Kazoku: Reviewed

St Andrews has a sushi problem. Between the option of sushi from a Thai restaurant, the seemingly-defunct student operation Soooshi and the meagre pickings on the shelves of Sainsbury’s and Tesco, it is difficult to fill the craving for fresh rolls and sashimi in our little town. It has been a trying time for sushi lovers in this corner of northeast Fife – until now.

Kazoku, a shiny new restaurant offering Japanese dining and a well-stocked cocktail bar is opening this Friday, and Owl Eyes recently had the opportunity to sample some of the items on the menu and try a few of their illustrious drinks. Before visiting, I was worried that this new restaurant would either be amazing or a complete let down: I am very happy to report that Kazoku did not disappoint.

Located where Q BBQ used to be on Greyfriars Gardens, Kazoku offers an intimate atmosphere with comfortable booth seating and a bar glittering with bottles of all colours. The décor is sparse but minimalistic – in essence, very Japanese. The cosy space makes a great setting for the food coming out of the small but efficient kitchen. Family owned and operated, Kazoku – which aptly means ‘family’ in Japanese – serves traditional maki sushi, sashimi, nigiri and temaki (hand rolls), but also offers hot dishes including different katsu and teriyaki choices, squid kari age and gyoza. Most exciting for me, however, are the bento boxes and ramen that will be offered on the lunch menu in a few weeks’ time.

Of the many tasty choices on the menu, we were offered five dishes to sample. The evening started off with a plate of six maki rolls made with crab meat. The plating and presentation was clean and the sushi tightly rolled.  A few were coated in toasted sesame seeds which added a delicious nutty flavour to the sushi, while some were sprinkled with masago (fish egg) that gave the rolls a pop of colour.  We then moved onto fried squid kari age, which is essentially Japanese calamari, served with sweet chili sauce and garnished with a lemon wedge, sliced spring onions and red chilis. The squid was tender and the batter perfectly crispy, marrying wonderfully with the dipping sauce.

Next came the chicken kare agi, served with a spicy Thai dipping sauce and the same sweet chili sauce. The bites of fried chicken practically melted in my mouth and paired well with the crisp White Mountain cocktail (but more on drinks later).

chicken kari age

After a couple of fried dishes, we were given a sampler of sashimi that cleansed the palate quite nicely.  Every piece was soft and fresh, with no unpleasant lingering fishiness at the finish. The highlight of the sashimi plate was definitely the scallops—so buttery.  All the fish on the menu is sourced from Scottish, Norwegian or Icelandic waters, save for the tuna which comes from the South Indian Ocean. To finish off, we tasted the chicken katsu with green bean tempura, which again presented my taste buds with the savoury crunch of the panko breadcrumbs and tangy tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the top.  Each and every dish hit a bullseye in flavour, execution and quality.

chicken katsu with green bean tempura

Not only was the food stellar, but the cocktails we tasted soared above many of the other bars’ concoctions in creativity and style. A couple of the cocktails included sake and Midori, a Japanese melon-flavoured liqueur, to give them that Japanese fusion taste. My favourite of the night was the White Mountain, a blend of gin, sake and peach liqueur—fruity, refreshing and perfect for the coming summer months. The best part about the cocktails is that they are affordable: though prices haven’t been fixed, all drinks are set to be under £10 with an average price range of £5 to £7.  Not only are they cheap compared to drinks from places like the Adamson, but these cocktails pack a punch. You are definitely bound to get your money’s worth with these drinks. It is expected that there will be around 30 to 40 cocktails on the menu once it is finalised, with the possibility for a miso or soy sauce cocktail on the list!

the ‘Kazoku Classic’ cocktail

We had a chance to sit down with Sandy Mitchell, son of Kazoku’s owner, General Manager and human Swiss army knife, to talk about some of the inspirations behind the restaurant and his food philosophy.  Sandy ran the Thai-Japanese restaurant Nahm Jim (which is now BeThai) in St Andrews for twelve years, having fallen in love with Asian cuisine after living in various Asian countries when he was young. Originally in graphic design, he decided to make the career switch after ‘retiring’ at age 28. His background in graphic design is evident in the crafting of Kazoku’s logo, and his attention to detail does not go unnoticed (if you haven’t caught it, the ‘O’ in the logo is a cheeky sushi roll).

Sandy told us about his fascination with Japanese minimalist design, which was a large inspiration for the restaurant’s image. During our conversation, he imparted several words of wisdom, saying, “If you’re going to do something, do it well […] I wouldn’t serve anything I wouldn’t eat myself. It’s not rocket science!”  He told us that one of the most important things in the restaurant business is to have fun with it—and with the inventive cocktail list, a potential wasabi-flavoured mochi ball on the dessert menu and an array of beautiful Japanese fusion dishes, that’s exactly what Kazoku is doing.

Kazoku officially opens this Friday the 28th of April.  Bookings not currently available but walk-ins warmly welcomed.  Visit their Facebook page for more information.

All images by Sarah Park.