If further proof was required of the transformation in Birmingham from national joke to destination city, please crank back your neck and look to the floor to ceiling windows of the top floor of the Park Regis hotel. Gone is the tired Edgbaston Shopping Centre which once loomed over the Five Ways junction, and in its place the new hotel, where, on the top floor and via its own entrance, you will find Rofuto; a destination restaurant in its own right.
There is much to love about Rofuto. The views – ours stretched out over Edgbaston to Moseley, where I could monitor our home from dinner– will be reason enough for some to go. Others will tempted by the modern Japanese menu, quite unlike anything else in the city. Its a style of cooking that I am both a fan of and familiar with, drawing obvious comparisons with Nobu and Roka – the latter being one of my favourite places to eat in the capital. The food at Rofuto was as good as its London counterparts in the majority, occasionally exceeding them.
The attention to detail was obvious from the very first thing which we ate. Edamame beans were meaty in texture, sat in a liqueur full of chilli and garlic heat. They took the very best elements of kimchi, ridding them of cabbage and turning them from condiment in to the ultimate bar snack. A salad of crispy duck with candied walnuts was sent stratospheric by a dressing containing raspberries that interplayed the sweet and the savoury with perfect balance.
From the tempura section of the menu we take ‘Japanese fish and chips’, a novel concept of questionable authenticity. What mattered was the fish was cooked with precision, with a batter so light it threatened to disappear in to the air. It came with a decent pea puree and a staggeringly good passion fruit tartar which was simultaneously sharp and sweet. Superfluous vegetable crisps tied in the chip notion and were perhaps unnecessary though swiftly eaten. From the Robata grill came chicken yakitori, the tender thigh meat having good flavour of soy and mirin.
Black cod is seemingly a staple of modern Japanese restaurants and here was perhaps my favourite rendition. The meaty fish flakes collapsed among themselves at merest suggestion, whilst razor clams and pancetta added a subtle fattiness and a nice back note of smoke from the bacon. We chased the last of the deeply flavoured miso sauce around the bowl.
The humble pig belly was never going to surpass the black cod, though it made a good effort to do so. The meat had been braised until almost falling apart and served with the cooking liqueur that was rich with the saltiness of soy. Cavolo nero was an obvious foil for the richness and worked well, whilst a side portion of duck egg rice was rich and luscious.
We finished with a chocolate fondant that demonstrated considerable skill in the pastry department by having the most oozy of centres. Ice cream added to the indulgence whilst a powder of matcha tea (I think) gave a much needed savoury note.
We shared a good bottle of Reisling as suggested by our excellent waiter, Alex, and beforehand took cocktails at Kurabu, their adjacent late night bar. The bill, had we been paying, would have been in line with the quality of the experience. And an experience is what it is; from the lift in the concierge area, to the food, to the cocktails afterwards whilst taking in the cities lights, not one detail has been overlooked. For a city with the ambitions of Birmingham, Rofuto is exactly what we need.
We were invited as guests of Rofuto. My views remain honest.