AELU, a local and seasonally based restaurant in the quiet but diverse suburb of Yoyogi Uehara, looks like a residential property on a first glance. The approach, under lush greenery and over a friendly balcony oozes a homely vibe. Entering the inside though, your perception shifts as you see multiple chefs busily dicing, slicing, frying and boiling in a large and immaculate kitchen, and see pottery on a scale that is too vast for a home collection.
The ever-changing menu centres on seasonal seafood, meats and vegetables and is simple but never basic. Think locally caught fish with a perfect crust, its natural juices dressing an umami packed fried risotto underneath, or a roast beef that challenges your perceptions of a roast served with a punchy garlic soy sauce. While studying in France, chef/owner, Chihiro Maruyama, was absorbed in the French way of cooking, focusing on specific ingredients and fine dining. After a while though, he began to realise that there was something missing - himself. He started experimenting with using Japanese flavours in his French cooking and he was very pleased with the result. What he bought back to Japan was this style - he calls it a playful bistro.
Not only is the food playful, but the staff and space itself. You could feel comfortable on your own, in a group, in heels, or in sneakers. The staff greet you like old - very knowledgable - friends. Staff say they love the unconventional service style, but most of all are bonded by a common love of good music. Maruyama wouldn’t be where he is without that passion, he says it keeps him focused and innovative.
AELU is open for dinner, for a glass of natural wine, and has recently opened for lunch. It is a nice 35 minute stroll to the restaurant, a 15 minute cycle, or a simple 25 minute bus. Don’t forget to explore the area too!