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Fukuoka

AO

奈良屋町 青

This tiny restaurant is located on a backstreet in the town of Narayamachi in Hakata, where the nostalgic atmosphere of the Showa era still lingers. The cuisine at Ao juxtaposes this bygone setting, with its creative, modern edge. Hideyuki Kaneda’s cooking reflects his wide range of culinary experiences both in Japan and abroad, spanning genres of classic French, high-end Japanese, innovative cuisine, and izakayas. Perhaps the most distinct mark on the menu is his use of consommé broths in place of dashi.

Ao opened June 21, 2019, in a renovated kominka, a 70-year old Japanese traditional-style home. There is an L-shaped counter, which Kaneda describes as a “gastro counter”, with cozy seats overlooking the bustling kitchen. Innovative techniques and specialized Japanese knife skills like honekiri, the bone cutting of hamo eels, enthrall guests.

Kaneda named his restaurant “Ao” (meaning “blue”), inspired by azure scenery in his global travel. “Every place I explored, whether a basecamp at Everest or Zanzibar Island of Tanzania, I felt a connection with nature. I want my cuisine to be as profound and earnest as these experiences.”

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CUISINE

Gracefully innovative and engaging

Ao opens its doors at 5:45 p.m., and dinner commences in unison at 6 p.m. The omakase menu consists of approximately 15 courses and begins with beautifully executed canapés and amuse-bouches served in succession. With each course, the entire meal experience becomes richer.

Transitioning into a series of cold courses, you may have the rare opportunity to taste fugu sashimi from Oita if you visit during the summer. The soup course may be somen noodles from Kumamoto served with tomato consommé and junsai. Chawan-mushi is also uniquely prepared with kuruma shrimp consommé, sweet white corn nestled on top.

For the fish course, Kaneda may serve akamutsu from Karatsu, Fukuoka, coated with crunchy deep-fried rice and charcoal-grilled with balsamic soy sauce. Alternately he may opt for hamo eel from Amakusa, seasoned with salt and a tangy drop of sudachi citrus.

Kaneda usually has at least five kinds of consommé on hand, made with chicken, beef, or fish, or a variety of seasonal ingredients. “The advantage of using consommé is that you can create a pure taste that is full of umami components”, says Kaneda. He uses kombu, but not katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes which are considered indispensable in Japanese restaurants.

The dessert course is also remarkable. He creates desserts that look like replicas of the fruit featured in the dish. In peach season, he makes a fragile “peach” shell using a pulled candy technique and injects Japanese white peach yogurt espuma inside. The inspiration comes from his mentor chef, Cédric Grolet of Le Meurice, but Kaneda uses uniquely Japanese grown fruits to make each plate his own.

INGREDIENTS
Kaneda selects fish himself at Nagahama Fish Market every morning. Visiting the market tells him of the ebb and flow of the ocean’s seasonality. He is also committed to sourcing quality suppon turtle, fois gras, beef, lamb, and game meats like pigeon, duck, dear, boar and bear. The beef comes from Nozaki Farm in Kagoshima and the lamb is from Boya Farm in Hokkaido.

His favorite somen noodles often served with consommé soup are Yukiyagi Somen. They are hand-made in Kumamoto and are known as the thinnest somen noodles with an elegant and delicate texture. They take only 18 seconds to cook.

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CHEF

Hideyuki Kaneda

Kaneda was born in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi, in 1980 and studied business administration at university. He spent most of his twenties as a DJ and began working for a sound crew. After a hernia forced him to quit his job, he worked at a café where his interest in food was awakened. “My goal at that time was to open a Japanese restaurant, but I also wanted to work in different cuisines and experience the world. I worked for Maison de Yoshida in Fukuoka for two and half years. In Kobe, I worked in the kitchen of the Kobe Kitano Hotel for five years as well as a high-end izayaka restaurant.”

Kaneda wanted to work for Noma, but wasn’t able to do so due to visa restrictions. Instead, he decided to dine at as many locations in Europe as possible with his wife. He was most impressed by the restaurant Asador Etxebarri in Spain. The attention they paid to elevating the original taste of each ingredient inspired his current cuisine at Ao tremendously.

He completed a two-week “stage” at Gaggan, in Bangkok at the age of 31, and was the first person to become a stagière at the restaurant. He believes he was accepted because he eagerly agreed to make miso ramen for family meal when requested by Chef Gaggan Anand during his interview.

Upon returning to Japan, he was hired by Ryugin, Roppongi where he worked for five years. He moved to Hakata in Fukuoka to work for La Maison de la Nature Goh, during which time he was preparing to branch out on his own.

Outside of his professional life, he is the father of two daughters, Ao and Midori. Ao’s noren, (the curtain which hangs at the entrance) is deep blue. The logo is the restaurant’s name handwritten by his wife.

VISION
Chef Kaneda strives to entertain more guests from abroad, aims to achieve Michelin stars, and to be ranked in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

SAKE CUPS

Blue sake cups with the Edo-kiriko pattern were specially made for Ao by cut glass artist Toru Horiguchi along with the appetizer plates adorned with a striped pattern from traditional Hakata textiles. With this beautiful cup, you can enjoy local sakes like Mitsui no Kotobuki from Fukuoka and Nabeshima from Saga. Ao also offers drink parings with local sakes as well as with imported natural wines from France, Spain, and South Africa.

Course

Dinner
AO omakase course
  • The price includes our booking fee of ¥4,000
  • The price includes our booking fee of ¥4,000
¥23,000
¥23,000
Reservation Request

Fukuoka

AO

奈良屋町 青

PRICE
¥23,000
~
CHILD
7
& UP
MIN GUESTS
1
PERSON
~
GENRE
Kaiseki, Hakata
ADDRESS
1F, 4-11-3 narayamachi Hakata-ku Fukuoka-shi
OPEN
Start from 6PM onlyl
CLOSED
Irregular
URL
NA
PHONE
NA

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