There are various sushi restaurants dotted around Birmingham, the most famous locally being Sushi Passion. However, the addition of Rofuto which is situated on top of Park Regis Hotel, Five Ways, brings something quite special, and unique, to the second city.
If you book a table in Rofuto, I would strongly suggest a few drinks in the adjoining sky-bar first. While there is still a great deal of snobbery towards Birmingham, much of it is out of date and based on ill-informed misconceptions.
Forget ‘more canals than Venice!’, what about ‘more trees than Sherwood!’ If you arrive in daylight, the sky-bar highlights just how green Birmingham is, it’s almost difficult to believe you are in the heart of a huge West Midland metropolis of over three million people.
This Garden City’s carpet of green stretches as far as the eye can see, out to Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire, J. R. R. Tolkien’s country, broken only by the occasional tower block, or church steeple.. And of course Old Joe, the University Clock Tower. As a matter of note, Big Joe (Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower) is taller than Big Ben – which had its giant lens made here in Brum.
Anyway, I digress, we finished our drinks and moved next door. Upon entering the restaurant you immediately feel a sense of style and attention to detail, with a calm, chilled atmosphere, tables spaced out nicely with low lighting, the evening starting to glow a variety of colours 16 floors below – Ok, NOW you feel like you’re in a big city!
Our waiter showed us to the table, which was beautifully presented. There is no rush here, staff are trained to allow you enough time, to soak in the atmosphere, and ponder, over the exotic menus, before assisting you on your journey around ‘World Rofuto’.
The izakaya style menu has apparently been “created to offer a taste of traditional Japan alongside the modern and menu ranges from Sushi and Sashimi to Tempura and Yakitori from the Robata grill. The menu changes with the seasons, but firm Japanese favourites remain” and this works well to have a wide selection of dishes. I could imagine there is something to suit every taste here.
Restaurateur, Des McDonald, has over 20 years’ experience running some of the world’s most high profile establishments including Le Caprice, Scott’s, Soho House and Annabel’s. Des was Head Chef at the world famous Ivy restaurant, and this obviously shines through in Rofuto – Imagine a slightly more opulent Fumo (stylish Italian/Birmingham restaurant) with regards to decor.
The selection of cocktails meant that we had to try at least one, and the Rasberry Sabaku (Chamboard, Cacao Blanc, with Resberry Puree) kicked things off perfectly, thus allowing us enough time to choose our first three dishes.
The food didn’t take long to arrive and looked delicious the moment it appeared.
Seared Black Cod to Sesame Chicken Yakatori
We started with Seared Black Cod which was so soft and flaky, it literally melted into the mouth. It was almost a crime to disturb the dish, as it was presented more as a work of art. I can tell you that the cod on Porthminster beach, St Ives will never taste the same.
A good accompaniment was the Hand Dived Scallop, again, fresh and delicious, you would never imagine we were sat high above the most landlocked city in the UK.
After trying Salmon Avocado Rolls in a rather expensive restaurant in Noosa, Australia, I was interested to see how Rofuto’s offering compared. The taste was outstanding. I find sushi can occasionally be a little bland for my own taste buds, but this really was a strong dish without being overpowering and I would definitely opt for this again.
As a lover of chicken, I chose the Sesame Chicken Yakatori. No disappointment here. Soft inside, crispy and crunchy as you bite into it and by this point, we were starting to realise how filling this can be – Not something you might expect with delicate sushi dishes.
Spicy Lobster with Glass Noodles & Saki
My friend and I then shared the miniature Lamb Chops, which were succulent to the point where we were both licking our fingers after the bones were nibbled bare. Sounds messy I know, well who cares, no one was watching! And I think that is also a feature of Rofuto, the staff do not make you feel rushed. There’s minimum interference unless you need something, meaning you can relax 100%.
And so to finish this sushi-tasting spectacular, my friend tried the Spicy Lobster with Glass Noodles. I am reassured it easily matched, and in some cases surpassed the same dish tried in other sushi restaurants from New York to Japan. Everything presented to us looked artistic, and the tastes were married extremely well with overall experience. Utterly brilliant!
Finally, Freddie, the manager brought over some saki for us to try. We had a brief and fascinating guide to what we were about to drink and it just topped off a perfect evening with great company, in a beautiful restaurant pulled together by passionate and attentive management/staff. 10/10.
Review by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.