Review: Aqua Kyoto

Mimi ON Feb 07, 2011 AT 12:28 pm

Aqua Kyoto

Aqua Kyoto

By John Gregory Smith

Aqua Kyoto is a contemporary Japanese restaurant that forms one half of the eating experience of Aqua on Argyll Street. Everything is epic; a huge street side entrance, an opulent bar called Aqua Spirit, amazing roof terraces overlooking central London and two polar opposite restaurants; Aqua Kyoto and Aqua Nueva, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar separated from the main bar by a mirrored walkway, dwarfed, at the end, by a huge bull’s head.

The moody dark-red dining room of Aqua Kyoto had a sunken sushi bar as a focal point, with a massive oriental chandelier hanging overhead and lively tables and booths spanning the rest of the room. The menu was contemporary Japanese; modern dishes mixed with a slight European twist. We went for the tasting menu, which was £65 a head for 7 courses and added a few extras from the a la carte menu.

King Crab Tempura with Crab Miso

King Crab Tempura with Crab Miso

First out was a salmon sashimi with quail egg soy and tobiko. The salmon was hung on a skewer, over an iced bowl, which was served with a raw quail egg, cut open at the top and filled with soy sauce. Little piles of spring onion, tobiko-a fish roe and wasabi sat neatly along side the egg. The idea was to decant the salmon into the bowl with the other bits and mix everything to your liking. The egg enriched the salmon, almost like a mayonnaise, and the spring onion, tobiko and wasabi added contracting flavours and textures. The attention to detail of the presentation, flavours and textures was unbelievable and this was only dish number 1!

Next we went a la carte with a very Japanese cold dish called Hourensou Goma Ae – spinach rolls with a toasted sesame sauce.  Two upended rolls of cold, tightly packed, steamed spinach sat in a rich toasted sesame sauce, which were dismantled by the waitress at the table and muddled into the sauce. The sauce was beautifully rich and nutty, but kept light as it was served cold and worked perfectly with the clean tasting irony spinach.

Spicy Tuna and Yellow Tail roll

Spicy Tuna and Yellow Tail roll

Other highlights included seared lobster and foie gras with inaniwa daikon noodles and creamy wasabi. The contrast of sweet lobster and rich foie gras in a slightly tart, creamy, peppery-hot wasabi dressing was wonderful. I also enjoyed the twice-cooked pork belly with Langoustines and yuzu pepper. The perfect cube of pork belly was so moist and held together by a crispy salted skin that was served with a just cooked sweet langoustine; perfect surf and turf. This was full on, contemporary Japanese cooking and I loved it.

The food was beautifully presented and the attention to detail was sublime. The whole place had a real New York feel; you could stay there all night, eat in the restaurant and then hang out at the bar until the early hours of the morning. The tasting menu had some delicious dishes but for me the a la carte choices were the most interesting.

www.aqua.com

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