Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Japanese Food at Rofuto

Auckinlech House in Five Ways Birmingham was a prime example of 1960’s architecture.  Underneath and within was Five Ways Shopping Centre, a mish-mash of Boots the Chemist, baguette shops and varying nightclubs (which I found myself in many a time in the ‘90’s).  But as the years wore on, a tad neglected, they all stopped trading and a facelift began, resulting in Park Regis Hotel being unveiled this year.  A high end hotel with a suitability high end restaurant on the 16th floor.

That restaurant is Rofuto.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Owned by Des McDonald, former Head Chef of the screamingly famous The Ivy Restaurant in London, he has brought his zeal for the good life to Birmingham and is promoting Rofuto as the place to be and as a go-to place for Japanese food.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Since Japanese restaurants have recognised that us vegetarians also want the whole sushi experience (but without the fish obviously), things have changed, they have improved and on the back of this, I’ve been more keen to explore Japanese food and its flexibility for us veggies.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Keen to promote this mantra was our waiter for the evening Alex.  Very enthusiastically, he explained how the courses worked and made various suggestions as we perused the menu.  Starting as one should, with the cocktail menu.

A good number of cocktails available, Alex explained that they could all be converted into ‘virgin’ cocktails (mocktails – alcohol free).  Perfect for those who are designated drivers.
Yuzito Cocktail
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Dining with my mother, she opted for the Yuzito Cocktail which contained:  pamper Blanco rum, yuzu, lime, passion fruit, kaffir lime leaves.  Refreshing, not too much alcohol, quite ice-heavy.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I had the Ka-Pow Punch Cocktail:  a mixture of raspberry, guava, lemon with extra added yuzu giving it a more powerful citrus hit.

Yuzu I found out is a Japanese fruit from the citrus family which is a cross between lemon and lime.  This features heavily across the food and drink menu at Rofuto, but as I’ve not seen it anywhere else, I was keen to get my quota of it in!

Midnight Geisha Cocktails
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

We also had the Midnight Geisha as a virgin/mocktail.  This was again a fruity number, similar to the Ka-Pow Punch with chambord, guava, raspberry, lime and lemongrass.

Salmon Avocado Sushi
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Onto the Sushi menu.  One of the reasons my mother accompanied me is because she has been desperate to try sushi for ages so this was the part she was waiting for.  A flexitarian/pescatarian, Mum opted for the: Salmon Avocado Sushi Roll which she described as fresh, mild and amazing tasty using a tiny touch of wasabi on each roll she said it really lifted it for her.
Vegetarian Futomaki
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I had the Vegetarian Futomaki which were fat sushi style rolls with compressed vegetables and a little dried fruit which offered a sweetness against the sticky rice, delicious when dipped into soy sauce. 
Cucumber & Roasted Sesame Hosomaki
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Same for the Cucumber & Roasted Sesame Hosomaki I had, which were slightly more dainty and were more ‘cleaner’ tasting than the fukomaki but both good in their own way.
Sake Wines
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Given some sake wines to try in authentic little ceramic pots, we had the Hakurakusesi Junmai Ginjo which was quite dry bearing similarities to western wines.  However, our favourite one was the Tenzan Yuzushu.  In appearance and in taste it was like cloudy lemonade (alcopop Hooch without the fizz).  It is flavoured with the yuzu fruit and acts as a palette cleanser.  I could’ve easily carried on drinking it all night if I’m honest.

Alex gave us a little anecdote about the ritual of sake drinking.  As a rule it should be served cold.  However, when brewed, a secondary batch was always made and created for workers in the coldest part of Japan where they used to heat it up and serve it hot in teapots.
Table Setting
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Choosing from the Robata Grill menu next, we shared:
Aubergine Kushiyaki
Photo:  Word in Veg Ways

Aubergine Kushiyaki, Nasu Dengaku which were little skewers of aubergine cubes that had been grilled softly and drizzled in a peanut satay sauce.  These had been recommended to me by someone who had dined at Rofuto previously and true to their word, this was a perfect choice and an excellent vegetarian option.
Sesame Spinach Cassava Crisps
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways 
Sesame Spinach, Cassava Crisps came with a grey looking seasoning which was mild but with a slight kick.  Definitely one to have with something else and not on its own.
Asian Slaw
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Asian Slaw was a take on coleslaw but it was without any dressing and tasted fresh, zesty, topped with edible flowers and mango.  A good accompaniment to the aubergine.

Wakame Seaweed Salad – we didn’t have that due to its chilli content, although I really wanted it (as I am fan of fresh seaweed).  But it was suggested that if I had rang through in advance I could have ordered a chilli-less version to be prepared for me.  Something to remember for next time for sure.

From the Main Course menu we chose:
Saffron Miso Black Cod
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Saffron Miso Black Cod, Razor Clams, Pancetta – this isn’t on every Japanese menu so Mum wanted to try it and was not disappointed, she exclaimed it was the best fish she’d ever tasted.  Tender, tasteful and packed with flavour.
Miso Shiitake Ramen
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Miso Shiitake Mushroom & Truffle Ramen.  This came as a hybrid from another dish on the menu so my portion also had spring onions, tenderstem broccoli and yakisoba.  It consisted of a reduced mushroom broth, with duck egg (would be a vegan dish without it) and candied beetroot.  The broth made the dish very earthy, intensely flavoured and with a little bit of everything combined, this is a good veggie (or vegan) choice to have.
Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Just about having room for dessert, we decided to choose differently and share. I had the Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu.  A take on the Italian classic but flavoured with (trendy) Japanese whiskey and matcha green tea which has also become an en-vogue must-have for foodies lately.  Both the green tea and especially the whiskey came through and it was incredibly delectable.  A really good spin on a menu favourite which I’ve not heard of elsewhere.
Yuzu & Lemon Tart
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Mum favoured the: Yuzu & Lemon Tart with Cream and Lemon Balm Microherbs.
The lemon balm when cut through with the cream adds sharp hit and then when coupled with the tart – wow!  Tart on its own good, but enhanced when adding the cream to it coupled with an extra touch of crunch from the brulee topping. 

Interior of Rofuto
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Rofuto is definitely a place to go when you want a bit of glitz, a bit of rooftop chic and floor to ceiling panoramic views of Birmingham (and you still see plenty even in the pouring rain like it was the night we went).  It’s stylish and dependent on what you choose, it can be affordable.   
With contemporary lighting/seating/ambience/unique hand painted murals, it can lend itself well equally as a lunchtime venue and will easily convert to a night-time haunt.

Photo:  c/o Rofuto

All the food we had we enjoyed and we felt we’d chosen well throughout.  With more vegetarian options in the pipeline and the menu in the process of being revised to become even easier to identify veggie-friendly options, it opens up a new arena of Japanese food outside of ‘just raw fish’ which people seem to think is all it consists of.  And even if your knowledge of Japanese food isn’t good, with staff like Alex (whom my mother became very endeared with I have to say) they can guide you through it as if they were natives of Tokyo rather than Birmingham. 

Nobu – me thinks you’ve got yourselves a rival…………
Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Rofuto to sample their menu.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.  

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