Tucked away on New England Road, a new vegan gem has appeared. The plant-based, Japanese inspired restaurant has been open since last August and has caused a bit of a stir in the culinary world. Kusaki is now listed in The Michelin Guide 2022, so obviously I needed to find out what all the fuss was about. First impressions were good, this is a thoughtfully curated and beautifully designed space. The restaurant used to be a gym, giving an industrial feel which the designer has enhanced with a heavy nod to all things Japanese. A blossoming cherry tree is installed in the middle of the dining area and paper screens adorn the large windows. Overall, a light-hearted tone has been achieved. 

I was seated at a table across from the aforementioned cherry tree and was pleased with the table spacing. 

The owners are clearly not greedy, there is ample room between each table so you can enjoy an intimate dining experience without being encroached upon by other customers’ conversations.  The menu is broken up into categories; small plates, Sushi and Sashimi, large plates and curries. The manager advised us to order at least four dishes to share and informed us the food arrives when it is ready, rather like a Tapas concept. Before any ordering had taken place, we were presented with a small drinking bowl of miso soup containing a few cubes of tofu. Totally unexpected and absolutely delicious. I knew if a simple soup tasted that good, we were in for a treat.  

The first small plate we tried was Gyoza; shitake, five spice and miso, served with a yuzu and rice vinegar dipping sauce. The dumplings were soft and cooked to perfection, with the shitake mushrooms adding a beefy dimension.  A favourite of mine, Bao Buns were up next; teriyaki glazed jackfruit, pickled daikon, fresh cucumber and toasted sesame. I have never tried jackfruit before and the way it was cooked and seasoned made it taste exactly like chicken. Gorgeous marshmallowy Bao Buns crammed with deliciousness. This was the dish I wish I didn’t have to share.  

I needed to try the watermelon as I have heard this is the vegan equivalent to rare steak. The fruit is marinated in taman and yuzu and served on a bed of udon noodles, it was certainly interesting. Slightly warm and I can see why it has been given the rare steak accolade. Overall, a good alternative and a fantastic talking point of the meal. The Aubergine Dengaku blew me away. Twice roasted, coated in a miso glaze and peanut crumb with red chillies. This was a sensation, sweet, nutty and spicy with the subtle aubergine flavours, all marrying better than a couple in the 1950s. 

The thing about small plates is that you always have room left for dessert. I opted for the miso brownie, served with chocolate parfait and was definitely full to capacity after I polished it off. 

My first experience in a fully vegan restaurant exceeded my expectations. The service was slick and professional and the fact they were fully booked on a Wednesday evening speaks volumes. Definitely put this on your dining wish list. 

Steven Graham
Author: Steven Graham

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