Aqua Kyoto in Soho: Japanese food for a buzzy night out
There seem to be two types of Japanese restaurants that appeal to diners – or at least to your reviewer: the tiny, intimate and authentic ones that London is lucky enough to have, and the big, buzzier operations like Zuma and Nobu. Of course it has to be good, too, but that goes without saying.
Aqua Kyoto’s location is quite special. It sits at the top of a building just behind Oxford Circus, with terraces overlooking the lively Regent Street. It’s a Thursday and the atmosphere is one of proximity to the weekend: upbeat music, cocktails flowing but no excessive celebrations. The restaurant is connected by a corridor to its sister operation Aqua Nueva, which serves modern Spanish food.
We prepare our palates for the umami journey with a Hiroshima White Miso Soup. Then, the first courses arrive: a selection of silken and sharply seasoned black cod and wagyu gyozas. Both sets come with cracker-like veils – which add to the textural experience – and spicy sauces. We also try a 12-piece platter of omakase sushi. The nigiris (the best of which is the tuna) are the benchmark to assess the competence of a Japanese restaurant and these confirm we are in good hands: the quality of produce matches the level of skill.
We continue with uramakis of salmon and avocado, as well as a tempura of prawns. The best part about dining at Aqua Kyoto is that there’s a broad selection of different foods which is fun to explore. The robata skewers do not convince us due to the thick sweet-and-sour coating, but the chutoro – that part in between lean and fatty tuna – tataki is utterly delicious.
Despite not being an area where Japanese cuisine normally excels, desserts are definitely a strong point of Aqua Kyoto. We try the Black Sesame Fondant – which comes with green tea ice cream – and the Yuzu Parfait. Both prepared with finesse, it’s the latter that stands out thanks to the refreshing sharpness of the yuzu, the crunchiness of the hazelnut and the impeccable presentation.
Aqua Kyoto delivers good food for a buzzy night out, and its prime location – a stone’s throw from Soho and Mayfair’s vibrant club scene – makes it a brilliant choice before the weekend’s celebrations.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Aqua Kyoto, 30 Argyll St London W1B 3BR, call 020 7478 0540 or visit their website here.