Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Aqua Kyoto review - Regent Street Japanese dining


Address: 240 Heddon Street,
London W1B 3BR
Tel: 020 7478 0540
Nearest Tube station: Oxford Street

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £25pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: **
Service: ***
Ambience: ****
Suitable for: long lunches in the open terrace
when the sun's out
During a recent visit to Hong Kong, D brought us to HuTong, a Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui. Like Michelin starred restaurant, the focus of HuTong is on style and overwhelmingly so such that I ended up not paying much attention to the very reason why I was there in the first place, which was the food itself.

Toned down lights with luxurious fabrics lined the walls and ceilings, panorama view of the famed Hong Kong’s business district skyline, and the mandatory segregation of staff’s responsibilities - one to greet you, one to set the table, one to take your orders, one to bring the dishes from the kitchen, yet another to place the dishes on your table. The whole works.

After our return to London, we realised that the Aqua Group that owns HuTong also operates Aqua Kyoto, a Japanese restaurant just off Regent Street and opposite the Palladium Theatre after reading Dashi Dashi’s review. We promptly made a lunch reservation over the weekend and asked HP along.

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Like its sister restaurant in Hong Kong, there was little indication of Aqua Kyoto’s entrance. The crowd along Argyll Street was obviously more interested in Sister Act playing at Palladium Theatre. Well, there was a single word, “Aqua” at the far end through the entrance with a lady in a slinky dress standing behind a podium strategically placed beside the entrance to shoo away tourists who wonder into the place.

The lift’s door opened on the 5th floor and we were led through the bar area and into the main restaurant. There are some places when you should never go during the day and Aqua Kyoto is definitely one of them (Marcus Wareing being another), simply because the dark rich coloured setting is more suitable for dinners. It was like the morning after if you get what I mean. Interestingly, other than the sushi bar in the main restaurant, there was absolutely no indication that Aqua Kyoto was in fact a Japanese restaurant (other than the name of course). It was clearly meant more for wining than dining. I could imagine the bar area to be packed when night falls.

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Let’s talk about the food shall we? At £16.50 , the bento set lunch deal at Aqua Kyoto was very reasonable indeed. Other than a portion of rice, the set lunch came with chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard dish. You don’t see chawanmushi much around in London so we were pleasantly surprised by that.

Then again, I thought that the sashimi that was included in the lunch set was rather underwhelming. In fact, they tasted a bit flat. The accompanying tempura was served cold and limp. The beef, however, was a totally different story. It was succulent and done just right – all four bite size slices of it. HP requested for her sashimi to be replaced with a sushi and opted for teriyaki chicken instead of beef. Other than pointing out that the staff made a mistake with her order (she was served sashimi), she didn’t have much to say. Guess she wasn’t too impressed with her vegetarian sushi and teriyaki chicken. But we agreed that the chawanmushi was a winner.

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Wife ordered a black cod miso set lunch (£26.50). Though it certainly sounded and looked more tender (though not much) as compared the one TT has at Tsunami, She felt that the miso over powered the black cod’s milky texture. Given a choice, I suspect she would prefer her black cod steamed instead of baked.

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The green tea tiramisu (£6.50) was a tad creamy in our opinion but the couple of red beans sprinkled at the top did salvage the dessert.

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The mini macaroons, which were complementary, was a letdown. Though the crust was nicely supple, the filling was hard and almost toffee like.

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We finished the meal at around mid-afternoon and there were at most two other tables filled in the vast main restaurant area. When asked whether it was normally that quiet, a staff acknowledged that but quickly added that it would be ‘very crowded’ during dinners. We had some trouble concentrating on our conversation as the staff behind the sushi counter (or chefs if you prefer) were chatting loudly among themselves - one of them even let out a loud yawn at one point. It was that boring for them.

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Though it didn’t have the commanding view of HuTong, Aqua Kyoto did have a open air terrace extension. With the weather that London is currently experiencing, it was hardly worth the effort. Besides, being perched on the 5th floor wouldn’t exactly give you a panorama view despite the height restriction on the surrounding buildings. That said, the view might be more mesmerising when it gets dark and you’re slightly intoxicated.

Aqua Kyoto would probably be a good place to bring any visitors to London to but if you are looking for more substance than style, I would suggest you head towards Mitsukoshi, which is at the other end of Regent Street.

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1 comment:

The London Foodie said...

Interesting write up, I don't think I will be rushing there after reading your review. I also read the review by Jen of Dashi Dashi, she was quite complementary about it. Reiko Hashimoto of Hashi Cooking also went to Acqua, she enjoyed it although she felt it was quite expensive.

Luiz @ The London Foodie