If the world as you knew it was coming to an end, you could do worse than have your last dinner at Aoki Restaurant. This is after all, the chef that’s fed Emperor Akihito. Just remember to make reservations first. Utter to chef Aoki, ‘omakase’ – loosely translated as ‘you choose how to feed me’ and you will be taken on a sublime culinary journey of traditional Japanese dishes. To accompany your feast, nothing but the finest sake will do. There’s the rare Jyuyondai ‘Ryusen’ jyunmai daiginjyo and even rarer Isojiman Nakatori jyunmai daiginjyo 35% – surely the grand crus of sakes. If it’s a Domaine Romanee Conti 1957 you’re more inclined to, why, most certainly, but then again, there’s also that Imperial of Latour 1982 you’ve always wanted to try. After all Aoki is co-owned by the Les Amis Group and the French restaurant’s cellars are right next door. And since this is your last meal, you won’t even bat an eyelid when the bill is presented.
For Nipponophiles and lesser beings destined to live longer, lunch is the order of the day. And at Aoki, all set lunches come with a beginning and an end. It opens with a salad of fresh and crisp greens, baby tomatoes, dressed with soy vinaigrette. And to close, there is always a trio of desserts. Typically, one each of pumpkin custard, plum jelly and melon sorbet. Omaksase is also offered at lunch, just be prepared to indulge a bit longer.
Your choice of lunch mains depends on how much you are prepared to eat. On the menu you’ll have the choice of either a seven-piece or nine-piece sushi meal. The former costs less than the price of a French set lunch.
The full-size Mazechirashi bowl is the best looking and best tasting in town. You get sushi rice topped with a selection of sashimi, sea urchin eggs, salmon eggs plus seaweed, pickles and more. A cornucopia of colours, shapes and tastes – and each mouthful brings on a mélange of different flavours depending on how much of and what you pick up with your chopsticks. The exceptional value here is that whist one usually gets sushi end cuts going into one’s chirashi, Aoki’s sashimi is so superior, (fish is flown in from Tokyo’s prestigious fish marker four times weekly) you’ll end up savouring every morsel.
Beautifully presented is the Shokado set, featuring sashimi (chutoro, hotate, ama ebi, hamachi and more) steamed vegetables, tempura, rice, soup and dessert – all served up in a lacquer box. The more generous version is called Taian Bento.
Whilst Aoki specialises in fruits de la mer Japanese style, there are seasonal menus and also other offerings of cooked food ranging from Wagyu Sirlion and deep-fried Sole. The shiromi shio kombu kuro truffle (white fish sashimi with truffles) or the toro niniku shio (tuna sashimi with garlic and salt) are seductive specialities. The former is reminiscent of truffled chicken whilst the latter, could be passed off for carpaccio! There are also noodles, Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki for those seeking heartier options.
Seating 47, the décor embodies the essence of Zen minimalism, of natural wood and rice paper. There are also three booths and two private rooms. The best seats remain the ones at the counter – fifteen of them, with a ringside view of flashing knives and artists at work. Regulars request seats at the right side – that is where Aoki stations himself. Middle and to the left, are his two sous chefs. Even if all the ingredients used are similar, the sushi that is closest to perfect, is the one crafted by the grand master himself.
Service is friendly, helpful and never intrusive. Reservations are highly recommended, days ahead especially for lunch.
Address: 1 Scotts Road #02-17, Shaw Centre, Singapore 228208
Telephone: (65) 6333 8015
Facsimile: (65) 6333-8016
Mondays to Saturdays : Lunch 12 noon to 3 p.m. (Last seating at 2.30 p.m.)
Dinner 6.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Last seating at 10.30 p.m.)
Dress Code: Smart elegant
Prices: Lunch S$ 30 +++ per person and above.
Dinner S$165 +++ per person and above.
Corkage: S$30 +++ per 75cl. bottle.