This is in effect a posthumous posting for a high end Japanese restaurant that went belly up back in mid January. Aaya was based in Soho. The two reviews that follow were posted last year on Trusted Places.
Nouveau Japanese Tuck
First and foremost I found both the service and ambience bordering on the near perfect 10. Lunch with my 'I really only eat Japanese' daughter at this place was inevitable.
The siganture dish of Tuna Katsu Tataki was the best of the lot, melt in the mouth with crunch, they could well put this dish on the map like what Nobu did with the Black Cod. The Chicken Teriyaki was perfectly cooked and tender but let down by the over saltiness of the teriyaki marinade.
Both the Mixed Tempura and Soft Shell Crab Roll were pretty generic, not a patch on either Dinings or Chisou.
The final dish of Sea Bream Meishi was a strange, it was more of a risotto and I kept thinking about where's my grated parmesan. Ingredients are obviously well sourced and the dishes beautifully presented, for Nouveau Japanese tuck it needs more assurance on the overall taste side of things. I shall but only come back to sample the other dishes in the not too distant future.
Right I did come back and it’s now officially the 2008 winner of the London Restaurant Awards category of Oriental Restaurant of the Year. Yes it’s good, even more so with the introductory set lunch menus during these belt-tightening times (all within £15.00 without booze).
My set of Eel was good enough to be profoundly salivating and one of the companions’ Tempura set was deemed utterly delicious and the batter entirely ethereal.
My observation with my daughter’s choice of sushi was immediately impressive; there was something about the way these morsels were prepared and moulded, it somewhat reminded me of the way that they can only be achieved in kitchen that caters for some supreme being alone. The rice in the Sushi set was perfectly cooked (not easy with London’s hard water) and the fish perfectly fresh (not bad considering Billingsgate doesn’t start trading till 48 hours later).
À la carte selections were equally enthralling. The tuna katsu tataki and and soba noodle maki rolls were perfectly administered and accomplished. Subtle hints of El Bulli and the Fat Duck can also be found here, intensely flavoured accompaniments of tiny chunks Soy and Ginger jelly found scattered in these dishes.
But my standout was the Saikyo miso baby back ribs, lusciously melt in the mouth before you can even dictate the full name of the dish in words.
Finally, decent puddings do actually exist at an oriental restaurant! Aaya has obviously done their homework on this issue with their Shiso pannacotta and Poached Pear with Sake Jelly.
The Green Tea Ice Cream was proclaimed by my daughter as grown up food for little people; near sugarless but perfectly satisfying.
Service was cool and charming, come to think of it I think all the staff members were nothing but. I would have conceded and given this place a total upgrade to 5 stars from my first review. Unfortunately no, this was due to the poorly stained teacups and the Tatami mats used to decorate the high, high ceilings. These mats are meant to stepped on and not hover above the diners’ heads, I’ve been told it’s counter productive and insulting. Oh well, these two things aside I wouldn’t be surprised if a Michelin star is awarded soon.