Cubé in Mayfair: Japanese tapas that work
The noughties brought us many cultural monstrosities. Velour tracksuits, Battlefield Earth, The Ketchup Song… But perhaps most egregious of all was fusion cuisine. With time, understanding, authenticity and invention, it’s certainly possible for two worlds to mix together into something quite spectacular. Fusion cuisine took that nuanced world and threw it all into the blender, along with the everything else it could find.
So seeing the words “Japanese tapas” is still enough to send shivers down our spine. We have horrific images of patatas bravas, with miso smeared meats, edamame beans thrown randomly into a frittata. Cubé is thankfully free from that sort of ridiculousness, taking a considered approach to the flavours it pairs. The key element it seems to have taken from both cuisines is the fact that great ingredients, served simply, will so often yield the best results.
Our starter Spicy Tuna Tartare is as close to perfect as you can get. All heat and intensity, the beautifully tender fish sets your taste buds ablaze. Sprigs of rocket, usually meaningless plate dressing, here add a nice peppery edge. That’s the thing about Cubé. Nothing is superfluous.
Silky cubes of tofu are given a crisp skin before being plunged into a pungent pool of truffles sauce. It shouldn’t work, the addition of moisture to delicately fried skins is as bizarre as it sounds – but somehow oddly delicious. It’s flavoursome without being a truffle overload, soft without being flabby.
Spinach Broccoli with Sesame Miso Sauce is simple but perfectly cooked. As are generous slices of duck with pickles; served medium rare, the thin strip of char on the edge of each is brings a beautifully caramel note that completes the holy trinity of sweet, spit and savoury. We wash them down with a fine, Okinawa Old Fashioned with mikkakoji, all sweet, smoky subtlety.
Scallops, by contrast, are a rare misstep. A weak uni butter and the a rubbery squeak born from too long in the pan leaves a promising dish feeling decidedly average. They’re swiftly forgotten with the arrival of a powerhouse of western flavours with a Japanese twist: Marinated Lamb with Mint Oroshi. The contrast between rich, succulent lamb chops and mellow is a real winner.
We finish with something utterly simple: Tuna Otoro. Three thick slices are a pleasure, the sumptuously fish melting in the mouth in a fatty joy that’s punctuated only by the sharp spike of wasabi.
It’s a fitting end: perfectly summarising the restaurant’s celebration of elegant, almost effortless cooking. Style like that can cross any boundary.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters
To book a table at Cubé, 4 Blenheim Street London W1S 1LB, call 020 7165 9506 or visit their website here.