39 Thurloe Place. South Kensington. SW7 2HP
Telephone: 020 7589 2225
Opening Hours: Lunch 12:15 – 2:45 (Sat 3:45)
Dinner 5:30 – 10:30
We’ve been going to the Kulu Kulu South Kensington branch for about 3 years now– and we never tire of it. Whether it’s for a snack or a full on meal, it can always be relied on for a tasty bit of nosh. It’s a Japanese restaurant with a movable conveyor belt carrying tasty morsels of heaven. I think there may have been a time (I could be wrong) when this branch was owned by Japanese people, but now it seems to be taken over by Asian people. It’s very disorientating to see an Asian sushi chef centre stage within the sushi belt delicately slicing up sashimi, rolling the sushi, and patting the njiri. Now and again, he banters in foreign mutters with his fellow colleagues in the back kitchen (also not Japanese). There are usually one or two Japanese waitresses there serving – to maintain authenticity? Nevertheless, the change in hands has not compromised the quality or quantity of their wares.
Green tea is self-service and free of charge. Hooray! At least there’s something free in London. Plates on the sushi belt range from £1.20, £1.80, £2.40, £3.00, £3.60 and are colour-coded as such. Normally at peak times there is a queue…but don’t worry…if you stare at people long and hard enough, they eventually move on. Hence it’s not a place for sharing tender loving moments, breaking earth-shattering ball-breaking news or for launching into the politics of the Crimean War. No…it’s a place to eat and drink all in the space of 45 minutes (in peak hours). And it’s definitely definitely not a place to host your child’s birthday party. Be warned.
So once you’ve secured a place on a perching stool, the only thing to do is to load your little dish with liberal amounts of wasabi and sashimi soy sauce, grab a chopstick, then start grabbing whatever takes your fancy off the conveyor belt. Tonight I was dining with the prince consort who always takes this opportunity to blast his sinuses kamikaze style with more wasabi than there is soy sauce – a new meaning to the term, ‘saturation point’.
I wouldn’t know much about the cooked food as I rarely go for them. I do have some favourites though. All the tofu dishes are excellent and must be tried. The spinach in peanut sauce and aubergine in miso paste are delicate and tasty. We always go full hog for the sashimi plates. The portions of sashimi are generous and fresh. I wouldn’t say that they are of the same excellent quality of the sashimi of Cho San (not as fatty or flavoursome) but as the price is somewhat cheaper – for once, I will not complain.
The sushi chef always makes salmon, prawn tempura and avocado hand-rolls which go like hot-cakes. I always try to end the meal with one of these. An excellent finish.
When we were there last night, I think the chef got a little too bit adventurous and made this strange concoction of chopped up raw tuna, mayo and something else he must have conjured up. We had to try it as it looked fantastic. But on tasting it, it tasted….spicy and weird. I think the restaurant should stick to traditional Japanese food and concentrate on maintaining the freshness and quality. That’s what people look for. Japanese food, after all, is sought for its cleaness and simplicity. Nourishing food for the heart and soul. Complex flavours only ruin it.
The restaurant offers plenty of food for non-raw food lovers. Cooked fish and chicken both alone or incorporated into sushi rolls, bean curd, miso soup, udon and ramen soup noodles, fresh pineapple and melon etc. If you don’t find what you want on the belt, you can always ask the chef to make it for you fresh.
On average we pay about £30 for two people (this includes two beers – a selection of Kirin, Asahi and Sapporo). A great place to go for Japan’s answer to fast food – and it certainly won’t break the bank.
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