Singapore | Aoki by Les Amis (Omakase)
As a child of Les Amis group, Aoki is one of the few higher-end Japanese restaurants in Singapore. This 10+ year old Japanese restaurant housed in Shaw center in Orchard area, next to its sibling restaurants under the same group. People have witnessed its growth over the years, and Chef Kunio Aoki is still there. Aoki was my top place to go for a fast and satisfying lunch if i am not craving for restaurants that only serves sushi (such as Shinji and Hashida) , the price is much affordable during lunch and i alway came back for its Maze-chirashi (the best in town!). And this time, i came back for Omakase.
Date visited: Jun.20.2015 (Lunch)
Address:1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre #02-17
Tel: 6333 8015
Price/Menu: Lunch sets $33-85++, Lunch Omakase $115++, Dinner Omakase $200++, a la carte menu also available ($4 compulsory Otoshi which included free-flow tea and hot towels will be added to the bill)
There are 2 rounds of seatings at Aoki during lunch time, first round at 12:00pm and the second one at 1:30pm. The restaurant can fill up to 40 diners at a time, about 14 seats at the sushi counter and 5 private rooms. The decor was a very traditional Japanese style, very simple and tidy. I always recommend the counter seat where you can see the show of the chefs.
The fish was flew from Tokyo 4 times a week, except weekends and Mondays, so make sure you come here on the right day of the week!
As mentioned, i picked the lunch omakase this time, which includes 7 courses: appetizers, sashimi, soup, tempura, 5 pieces nigiri sushi, 1 roll sushi and tamago, miso soup and dessert box. The price was rather affordable compare to dinner omakase. I was served with hot towel and hot green tea as soon as being seated. Later i was served with the first dish as well.
The meal started with a dish of braised tuna with soy sauce. It was very flavorful and nicely waken my tummy.
After placing the order, the salad was served. Compare to the salad in set lunches, the ingredients were more nourishing, with the addition of grilled octopus and surf clams. The Japanese dressing was delight and refreshing.
Like any other fine Japanese restaurant, the sashimi platter comes right after the appetizers. The selection changes daily depends on the freshest of the day. What i got in this beautfiul patter were: Maguro (tuna), Botan ebi, Hirame, Chu-toro, Torigai and scallop, side with freshly grated wasabi.
The scallop was juicy and has a sweet hint, the torigai was crunchy but tender. Hirame has a clean taste while the maguro was higher in flavor. I loved the botan shirmp although it was not very large in size, its rich texture and sweet aftertaste was a blessed. My favorite was no doubt the chu-toro, which was rich in oils but not greasy as otoro. It was melt-in-mouth tenderness and has a deep flavor.
The grilled dish of the day was yellowtail cheek. Its skin was slightly burnt but the smell turned out really mouthwatering. The crispness of the fish skin and the moist white flesh underneath tastes simply good. The lemon and garnished radish balanced well with the fish.
Next came the baby fish and eggplant tempura served in a cute bamboo kit, side with dipping sauce. However, both the fish and eggplant weren't well-coated with flour, and the out-layer was too thick compare to what i had in Japan (click to see 2-michelin starred Kondo and 1-starred Fukamachi). Maybe i shouldn't put them on the same scale, but to me it was too average. Besides that, the flavor of shisho leaf went beyond the fish itself which was quite disappointing. The only good thing about the tempura was its crispness, in general not too bad compare to more casual Japanese restaurants.
I was then served with finger towel and pickled gingers for the upcoming sushi.
The first piece of nigiri sushi was Hirame. The sushi was not made by Chef Aoki, to be honest the knife work was disappointing. The fish was sliced too large in size, and its softness showcased its freshness. Harame itself tastes very clean and the sauce works well, the shari underneath was warm and chewy, but it was a bit loose.
Aburi otoro came next, the lightly seared otoro has a lovely seared fragrance which made me hungry again. The warm piece was soon melted on my tongue and turned into rich oils, the chopped spring onions on the top balanced very well with its richness.
The marinated tuna was another flavorful piece. Like the maguro sashimi served in the sashimi platter, its texture was quite clean and juicy.
Here comes the pearl of the sea, the ikura was pretty fresh, nice balance between its savory and sweetness. Its umami juice soon exploded in my mouth with a bless. But either the seaweed is too large or the amout of ikura was too stingy, the appearance of the entire piece was not really appealing to me.
The eel was the type of eel i like, i prefer fresh water eel that is lighter in color (or rather white), with moist and melt-in-mouth texture. It was no doubt better than those eel served in casual Japanese restaurants, but still cannot beat Shinji-level sushiya as well as those i had in Japan.
The chopped tuna roll came right after the the miso soup after five pieces of nigiri. The toro here was also very flavorful, the flavor was nicely enhance by the crispy nori (seaweed).
Tamago was another item i always enjoyed at Aoki, both from its Mazechirashi and sushi sets. The sweet and moist tamago with a golden-brown surface has a pretty balanced flavor between the eggs, sake and shrimp.
Like all other lunch sets, a lovely dessert box was served lastly. The trio kinds of dessert was in the same form everytime i came here: homemade pudding, ice cream and sake jelly. Except the fixed sake jelly which you suppose to have lastly as a refreshment, the flavor of pudding and ice cream changes daily. My favorite was the matcha pudding with seasame sauce, the one i had was milk pudding with cherry sauce was also silky and high in flavor. A sweet ending.
The bill came SGD $140 per head after tax and service charge and $4 otoshi, quite reasonable for an Omakase lunch at a upscale Japanese restaurant. Every dish was satisfying in general, but nothing really impressed me. If you really want me to point out some memerable items, i may say the sashimi paltter, for sushi, Aburi otoro, tuna roll and tamago were a slightly better.
One thing really sucks was still the service (as always), the servers easily looked down on the guests and even chef Aoki usually talks to Japanese guests a lot, for locals, he chose to be quite unless you ask him something, and he will give you a short answer. The follow of the food was not exquisite as Shinji or Hashida, the chefs at Aoki simply make your next dish when they finish making this one. While at Shinji or Hashida, chefs make your next course only when you finish the previous one. Maybe i am too harsh on this point, but honestly, the dining experience was not really glad if my partner was not there.
In conclusion,regarding to its price ($115+$4=$119) + service + overall experience, i would rather to pay $125 for 12-pieces sushi at Shinji, as the quality of food , service standard and amabince is difinitely much better. I am not saying i won't came back at Aoki next time, but only for its Mazechirashi if there will be a next time.
Ratings: (0-5 scale)
Return? Maybe for lunch sets