A new Japanese place never fails to tingle my excitement, but dining with such expectations always lead to mixed endings. Late last year, Kuza opened along the busy Victoria Park Café strip but I was warned by a few friends that the price it charges is no less than my much hated Sake Bar in Northbridge. Since then, the Entertainment Card recently added Kuza onto their list, so dining there now comes with a 25% discount. Walking on a Thursday night, the restaurant was not busy and did not require any bookings. Waiters quickly served us and offered the four of us a larger table meant for six. Soon, they found other patrons to fill up those seats. I really found this weird as other 2 person seats were still very much available.
I quickly scanned fellow blogger reviews rather then the menu as it is probably good to know what is worth sharing around the table.First starter for the night was the ceviche of salmon. For me, this was delicious. While to call it a ceviche feels not quite correct as the acids in no way cooked the fish before it hit the table, finely shaved onions and a delicious vinaigrette made this a delectable experience!
The mock chicken salad was the next dish we ordered. Hoping to relieve the crispy chicken salad from Bonsai @ Northbridge, I found my enjoyment quickly diminishing with the bitter greens over powering the rest of the ingredients. Mock chicken is a vegetarian chicken which as really crisp. One odd member which seemed lost on the plate though, were the little diced bean curd.
The next shared plate we ordered were two served of Kuza’s assorted aburi nigiri. Aburi is simply blow torched sashimi but the winning question really is, does all sashimi torched make good aburi? Simply NO. Aburi for me is a technique reserved for the fattiest part of the fish like tuna or salmon belly. In fact most oily fish would do fine. Simply blow torching delicious seafood like scallops rarely works for me. Its original sweetness that mellows with good sashimi rice is already an appealing dish. So why blow torch and dry it out? An even bigger issue for me was the fact that the lean fish was blow torched too. If you have a thing for dry, tough fish, it might be your cue, but this was just totally disappointing. But no problem beats my biggest issue which was the Aburi nigiri’s burnt rice. I really think this was a horrible thing because although it smelt pretty nice, but bitter burned rice with my fish? Sorry, I would rather not.
Our next dish was the gyoza serve on a capsicum coulis and drizzled with a reduced vinaigrette. Visually spectacular, these gyoza continue its journey to make the taste buds happy. But really, how hard is it to make a delicious gyoza? Nevertheless, a perfectly executed dish deserve recognition.
New can be a good thing. But calling yourself Kaarage only to be something else? It was mehhhhhh! Kaarage to my friends and I is more than just fried chicken bring crispy. It is also about the good flavors in the marinade. The slightly pungent flavors of the garlic, ginger and onions is definitely a must. So when one serves me peppery crispy chicken drizzled with mayo and a side of salsa, YOU MAD BRO? This was definitely a fail. It would be nice to try blend the delicious flavors of the kaarage with the salsa, but not bland tasteless chicken with the salsa. NOPE. For me this was even a bigger fail compared to the aburi. Probably because even places like Taka pack good simple flavors into their $8 el cheapo lunch.
This brings me to the conclusion that Kuza despite its effort and pricing still have many areas it can work on. Yes, they did show a certain level of innovation and creativity, but the food really must have taste before looks. A special mention also goes to the confusion caused by us being seated with another couple. Foods we did not order came to us. In fact, every single dish the couple ordered probably landed on our side of the table before travelling up to the couple’s. WHY SO STINGY WITH SPACE? For reasons only known to them. Over all, yes it was hip and cool with all that funky interior, but when it comes to food, it is back to the basics. Substance before form. Rather unfortunate but it seems that the gullible little Asian in me took the better side that night and fell trap to the discount. Total damage that night was $130 with tap water. Not bad I reckon but neither is it the best value in town.