I like my sushi just like my men – fresh, contemporary and exotic. I was not one to be inclined towards raw Japanese food – it used to be Fried Garlic Rice, Teppanyakis, Grilled Teriyakis all the way. Nothing raw for me, thank you very much. I would get anything that did not include raw meat as that would be my go-to choice.. Until that one winter night.

Maybe it was the company, or maybe it was the sophisticated ambience of the restaurant. It could  also very well be the case that I was feeling extra adventurous. I had lost my Sashimi-rginity there and then. It was a scandalous affair with Salmon Sashimi at a terrace bar with a breathtaking view. It was the perfect place for it.

Credits: aquakyoto.com

The day before, I was reacquainted with an old friend who was in town for a short trip. We then decided to properly catch-up over a nice dinner meal. This friend had given me the liberty to decide on the time and place. After some intense research, I was surprised to find that there’s a Japanese restaurant located in Central London that caters to our Halal dietary requirement.

The restaurant in question is Aqua Kyoto.

It is part of the Aqua Restaurant Group in London, with the other two being Aqua Nueva and Aqua Spirit. This hidden gem is located on the fifth floor of a building in Argyll Street…just off of Regent Street. If it hadn’t been located in this area, I would probably have mistaken it for a high-class apartment.

As we entered the building, a lovely host welcomed us and prompted us to step into the elevator. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me that the restaurant had a very dim lighting – It’s an unwritten rule in the book ‘How to run a Fine Dining Restaurant.’ As I walked out of the elevator, I had a moment of doubt.. Was the elevator a time machine in disguise? Because it felt like I had been transported back in time and stepped into the premises of the Emperor of Japan. It had a vintage setting, but of course, with a modern twist. The rooftop is nothing short of sublime- it’s a nice spot to lounge around with a few drinks while waiting for the food to be served. We didn’t stay out for long as the brittle weather wasn’t exactly very welcoming.

Credits: aquakyoto.com

Now I must warn you that this is not for you if you are looking for genuine Japanese food. Their menu offers a variety of contemporary dishes, with only a few dishes which promises to be authentic. Without further ado, the feast began.

Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Lime Pepper Sauce (GBP19.50)

For starters we had the Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Lime Pepper Sauce and Salmon Sashimi (GBP9.50) (not in the picture).

Spicy Lamb Cutlets with Tomato Miso (3 pieces for GBP29.50), Grilled Boneless Chicken Wings with Ginger Lime Miso and Wasabi Sesame (GBP7.00).
L to R: Foresuto Froa (GBP8.50), Mochi Aisukurimu (GBP7.50) and Chokoraito Delisu (GBP8.50).

The Foresuto Froa is described as a “forest floor” yuzu oba leaf cream, almond praline, chocolate & azuki bean paste with sour cherry sorbet. This jolted my tastebuds alive; not only was it fragrant.. The combination of sweet, sour and spicy was absolutely sensational.

Mochi Aisukurimu consisted of the green tea, sesame & coconut mochi ice-cream – self-explanatory, as one would expect from a mochi ice-cream.

Chokoraito Delisu is a concoction of smoked chocolate delice, sesame praline, kaki fruit sorbet and ginger wafers. If this dish was a superhero it would be the Fantastic Four. The chocolate delice was very rich and had the right mousse-y texture, the kaki fruit sorbet (Persimmon, a berry fruit) was naturally sweet with a hint of sourness that tickled the insides of my mouth, ginger wafers as a reminder of it being a Japanese dish and sesame praline for aesthetics purposes. Glorious!

In addition to that we also had a few mocktail (virgin cocktail) drinks. Yes, we took the whole catching-up thing like a celebration; to celebrate our anticipated bankruptcy. The bill came to a total of GBP150 with service charge. A tad bit pricey, but for the service and environment offered.. It wasn’t all too bad.

Would I come back? Yes, only for a special occasion – the ambience is perfect for it, especially with the rooftop view. Not for the food, as I’ve been to better Japanese restaurants.