A December visit to Aoyama restaurant Angelo impressed us so much that, when we heard about its impending renovation, we shook our heads in wonder. The kitchen excelled at light and healthy Japanese food, and the interior, with several distinct rooms and inventive décor, struck just the right note for this trendy part of town. Surely, we thought, this place isn't broke-so why fix it? After several meals at the new Angelo, though, we have to agree that a better restaurant has emerged.
Angelo's interior is now split into three areas, called Japanese, Lounge and Sicily. It's this last part, where diners can enjoy Southern Italian fare, that represents the most radical departure from what came before.
The old Angelo's funky, futuristic interior belied the simplicity of its traditional obanzai (home-cooked) cuisine. With basic ingredients that were simply prepared, the food was perfect for young Tokyoites in need of a meal that reminded them of okasan's kitchen. On our first visit, we were especially impressed with the anko (monkfish) ponzu (¥900) and cold udon, the latter of which came as part of a very reasonable ¥5,000 "Soho" set menu.
During several recent lunches, we found the Sicilian fare to be just as winning as the washoku. Pasta Sets range from ¥1,000-¥1,200 and come with salad, excellent focaccia with olive oil, choice of pasta, and a drink; the Pasta Course (¥1,800) adds dessert and antipasto. Typically there's a choice of three noodles, usually tagliatelle and spaghetti among them, prepared with seafood and tomato- or cream-based sauces. Each dish we've tried has been wonderful-the broccoli and scallop tagliatelle a particular standout-highlighted by firm, chewy pasta. Other favorites include Sicilian blood orange juice (¥735) and to-die-for panna cotta (¥735).
Nor has Angelo shied away from its Japanese roots. The lunchtime kaisen donburi (¥1,800) comes swimming in seafood, including maguro, ebi, uni and red snapper, while the juicy Japanese-style hamburger is topped with grated daikon. Our fellow Angelo devotees seem to enjoy both cuisines, too. The Japanese and Sicily areas are equally well-populated by an interesting mix of moneyed office workers, Omotesando creative types, and dressed-down passers-by.
One thing that hasn't changed in Angelo's redesign is the quirky charm of its interior. The space, though not large, houses a variety of rooms, each with its own mood. The rear Japanese area has counter seats, two private booths, and a small row of tables, while the classy, wood-paneled Sicily section faces out over a prime people-watching spot on Aoyama Dori. Luminescent floor tiles give off a golden glow beneath the dramatically raked sofas in the central Lounge area, which stays open until the early hours. Service, too, has remained affable and prompt, and most staff speak at least modicum of English.
The successful relaunch of Angelo as a top dining and nightspot proves that sometimes broken things can be fixed.