Kota Kai in Porthleven gets recommended to me all the time as many peoples’ favourite restaurant in Cornwall.
We’ve eaten at Kota several times before, which is Kota Kai’s sister restaurant with a more fine-dining style menu situated just down the road, but for some reason hadn’t got around to booking a table at Kota Kai before now.
Alex’s sister, Sam, and her friend Abi came down for a week in September, and we decided to finally book a table here to try it out. With beautiful views of Porthleven harbour, the menu is heavily influenced by head chef Jude Kereama’s Maori and Chinese Malay background, with a mixture of Asian-inspired dishes to choose from.
In fact, Alex and I had visited once before when they were hosting a Sushi pop-up night, because (if you didn’t know) we are both obsessed with sushi and Japanese food! I know what you’re thinking; how on earth had we never tried their full menu before??
The bar offers a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails, and on the menu you can choose from a selection of small plates and their larger main course plates (or a mixture of everything, which is what we ended up doing between the four of us!).
The signature dish at both Kota and Kota Kai has to be these tempura battered oysters that come with a wasabi mayonnaise. They’re a must-have if you’re visiting either restaurant in Porthleven, and we’re pretty obsessed with them! Abi had never tried oysters before, and this was the perfect way for her to sample it (tempura makes everything taste great, right?).
We ordered one each, along with a selection of small plates to share before sharing a couple of main courses too.
On the small plates menu you can find a choice of vegetable, duck and pork bao buns, of which we ordered several! Honestly these were incredible, with the bun dough perfectly soft and fluffy. These steamed buns originated in North China and Taiwan, and can have pretty much any filling you wish inside.
Below is a photo of my favourite small plate from our selection; the Korean Fried Cauliflower (KFC)! I’m a big fan of cauliflower, but have never had it cooked like this before, and it was amazing. I would eat that over fried chicken any day of the week…
This citrus cured salmon dish with ponzu sauce was delicious too; the flavours reminding me of our wonderful sushi experiences and dinners in Japan at the beginning of the year. It’s crazy to think that our trip there was this year! Literally just a few weeks before the world went into lockdown. I’m so grateful we were able to go there when we did.
Below is a photo of the crab gazpacho, and I think this ended up being Sam’s favourite dish. I’m not really a fan of gazpacho personally, but the flavours were great here too.
Then out came our main courses! We decided to share two between four, and then we ended up having desserts as well. Sam and Abi chose the tempura fish Sandog with fries, while Alex and I shared a bowl of duck ramen…
OH MY GOODNESS, this ramen!!
I’ve had proper Japanese ramen only a handful of times (mostly in Japan and some I’ve tried to make myself), and this one blew my mind. Just writing about it now is making my mouth water, and I can’t wait to go back to Kota Kai as soon as possible if only to eat this dish.
The thing is, it is really hard to find good Japanese and Asian food here in Cornwall. We don’t have any proper Japanese restaurants, and no chains (like Wagamamas) that offer this kind of food either, so I am so happy that Kota Kai has these incredible dishes on their menu – and you can bet we’ll be back soon!
The desserts were also delicious, Alex and Sam shared a strawberry cheesecake, while I had a lemon posset (my fave dessert) with shortbread and raspberry sorbet. You just can’t beat a creamy posset as a dessert, and I’m so glad I was able to save a little bit of room for this at the end!
All in all I can totally see why I know a few people who claim this as their favourite restaurant in Cornwall. Dare I say it might have become one of my new faves as well? 😍
We rolled out of the restaurant with bellies full and went for a walk along the harbour wall to finish off the evening.
It was so nice having Sam and Abi down that week, and they thoroughly enjoyed their meal too! Although I don’t think I’ll be able to wait for next time they’re down from London to visit Kota Kai again…