“We don’t serve sake” was the polite response from our waitress to G’s request of no tuna, salmon (or other large fish). While salmon has now surpassed horse mackerel (aji) as the most consumed fish in Japan, it is not historically served raw. This was a pleasant surprise in that Aoki didn’t favor current trends over tradition. We had heard plenty of positive reviews about the restaurant and so far we were off to a good start. But since this was a “first date” of sorts, G and I decided to sample their lunch menu and see if it warranted a return visit for dinner.
Located next door to Les Amis on the outside of the eerily deserted Shaw Centre, Aoki is not the easiest place to find. There is a tiny wooden placard with ‘Aoki’ written in kanji (青木) placed to the left of the curtained entrance that is better served as an eye exam than a restaurant sign. Side note: “青” does not just mean green in Chinese or blue in Japanese, ex – “青天”. If you blog about Aoki, please please please stop posting this fallacy. Since it was an impromptu visit, the only space they had available was the private dining room for two. For the ‘privilege’ of privacy, Aoki charged us $5 for otoshi (think of it as a dining surcharge that includes a tiny but tasty appetizer).
G was starving and elected to order the Mazechirashi set, while I opted for their Nigiri Sushi Tokusen set (pictured above). Her lunch came without salad or chawanmushi, but that was quickly forgiven since these starters were ho-hum and the chirashi bowl was truly outstanding. Even though G is on a limited pregnancy diet (definitely no tuna), the kitchen was able to accommodate with an assortment of other seafood including uni. One sample and I contemplated stealing G’s bowl for myself. This chirashi had a generous balance of ingredients to rice and was deftly seasoned to add just enough flavor yet still let the ingredients shine. Umami indeed.
My nigiri was also a notch above most other sushi restaurants in town. The tuna, a bit worse for wear from its travel, still tasted reminiscently like the tuna from our most recent trip to Japan. The o-toro, amaebi, and even my nemesis the ikura were all warmly welcomed into my belly. While the selection and quality of fish were respectable, I’d forgo the nigiri set and go with the chirashi bowl next visit.
What made lunch at Aoki such a great experience was that it ended with something other than just ice cream. While we’re not picky about our desserts, getting served green tea ice cream after a Japanese meal is beginning to feel as cliched as the fortune cookie and orange slice combo. So having a simple trio of sweets for a finishing course at Aoki really felt like they cared enough to try something different. We will be back for the omakase experience (when budget allows). Gochisousama desu!
1 Scotts Road
+65 6333 8015