The aqua Restaurant Group has a penchant for views, specifically, for great sparkling cityscapes. Their base in Hong Kong has a panorama from a 30th floor outpost beside the harbour, while in London they have three venues on Regent Street, including aqua kyoto, and one in The Shard.
And while the view from the terrace at aqua kyoto is certainly impressive, a new menu is threatening to steal its thunder. ‘Food as Art,’ the recently launched multisensory menu has been devised by the restaurant’s head chef (and former microbiologist) Paul Greening. In line with the restaurant’s innovative Japanese cuisine, the dishes draw inspiration from three contemporary Japanese artists; Yayoi Kusama, with her signature polka dot patterns, Tsuruko Yamakazi’s bold and bright abstracts, and Ryoko Aoki’s feathery floral sketches.
We took to the skies – well, nearly – on a chilly evening to check it out. The glossy restaurant’s main feature is its slick, spacious terrace, while a distinct Asian influence plays out in its moody interiors, and a circular bar zone and a central sushi bar with an open sumiyaki charcoal grill lures the eye. We started off with the menu’s accompanying cocktail, created by Bar Manager Luca Missaglia. It’s unusual – surprisingly savoury – and came as a welcome contrast to the sugar-sweet tipples we supped earlier at a bar just around the corner. Based on a whisky sour, the cocktail combines lemon juice, vanilla syrup and a beetroot float, garnished with a piece of edible art. Served in a no-frills glass, it was a relatively masculine drink both in appearance and flavour, and the edible art made for a nice introduction to the menu.
The drink worked well with the starters; mine, a soya baby beetroot salad with miso egg wafers. It was tender, salty and moreish with a spray of pine nuts to add texture. My companion went straight for the sashimi, served beautifully in a boat of ice. The chosen fish was on the safe side – tuna and salmon – but of good quality. By the time she had finished, I was already tucking into our interim dish, a platter of waygu dumplings topped with caviar. They burst in the mouth, oozing rich, velvety sauce.
We took a break to watch the chefs at the sushi bar prepping delicate morsels, before hitting the mains with renewed vigour. I went for waygu beef with red wine teriyaki on a nest of rice and herbs, flecked with flower petals. The teriyaki was flavoursome and sweet, setting off the beef well, though the rice straws seemed more a decoration than any great accompaniment – but, we were experiencing food as art after all. My companion’s lacquered salmon with miso sauce, edamame and crispy ohba leaf was proclaimed a success, with a variation of textures and an admirable presentation.
The menu concluded with a fairytale dessert; Japanese rhubarb crème and sesame cake with rose vanilla ice cream and rhubarb oil, peppered with pink caviar and spun sugar. It was beautiful and a sweet tooth’s delight, though a lesser sugar-loving palate might have found it a little overpowering. Luckily, that was certainly not us.
aqua kyoto may have been around a while, but with pop-up innovations like these, not to mention the spectacular terrace, we don’t reckon it will be disappearing anytime soon. The ‘Food as Art’ menu, however, will be – so book in quick before it ends on the 30th November.
The “Food as Art” menu is available at both lunch and dinner times, Monday to Saturday. Priced at £29 per person, the menu includes a starter, main, dessert and signature cocktail.
Words by Annie Biziou