It’s Kerry here, writing an intro on behalf of the team. The four of us have been in awe of Kibou since our first visit just over 3 years ago. We’ve already written one review and little mentions of Kibou regularly feature in some of our other articles, but we could not resist another chance to go back when Kibou’s owner Emma, told us that the menu has seen some new dishes! And in addition, I knew we’d get to practise our ‘evolving’ photography skills on some exceptionally pretty, Japanese food!
I love going to Kibou. It’s one of my favourite places in Cheltenham and I dare say my favourite sushi restaurant full stop!
We got to the restaurant just before 18:30 on a Tuesday and it was already a third full and by the time we left it was full. The layout of the restaurant has changed slightly since I visited, but for the better.
The atmosphere was and always is great; there is a nice buzz about Kibou. I think it’s because the kitchen is so open and close to the dining room and knowing the food is being created fresh right there is something I really appreciate. There is also now a fridge for prepared slices of fish on the counter, which you see right as you walk in. It’s reassuring to see the fresh produce waiting to go into their food.
My starter was the takoyaki – squid filled battered balls with bonito flakes and kimchi mayo. They were delicious and came in a good sized portion.
Next, I ordered 3 lots of sushi (left to right); tuna nigari and two flavours of temaki (teriyaki duck and cucumber and spicy tuna and cucumber). The moment the waitress walked away from our table, I have what always happens at this moment – instant order regret!
It’s not that I didn’t want what I ordered, but I worry I haven’t ordered enough for a full main course. Then the other thing that always happens, happened – I realise that I ordered just enough for a main and always feel full enough not to need a dessert.
My sushi main was as expected, fantastic. The tuna was so soft and even without added wasabi and soy it really excited my taste buds. There is something surprisingly amazing by serving some great quality fish wrapped in a layer of rice, prepared with the right know how.
I decided to go for the duck and cucumber because it’s not something I’ve ordered before and I’m glad I did. It’s a large roll with perfect amounts of each ingredient to balance each mouthful. Personally, I add a touch of wasabi to the top and then dip an edge into soy to add a bit extra.
By the time I had finished I was fully satisfied and quite nicely full. The service was excellent as always with friendly staff that are extremely knowledgeable (and patient when I was asking questions).
It’s great to see some new features on the menu including a greater choice of hot options and a wider choice of shellfish. The restaurant has also had a mini makeover with a new glass counter displaying the days fresh fish and the removal of the bar stools.
The soft shell crab tempura was really crisp and delicious (even Adam enjoyed it and he has always been creeped out by the thought of it). I have had the monkfish before and it was one of the best tempuras I have had so would hugely recommend that too.
I have always wanted to try the hot options at Kibou but I can never turn down the sushi choices as it really is their bread and butter. The spicy tuna rolls are one of my favourites at Kibou and this time didn’t disappoint. The sauce is not too overpowering for the delicate tuna and the filling always travels all the way through the roll unlike other sushi places where it can be sort of plonked on top. The new option of scallop gunkan was well marinated and not at all slimy as you might imagine a raw scallop to be. I love the idea of chefs choices for sushi as it gives you a chance to try a few options for the indecisive diner who likes to try a bit of variety. It would have been great to know what the choices of the day were but most were easily identifiable like salmon, prawn, tuna and mackerel.
We decided against dessert this time but I was a little sad that the matcha ice cream and lychee sorbet were not on the menu this time. If they are there when you go, give them a try as they are not to be missed!
The food is always beautifully presented and the service is always with a smile. Kibou still remains on top as the Cotswold’s best Japanese restaurant!
I’m perhaps the least experimental when it comes to food, having grown up on the Isle of Wight in the 90s ahead of the taste-boom and fantastic local produce it has now.
Kibou’s atmosphere is so welcoming that it enables even sushi novices like me to pick without intimidation.
I ducked on ordering the chicken katsu (so good, but very safe) and took an almost ‘stick a pin in’ approach; landing on pork gyoza to start, followed by salmon hosomaki, beef tataki and spicy tuna gunkan.
Each dish was unique in taste and appearance; looking absolutely stunning on the plate – it seemed a shame to actually dig in!
I cannot fault a single element of the Kibou experience. Passion and flavour exudes from every dish – not only does it taste great, but you can post with #nofilter and still get the insta likes!
I’ll dive straight in and get to the starter – I chose chicken yakatori from the specials board. The first thought that struck me was how much I appreciated the fact the Yakatori had a chargrilled, smokey BBQ flavour – a taste element I wasn’t expecting.I’ve had many a serving of chicken pieces on a stick in my time (being a mega lover of satay chicken), but it so rarely comes with a genuine depth of flavour originating from the way the chicken has been prepared and cooked, rather than flavour from a sauce disguising bland, tasteless poultry. The accompaniments gave a clean, fresh crunch and cut through the saltiness of the yakatori to reset my palate.
I’ve had many a serving of chicken pieces on a stick in my time (being a mega lover of satay chicken), but it so rarely comes with a genuine depth of flavour originating from the way the chicken has been prepared and cooked, rather than flavour from a sauce disguising bland, tasteless poultry. The accompaniments gave a clean, fresh crunch and cut through the saltiness of the yakatori to reset my palate.
For the main event I picked the pork katsu jyu because I was curious about how this katsu differs to the curry version I know so well. I think I’ve found a new love and it’s jyu! I guess I was a little concerned breaded pork and rice without much sauce could be a bit dry, but I had nothing to worry about. This dish blew my mind and kept surprising me.
At the base of the traditional, square dish was a filling portion of heavenly, soft rice, covered with a layer of spring onions and cabbage with a drizzling of I think kimchi mayo, topped with slices of pork fillet, fried in Japanese breadcrumbs. It was incredible. The pork was juicy, tender and well seasoned and I noticed a little bit of fat had been left on which added to the taste and juiciness. The breadcrumb and sticky sauce drizzle was incredibly moreish.
The genius element of this dish for me was the layer of mayo between the pork and the rice. The creaminess of the mayo complimented the savoury, salty tone very well and ensured the dish didn’t end up tasting dry, although there was plenty of moistness in the pork and the rice anyway. I didn’t want the dish to end and can’t wait to go back and order it again! Now go and taste for yourself!