Let’s get it out there straight away. Birmingham is not known as the prettiest of cities. It doesn’t have the gleaming skyline of London or the dreaming spires of Oxford. Birmingham, I love you to bits, but you’re not going to win beauty pageants any time soon.
So excuse me for being slightly cynical before I visited Rofuto’s skyline restaurant, located at the top of the Park Regis hotel at Five Ways. I mean, do I really want to eat my dinner whilst looking out over the the gritty landscape of Digbeth, or the snaking grey of Bristol Road? There’s a reason postcards of Birmingham ain’t a thing, people.
But, cynical as I was, an invite to Shibui supper club was enough to tempt me up to the 16th floor. Held every bank holiday Sunday, priced at £40, the supper club is an opportunity for Rofuto to show off it’s favourite dishes via a five course taster menu, all set to the background of chilled out funky house from a live DJ.
As usual I’m the last to arrive, but I still have time for a cocktail at the bar. The interior is beautiful; slick and sophisticated with every detail thought out, and my cocktail is just as good.
After the obligatory edamame beans, our first course ‘proper’ is a perfectly executed sushi platter. Kinpira Hosomaki, my favourite, encases carrot, lotus and salsify salad in perfectly cooked rice and is a bite of pure bliss. Almost as good is Rofuto Futomaki, a fat roll of yellowfin tuna, salmon, Inari-sweetened tofu, avocado and cucumber. The quality of both is a clear reflection of the skills of their sushi chef.
Next are pulled pork and kimchi gyoza and prawn spring rolls. The prawn spring rolls are fantastic, a million miles away from the Chinese takeaway imagining. A light, crisp shell surrounds a tender prawn filling; I’m happy to report that unlike most prawn spring rolls, the filling retains more than a passing resemblance to it’s original form and flavour. Take note, dodgy spring rolls of Brum. This is how it should be done. The pulled pork and kimchi gyoza are pleasant, though I expected much more of a kick from the kimchi so I was slightly underwhelmed.
Our third course is a plate piled with mixed vegetable and tiger prawn tempura. Good tempura is a thing of beauty, and my god, this is good tempura. The ultra-light batter gives way with a satisfying crunch, yielding insides of plump, meaty prawns and fresh, al dente vegetables. If I didn’t know there were two more courses on the way, I could have devoured another plate with ease.
Japanese beef korokke and lapsang souchong tea yuzu duck form the main course. Prior to this evening I had no bloody clue what a korokke was, so I had no idea what to expect. What arrived were little breaded spheres of heaven; tender, melt in the mouth beef with a crisp outside, livened up with a kick of wasabi sharpness. These were so far up my street they could have delivered my post.
The duck was never going to beat those korokke, but it was cooked beautifully and given a very subtle smokiness from the Lapsang Souchong. If I was going to be picky, I would have liked the seasoning and flavours to be stronger, but when paired with the sensational duck egg fried rice I found myself constantly going back for more.
By this point, we were full of lovely food and wine, so a light(ish) dessert was definitely required. A gloriously wobbly, delicately flavoured hibiscus pannacotta hits the spot. With a robe of colourful, exotic fruits and sugar crisp, it completely outdid all of us in the style stakes.
And so, full and content, we enter the lift and descend back to reality. An exceptionally good supper club; great food and attentive service, at a totally reasonable price. I’d definitely recommend this as a way to try out some of Rofuto’s best dishes.
Oh, and the elephant in the room. That view. I WAS WRONG; I take it all back. It might just be the wine talking, but from this height the city looks almost beautiful.
Okay, it’s not quite Tokyo but Birmingham, you ain’t so bad after all.
Find Rofuto at 160 Broad Street, B15 1DT. WEBSITE.