Wonderful little Japanese bistro in Hakushima voted ‘Best Japanese Restaurant’ in our 2016 Best of Hiroshima Awards.

Run by amiable owner-chef Katsu with the assistance of a wait staff of one, Ayur is a small Japanese bistro in Hakushima with 3 or 4 tables and a counter. Classified as a sousaku-ryori or ‘creative cuisine’ restaurant, Katsu’s menu is indeed, very creative. His careful selection and skillful pairing of the freshest ingredients elevates the fairly traditional Japanese home-style dishes that are the core of the menu to delicious heights.

Chef Kazu putting the finishing touches to a dish at Ayur

A trip to a good Japanese restaurant can sometimes be a little stressful, especially if your are still working on your Japanese skills and are not quite ready to take on menus handwritten in Japanese. Katsu, however, speaks excellent English. On our visit, he not only meticulously explained the entire regular menu and seasonal specials, but also went through the whole of the drinks list too. As mentioned above, Kazu is the sole person in the kitchen so it may be unrealistic to assume he’ll have the time to do this for every customer, but he will certainly do his best to make you feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible. He says that most of his non-Japanese customers order an omakase or chef’s selection for about ¥4000. We chose to go a la carte and were spoilt for choice.

Ayur starter

After a nice starter which consisted of gingko nuts, a small bowl of soup and some cream cheese with tangy marmelade, accompanied by some locally produced sparkling sake, we started with the seasonal Ayur Salad. When it arrived I thought looked a little uninteresting, but on digging in it was absolutely delicious, full of taste and texture. The vegetables were all incredibly fresh, the slices of marinated fish melted in the mouth, the mentaiko spicy fish eggs added some zing and the pieces of seaweed some crunchy umami.

Ayur salad

Kazu prides himself on his dashi broth (you may notice several books on the art of creating delicious stock on display) which takes many of his dishes to the next level.

Fresh fish oroshi ponsu at Ayur

After the fresh fish oroshi daikon with ponsu, things started to get creative with a take on izakaya staple age-dashi-dofu which substituted the tofu for fresh figs.

Age-dashi ichijiku figs before the hot dashi is poured over

Age-dashi ichijiku figs with hot dashi

Then came deep fried Etajima tomatoes (don’t knock ’em till you try ’em) and Californian style inside-out sushi rolls.

Deep fried Etajima tomatoes at Ayur in Hakushima, Hiroshima, Japan

inside-out sushi rolls at Ayur, Hakushima, Hiroshima, Japan

My companion and I raved about everything we were served, but perhaps my favorite was the most simple of our dishes; a large serving of firm but creamy homemade tofu with a selection of condiments. The condiments included chopped negi spring onions, yuzu-kosho, shio-kara, grated ginger, Japanese chilis and nameko mushrooms. It had become clear that Kazu likes, although in a very Japanese way, to spice up his food, and these condiments provided a great range of flavors.

Homemade tofu and condiment selection at Ayur Hakushima, Hiroshima

By this time we were feeling quite full, but we had to round off our amazing meal with an unagi eel topped ochazuke and dessert.

Unagi eel ochazuke

My dining companion and I don’t eat meat, but Ayur’s Japanese beef dishes get great reviews. Pescatarians are in no way limited here and getting through all the options in one sitting would be a mammoth undertaking.Kazu says that it would be quite difficult for him to accommodate strict vegetarians (that dashi!)

Owner chef at Ayur

We left Ayur feeling more satisfied after a meal than we have in quite a while, and spent the walk home making a list of all the dishes we would try on our next visit.

Opening hours: 18:00-23:00
Closed: Sundays

Address: 1F 18-5 Higashi Hakushima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi
Address in Japanese: 広島県広島市中区東白島町18-5 1F
Tel: 082-221-4533