Rofuto: how’s Birmingham’s new Japanese restaurant shaping up?


There are many things in life of which I know little.

Astro-phyics, for example. How to to top-up my car’s oil level. The workings of the female brain.
And, I must confess, Japanese food, for it’s a style of cuisine that I’ve seldom eaten and, indeed, isn’t well represented in Birmingham.
Thus this meal at the newly-opened Rofuto atop the Park Regis Hotel at Five Ways I review from a position of relative ignorance.
But when has that ever stopped a Brummie expressing an opinion?
First impression: like it.

The decor

Perched on the 16th floor of the Park Regis, Rofuto and its bar command fantastic views over Birmingham – better views, I think, than MPW at The Cube.
It’s the latest venture of the high-profile and entrepreneurial international restaurateur Des McDonald and has all the class you’d expect.
The decor is pared down and unostentatious, but the place is stylish, expensively fitted and has some eye-catching features.
In the restaurant there’s a central bar with seats around it, there are various blocks of tables and an open-plan kitchen.
This is sophisticated big city dining.
The adjoining Kurabu cocktail bar is sparser with long high tables and floor-to-ceiling glass.
It’s the kind of space in which I can imagine listening to Frank Sinatra in the wee small hours whilst sipping a martini and looking world-weary.

The food

Rofuto describes itself as an izakaya-style restaurant – a posh way of saying that it serves small(ish) plates designed to be shared among friends.
The dishes I sampled after an invitation to eat there were many and varied and began with bowls of quite delightful salted and spiced endgame beans – those emerald jewels of vegetal goodness.
Afterwards came substantial platters of sushi and sashimi – all beautifully crafted and the fish zingy and fresh.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Japanese fish and chips – pearly white firm fish in a tempura batter of exemplary lightness served with crisp ribbons of deep-fried root vegetable and a very clever passion fruit tartar.
A plate of back ribs, by contrast, was a little underwhelming, for there seemed little meat on the bones.
But things were back on track with a plate of nicely pink, tender and flavoursome lamb chops, their sweetness offset by punchy garlic and tangy yuzo.
An Oriental side salad – heavy with herbs and other assertive leaves – was a star in its own right.
A side of tender stem broccoli with garlic butter soy was a thing of beauty.
Replete, desserts proved beyond me.

The service

This is a restaurant clearly still bedding in, but the staff were charming.
They were informed, informative, efficient, friendly and well-trained.

The drinks

Lots of cocktails, lots of upmarket spirits, some interesting beers and a cleverly-conceived wine list.
I was delighted to see a section of rieslings from various countries and the New Zealand version I drank was superb – plenty of fruit but dry and confident against some challenging dishes.
I was rather taken, too, by a lychee martini with which I began the evening – OK, a bit of a girly drink, but we’re all metro-sexual now, right?

Need to know

A mixed sushi platter – plenty for two – costs £25.
Main courses range from £16 to £45 for a wagyu beef dish.
Dishes from the robata grill cost up to £11.
There’s parking nearby.

Park Regis Hotel, 160 Broad Street, Birmingham B15 1DT. 0121 369 8888.

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