleasant room and friendly staff.