Note that in January 2009 Aaya went into administration, after just seven months of operation. It has now been replace by Hix W1 The notes below are of historical interest only.
In the heart of Soho, Aaya has an attractive, minimalist interior. There was a high ceiling, a long, carefully illuminated bar along one side of the dining room, and just about everything was either black (the chairs) or white (the rather odd robes of the servers) or cream (the walls). The menu was split into the usual Japanese sections for different styles of cooking, though at least they translate them: braised, soup, steamed, fried etc. It is quite easy to over-order, which indeed we did, as there are plenty of appealing items.
The wine list ran over two pages, starting at £18, and has plenty of sensible choices from around the world. Turckheim Riesling 2005 was listed at £29 (retail price about £6.50), Monte Real Gran Reserva 1978 at £74 for a wine you can buy for around £20, as examples, so mark-ups were quite high. Beer is £3.60 a bottle, which these days seems reasonable in London.
Crab with ponzu jelly (£7.50) is a clever idea and attractively presented, the crab itself rather ordinary but the jelly giving subtle acidity and a nice contrast of texture (14/20). You would have needed to be a detective to find a wild mushroom in the “warm wild mushroom salad” (£7.50), which was uninspired and full of button and oyster mushrooms (11/20). Better was an attractive plate of tuna sashimi (£18), with assorted styles of tuna including the pink fatty belly tuna (15/20). Mixed tempura (£9) was also quite good, the batter reasonably light (14/20).
Chicken teriyaki was moist but the chicken had little flavour (12/20). Pork belly (£8) was a distinctly unimpressive piece of belly pork that was far from tender (11/20). Sushi prawn and scallops were badly over chilled when served (11/20) though a piece of eel sushi (£2.50) was tasty (14/20). A spicy tuna roll (£6.50) had a nice chilli kick (14/20). Overall the food was generally very good, but I was worried by the number of dishes with problems.
Service was less than slick. Dishes initially arrived in a great rush, and until we asked them to slow the pace down we were running out of room on the table. Prices were a little lower than Zuma and Nobu, but unfortunately so was the quality.