[SG] Aoki Restaurant | a memorable omakase experience

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Established more than a decade ago, Aoki Restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Kunio Aoki and the Les Amis Group. With a humble seating for 46, Aoki shares the Les Amis philosophy of offering fine dining experience in Japanese haute cuisine. It is highly recommended to make reservations due to the limited seating and for lunch, they have two rounds of seating at 12pm and 1.30pm respectively.

With Chef Aoki overseeing the sushi bar and kitchen, he yields a traditional culinary style with modern undertones to his creations. It is no surprise that Chef Aoki has a loyal following with his demand for the best produce to be sourced directly from Tsukiji Market and other artisanal suppliers across Japan. A chat with the floor manager revealed that the omakase menu may have variations every two days, depending on the sourced ingredients.


Embodying the Zen minimalism, the interior design of the restaurant was carefully crafted by Ikebuchi Koichiro who was formerly awarded the President's Design Award. When I phoned up for a reservation, I requested for a private room instead of sitting by the bar counter and was immediately shown to our intimate room exclusively designed for two.


With lunch bento sets starting from S$33/++, the list of offering goes up to S$80/++. Being a huge fan of Japanese cuisine and in the mood for decadence, we decided to go for the omakase offering at S$115/++ per person. With just one omakase option on the menu, the dinner omakase starts from S$180/++ and stretches up to S$500/++.

For those who are not familiar with omakase, it is actually a Japanese phrase which translates to "I'll leave it to you" or "to entrust". It is a common expression in sushi restaurants where the diners would leave the selection to the chef. Differing from ala carte orders, the chef generally presents a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to the heavier and richer dishes. It also encompasses the use of different cooking techniques such as grilling and simmering.

Let the omakase experience begins!

Yam Noodles

With a jelly-like texture, there was a distinct soy ginger flavour ingeniously infused. Served as a cold dish, it was certainly titillating to one's appetite and making us look forward to the next course already!

Crab meat salad

An innocent looking plate of salad turned out to be much better than expected with chunks of fresh crab meat neatly tucked underneath the bed of fresh greens. The delicate dish was treated with utmost respect, be it the fine carrot shavings or split cherry tomatoes.

Sashimi platter



As we move away from the appetisers, we were served the sashimi platter which I was awaiting with much anticipation. To my delight, no salmon was served which assured the authenticity of the chef's selection and there was no better way to bring a smile than to serve a thick slice of otoro (tuna belly) and maguro (bluefin tuna).

The beautiful and homogeneous marbling of the otoro speaks for itself, almost, as it was literally melt-in-your-mouth and one could only crave for more. With other sashimi such as scallop and whelk to go along, this course surely set a high standard for the remaining dishes to be served.

Like any other fine dining Japanese restaurants, the wasabi was freshly grated and you could even see the fibre and pulp that stuck out in odd edges. It was so good that I had to taste it on its own and would love to buy a jar of it!

Miso broth with clams

One of my greatest fears and concerns when it comes to broths with clams is the clarity. The miso based broth was clearly defined and the subtle taste allowed the succulent clams to stand out. 

Grilled fish collar

With Chef Aoki's omakase spread, expect to have a taste of his different cooking techniques as he showcased his grilling skills. There is no better choice of cut than to use the delicate fish collar and while the surface of the fish skin carried a delightful layer of crispness, the white flesh underneath was brimming with moisture. The sea salt added reminded diners the freshness of the sea catch which certainly made all the difference in concentrating the moisture to the flesh.

Tempura

Elegantly presented in a carrying basket, the Kyoto Green Pepper Tempura was something which we did not quite expect to be served. While my tempura went pleasantly well where the light crisp batter flaunted, my lady's green pepper was scorchingly spicy. We were later informed that out of every 10 Kyoto Green Peppers, there is a possibility that one would be extremely fiery in its heat level and coincidentally, we experienced it. 

While the tempura was good, I was not impressed with the inconsistency in the ingredients at the fine-dining level. Given that such surprises had happened previously with other diners, should the chef not consider replacing his tempura dish?

Sushi platter


When the serving lady knocked on the door and entered the room, this visually aesthetic plate of sushi already won us over and we could not wait to tuck in! With each nigiri sushi neatly wrapped, we actually tried to remove the topping by flicking with our chopsticks to no avail. This only goes on to exemplify the skills of Chef Aoki in preparing his nigiri.


Any sushi aficionados would probably love a piece or two of aburi on their platter and we are no exception. This divine piece of aburi toro was simply melt in your mouth good!


If you have watched the documentary featuring Michelin 3* Chef Jiro Ono, you would know that tamago is actually one of the hardest to perfect and he typically requires his apprentices to practise for at least a decade before moving on to learn other dishes!

This was one of the finest tamagos I have tried. Instead of folding it by layers, it actually tasted like cake with absolute smoothness in the filling. The surfaces of the omelette had a slightly golden brown colour which contrasted the bright yellow omelette on the inside.

Desserts

We were each served a dessert platter of three tasting portions, milk tea ice cream, melon mousse and plum wine jelly. While we thought that the creamy and rich milk tea ice cream was the best dessert of the trio, the refreshing melon mousse was surprisingly good too with a rather mashy like texture. Our only complaint was that the milk tea ice cream was served slightly melted but that could easily be pardoned with the plum wine jelly which cleansed our palate after a lovely omakase meal.


There are a total of four private rooms with three being slightly larger in size and can sit up to four guests while there is also a sushi bar where diners can catch their chef in action!


It would be hard to comment about the service at the sushi bar since we had the private room but service was top-notch. The courses were served at well-timed intervals so the flow of the dishes were just nice for us. Before the service crew entered the room, they would politely knock on the door before entry and they also came in periodically to refill our green tea drinks.

When we asked about a particular course, they were also more than pleased to share some insights. Overall, it was one of those days which I wanted a quality Japanese meal and privacy with my other half; both boxes were ticked and left me satisfied. While lunch certainly did not come cheap at about S$150 nett per person, it was indeed value for money and it is not often that we say we will return but on this occasion, it is surely a tick for us.

Overall Verdict: 8.5/10

Aoki Restaurant Singapore
Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road
#02-17
Singapore 228208
Tel: (+65) 6333 8015

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