Sat five floors high on Soho's infamously bustling Argyll Street is Aqua Kyoto, an intimate and romantic yet slightly grand restaurant bar and terrace serving high-quality Japanese food. A vision of dark red velour booths and an open-plan layout welcomes the regular clientele of bankers in suits and dates dressed to impress as they settle in for drinks at the circular bar, dinner in the dining room, then out to the terrace for an after-meal cocktail and a kiss with iconic London views as the backdrop. As London's restaurants come under increasingly intense pressure to innovate and provide immersive experiences to stay at the top of the food chain, Aqua Kyoto has proven its ability to move with the times and adapt to consumer demands by creating the Wabi Sabi menu; their way of tackling their own food waste in the most sophisticated, authentically Japanese way possible.
Wabi Sabi is a typical Japanese aesthetic, a particular world view that values imperfections. Originally derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature), the Wabi Sabi view is one that accepts the imperfection, impermanent, and incomplete nature of the world. Wabi Sabi has inspired beauty, fashion and interiors all over the world, and here in London, Aqua Kyoto's Wabi Sabi menu pays homage by creating dishes revolving around imperfect or 'ugly' vegetables that might otherwise be thrown away. The menu, created by Head Chef Ken Miyake, is simple: three starter options, three mains, one dessert, and a matching cocktail. By eliminating the pressure of picking dishes from a vast menu, the diner has more time and headspace for a mindful dining experience and to "notice the world around", a core principle of Wabi Sabi. The menu features not only imperfect and 'ugly' ingredients but also herbs and vegetables that have been grown in the kitchen using the EvoGro system, one used at many other top London restaurants including Mayfair's Claridge's.
What to Order
Start with the 'grilled tofu, sesame, wasabi ankake', a refreshing starter to entice the palette into the richer, heavier main course. Ask for soy sauce for an extra kick. The 'asparagus yuzu kosho dashi, edamame, shiso yaki udon' is a generously-sized heartwarming main course utilising some of the imperfect vegetables that are so integral to the menu. Whilst enjoying the main, delight in a glass of Artolas red wine, a Lisboa favourite. Fried rice (egg optional) will be artistically prepared at the table whilst the last of the main is finished, after which, the two small scoops of sorbet close the meal on a sweet and crisp note.