Stacey Black takes a tour of classic and contemporary Japanese dishes, courtesy of Kibou in Clifton
Kibou, the popular restaurant in Clifton, has been serving up stylish and Insta-worthy portions of Japanese food for a while now. With a menu that promises to bring “an exotic taste of Tokyo” to Clifton, I was keen to plan a visit. Tucked away on King’s Road, even the entrance to the restaurant is a taste of things to come. Pink foliage adorns the entrance along with two huge trees flanking the double doors, and you can even catch a glimpse of the stylish interior via the large windows. It’s an inviting spot to say the least.
The restaurant certainly packs a punch on arrival – this place is stunning. The furniture is covered in intricate fabrics, there are neon signs above the bar and Japanese animations are projected onto the walls. Stylish yet welcoming, Kibou is the kind of place that makes you wish you’d worn something more dapper. They play some decent music too, but not in an overwhelmingly loud Izakaya-bar-way.
My friend and I were shown to our table by a small fireplace (which was very welcome on a frigid February evening) and we ordered a gin and a whisky cocktail from the drinks menu. They offer a large selection of Japanese whiskies, gin and sake as well as cocktails.
Since we were fresh out of Veganuary, they have a dedicated vegan menu that they are keen to present. Divided up into small plates and sharers, large plates, bao buns and gyoza amongst other sections, you can decide if you’re in the mood for a substantial meal, or you’d rather pick at a few smaller plates. The menu is huge, so it’s worth taking your time over. Dishes arrive at the table as they’re ready, so we chose a few sharing plates to start. We ordered edamame with black lava salt, which we devoured in no time at all despite the generous portion.
Our other choices were the agedashi tofu, and the nasu dengaku. The former was a bowl of fried tofu, tempura sauce, toasted nori and spring onions. The squares of lightly-cooked tofu were huge and delightfully yielding when I took a bite. The dipping sauce however, was something else. Salty, sweet, umami – we ended up drinking the dregs from the bowl. I’m not even ashamed. The nasu dengaku was an aubergine baked in a sweet miso glaze and sesame. My friend is an aubergine devotee and she spent a good 15 minutes pondering on how best she can recreate it at home. The miso glaze was sweet and delicious, and the aubergine melted in my mouth.
Our server recommended the sharing platter and I was reasonably confident I had room for it. The yasai moriawase is such a show-stopper, my friend and I had an impromptu photoshoot just to try and capture its gorgeousness. This 17-piece delight is chosen by the sushi chef and included cucumber and avocado hosomaki, mixed vegetable California rolls, temaki and nigiri. Make no mistake, this is a lot of food. I started strong and dove straight into the cone-shaped temaki, which was truly delicious. I’m pretty sure I took more than my fair share of the California rolls, but in my defence, they are very moreish. The veggies were so fresh and vibrant and the rice was soft and perfectly cooked, and I appreciated the little slivers of ginger intended to be added as a topping that were placed at the head of the plate next to the wasabi. I had clearly been a bit ambitious and couldn’t finish my share of the platter, which is such a shame because each item was exquisite. I did manage to squeeze in a few mouthfuls of some refreshing mango, berry and apple sorbet before I admitted defeat.
I really enjoyed my first visit to Kibou. The restaurant is simply stunning and the service is attentive and fast. The menu is worth a repeat visit which is why I’m certainly looking for an excuse to go back. This time, I’ll be sure to wear something more natty.