Kibou Sushi Japanese Restaurant in Regent Street
Kibou in One Paragraph:
An intimateJapanese restaurant that has an authentic feel and offers more than just sushi. Fun atmosphere and good food.
The Longer Read:
Kibou Sushi is in Regent Street which, with the opening of Koj, is just an Everyman performance of Madame Butterfly away from becoming Japan-town. Yo Sushi is nearby too, but that’s for kids, don’t you think?
If you’ve been to Japan, there’s a kind of nostalgic pleasure in going to Kibou. It’s something to do with the way you descend steps to this basement restaurant – space in Tokyo is at such a premium that you often head downwards for dinner. Aside from the food, Kibou has captured some of the authenticity of Japanese dining – the cleanliness, clean lines in design, attractive pottery and pleasant-but-unfamiliar aromas. It helps that there aren’t many tables and it only takes a few diners to create instant atmosphere.
It takes a little time to work through the menu, especially as the specials’ board needs careful attention too. The restaurant’s full name, KIBOUsushi, is potentially misleading – certainly, don’t go to Kibou expecting only sushi (i.e. the familiar vinegar-flavoured cold rice garnished with raw fish, vegetables or egg). The menu is much wider than that: tempura, katsu curries, yakisoba (stir fried noodles) and katsu (fish or meat fried in breadcrumbs), ramen and terriyaki steaks etc. Plus there are all those specials, which included soft shell crab when we visited. Those are just the mains – there is a pretty funky list of starters too; you might prefer to build your own lunch with 2 or 3 of these, plus some rice.
Dining at Kibou Sushi
Agedashi tofu (£6.65) was a really pleasing. The agedashi treatment – ‘lightly deep fried’ – adds a crunch element to tofu. There’s a light sweet sauce and the square blocks of tofu are served with spring onion, toasted nori and mooli. Utterly delicious. These thin, sweeter sauces are one of the characteristics of Japanese cooking… cue more nostalgia.
Having ordered in a fit of enthusiasm I now realised that everything on my order – except rice – was a fried dish. Bit of an ordering bish, let’s see how things work out:
Next up is monkfish tempura (£6.95). The concept of tempura (batter frying) was brought to Japan, (along with Catholicism) by the Portuguese and maybe that’s why tempura dishes are so popular here. It’s a kind of a familiar western-style banker of an option on the menu. Kibou’s monkfish tempura is served with a sweet coriander sauce.
Third in my sequence of fried lunch options were pumpkin korroke (£5.95) (croquant), with tonkatsu sauce, a nice kimchi mayo and some ground nori. Nori is that familiar dried seaweed, the nearest I got to sushi on this visit.
The food looked great and there was enough of a lightness of touch to make the fried food thing not an issue. I skipped pudding though.
Drinks at Kibou Sushi
Drinks are a cut above. Sake is from Akashi Tai, from Western Japan – if you think you don’t like sake, please try this. Whisky includes Nikka (£4.95), Akashi single malt (£5.95) and the mighty Suntory Yamazaki (£6.50). I had plum wine (6.95) which is a refreshing option on a warm day. I, er, recommend it with fried food.
Kibou (the word means something like ‘aspiration’ or ‘wish’) has a nice, happy atmosphere and tasty, good looking food. The restaurant is fast becoming a bit of a Cheltenham institution (even if it has only been open since 2013). I think that, especially when you factor in the atmos, it’s one of the best options in town.