If you are not on the lookout for Aoki Restaurant, chances are you would just walk past it without knowing that one of the best Japanese restaurants in Singapore is nestled within Shaw Centre since there’s no English-language sign outside. Directly opposite the HSBC building, just walk up Claymore Hill, past La Strada and Bistro Du Vin (yup, Les Amis paradise here, hah), and keep an eye out for the fabric-covered doorway leading into the restaurant.
Otoshi ($3++) is put on the bill even if you do not order it. It’s a small starter that varies depending on the restaurant and season. Mine was just stewed radish. I think of it as a sort of cover charge for the extra gestures like serving warm towels before and after the meal.
Set lunches are the obvious economical solutions for poor students like me. All are served with salad, miso soup and desserts.
Love the gorgeous colours of my Mazechirashi ($35++)! A bountiful bowl of vinegared sushi rice topped with mixed sashimi like uni, otoro, maguro, hamachi, sake, ikura etc. Not all was fresh as some had a fishy taste to it. Maybe supplies were old since it was just the 4th day of lunar new year? But in terms of presentation, variety and portion, this beats Nogawa hands down.
Service was disturbing though. I requested for no tako and ika but they were in the chirashi so I sent it back to the kitchen. Surprise, surprise, the same bowl was returned back to me, this time with its contents grossly messily rifled through. When I still spotted pieces of tako/ika in it, I knew that the staff merely tried to pick out the unwanted pieces. So I sent it back again, hoping they would get the hint to serve a freshly prepared one, as they should. But nope, the same bowl was returned back to me, and there were still tako/ika in it -_-
Frustrating! And I didn’t bother sending it back a 3rd time. If someone is going to “play” with my food, I’d rather be the one doing it!
Ok, back to the food. Mmm, the tamago ($3++) in the chirashi was so good that I ordered it ala carte. I’m not even sure if I should call it tamago since it’s nothing like an egg omelet. More like a spongy castella cake. Soft to goodness and irresistible!
Shokado ($38++): sashimi, nimono and tempura served in a lacquer lunch box.
Because the sashimi wasn’t fresh, I thought this wasn’t worth the price since the tempura and nimono were mostly vegetables.
Aoki is the first Japanese restaurant I’ve been to that serves such an exquisite trio of desserts for set lunches. Instead of cheapo watermelon, we had three mini desserts: milk pudding, plum wine jelly and pineapple sorbet. Love them all!
As with Au Jardin, I left Aoki feeling ambivalent about the food and most disappointed with the service after that tako/ika issue.
Anyway, I’ve seeked clarification and it turned out that mine was an isolated mistake by the staff. According to Les Amis, “a dish that is wrongly served should be discarded and prepared again from scratch.” Great, glad to know that! I’m more inclined to go back again now, especially for that awesome tamago =)