Restaurants of the week
There’s a lot to love about Ao. For starters, it manages to combine the casual vibe of an izakaya with the thoughtfulness of kaiseki cuisine. Don’t get us wrong – it’s never rowdy. Instead, it’s an unassuming little neighbourhood restaurant whose cosy, homely atmosphere belies its modern yet relaxed approach to Japanese food. It’s hard to pinpoint an overarching concept guiding the food, except that it’s based on fresh, seasonal Japanese ingredients, interpreted through techniques from other cuisines. On one of our visits: a gazpacho that celebrated the local tomato season was paired with smoky grilled aubergine and scallop – it was tart and cold and it opened up our appetite for more. The deep-fried ‘maki’ was also an inspired creation, in which the rice was replaced by the delicate white flesh of pike conger and rolled with ume (plum) and Chinese yam. We also loved the grilled bamboo shoot wrapped in roast pork, as well as the homemade miso cream cheese. Ao’s menu is extensive, but the most popular dishes can be enjoyed on a six-course kaiseki- like menu (sashimi included), which gets refreshed monthly. What’s really surprising is that the menu is priced at only ¥3,400, which makes the restaurant even more endearing. For honest good food that's unpretentious and thoroughly enjoyable, this is quite possibly one of the best deals in town. The best part is, Ao closes only at 2am, meaning you can eat well when most restaurants have shuttered for the night.
This tempura specialist, which opened in 2017, is run by Akihiko Nakajima, who is a former apprentice of Tetsuya Saotome (owner of Mikawa Zezankyo, who is often dubbed as the master of tempura). The restaurant was originally a popular lunchtime spot as it offered a rice bowl heaped with ten pieces of shrimp tempura for just ¥650. As of summer 2018, Fukuan only serves a ¥3,500 dinner course for those eager to try a variety of seasonal tempura. The 12-item meal starts with Fukuan’s signature deep-fried breaded shrimp and concludes with a warm bowl of ochazuke. You may be surprised at how light the meal is from start to finish and it’s not the least bit greasy – all thanks to chef Nakajima’s skillful frying technique that adds a crispy layer to the ingredients without losing their natural texture and flavour.
Food and drink events
All you can drink sake for ¥500
With a mere ¥500 you can enjoy unlimited sake for an entire hour. You have a selection of 70 bottles to choose from, and can drink it on the rocks or with fruit liquor. Even though you're also required to purchase two side dishes on top of paying ¥300 for the cover charge that includes the special uni and cod roe egg pudding, you don’t want to pass out on this opportunity to discover new kinds of sake.