The view from Rofuto is still my favourite in Birmingham. I always like to be sat on the right of the restaurant, looking away from the bustle of the city centre and out towards the serenity of Edgbaston. Beyond there it’s home, Moseley, if you’re asking. There’s something comforting about being able to pick out your address, like coming in to land on a plane, even if you’re a few streets out from reality.
The view here doesn’t change, but the menu has been gently tweaked from an all Japanese affair to one that now encompasses a more pan-Asian feel. The trio of bao we try would never have existed in the old Rofuto and maybe that’s an argument for it staying under it’s old guise. They are the nights biggest let down, three claggy milk buns each over promising and under delivering. Chicken katsu needs more katsu, duck needs more contrast than just a sweet hoisin, the kimchi with the pork needs brighter acidity and high notes. All three are flatter than Norfolk and marginally less inbred. Prior to this are fat sticks of crispy pork skin with a dip of fermented yuzu. These are as good a crackling you will try, the yuzu sharp and funky enough to cut through the richness.
Our other starter has been on the menu since the opening and with good reason. Chicken Yakitori are marinated in soy and mirin, grilled so that the edges catch. The flurry of crispy leek on top offer a little vegetal respite from the richness. It’s a dish that is rooted in Japanese cuisine for good reason. They are wonderful.
Without that menu expansion we would never have had Korean lamb chops, and for that I’m glad it happened. They are charred and filthy on the outside, pink in the centre. They have fire and a trimmed bone that wants away the need for cutlery. We leave four bones and consider ordering another four more. We don’t because we have the duck egg rice and sweet potato fries to keep us going. The latter are dusted with a kimchi powder that adds a layer of heat. I am not a fan of sweet potato fries, though Claire is, and she declares these the best in the city.
Pork belly is in hindsight a kind of rehash of everything that came before it. The pork skin is back, as is the fermented yuzu, the crispy leeks and sweet potato. Central to this is pork belly, poached and then roasted. If I am being picky (and it’s my blog so I’ll do as I wish), I happen to prefer the cut pressed and roasted so that the layers of fat render down. This is a little too fatty for my western palate. Not that this stops us from scraping the plate clean.
It is the sweet courses that have seen the biggest improvement. A yuzu cheesecake is fresh and delicate, but the plaudits are saved for a chocolate fondant with cherries. It’s a dessert that I would never normally touch as I’m not the biggest of fondant fans and this not being 2003, so it’s a good job I’m in the company of someone young enough to not remember them first being put on menus. The fondant is perfectly made, oozing molten chocolate in the same way I do with sleaze. The whisky macerated cherry is a genius addition, but it is the cherry sorbet that takes it, all deep autumnal fruitiness. I even like the twee addition of cherry sherbet. It’s a stonking dessert that I wish I’d ordered for myself.
We’re in and out the front door in just over an hour, which feels rushed given that it’s difficult to leave here with a bill for two south of a ton. This is my fourth visit to Rofuto and the second time I’ve written about it. I think that after eighteen months we’re seeing a kitchen in control, even if those baos need binning. I like it, and although it hasn’t set the city alight in the way I initially thought it would, it still offers something different in a setting that has a wow factor. If ‘the view’ is your thing, which I know it is to some, you have a choice of here or Marco Pierre Shite, and for that there really is no choice at all.
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