Dinner @ Ashino | Sushi Restaurant at CHIJMES

August 19, 2016 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

One can’t have too many birthday celebration meals. =) I was looking forward to my birthday dinner at Ashino because I had heard (or should I better say, read) much of their cured fishes. Although honestly, I was more excited to meet my friend whom I haven’t seen in 1.5 years! =p

Reservation was made 2 days in advance for a weekday dinner at 8.30pm. And a day before our dinner, I received a text message from Ashino asking for confirmation of our reservation. To which, I replied “Hi, thank you. It’s confirmed. The dinner will be to celebrate my birthday!” Hahaha. Thick skin-ly announcing that I am celebrating my birthday. Keke.

And taken from the website, Ashino’s sushi rice is cooked in a traditional iron kettle with air-flown Mt Fuji water.

Now… To locate Ashino within CHIJMES, my friend and I had to refer to CHIJMES’s map directory. But with no (clear) signboard put up by the restaurant, we could only guess the unit we were standing in front of was Ashino from its Japanese-looking exterior. And Ashino was designed (uniquely) such that one would walk down a corridor before reaching the discreet entrance. I mean, most restaurants would normally have their entrances face the main pavement for easy identification.

My friend and I got lucky. The other group finished their dinner by 9pm which allowed us to have head chef Taku Ashino to ourselves.

And from the menu, we ordered:-

1) Omakase, $400 comprised of:-

(A) Item #1 (above) – We started our dinner with 12 days aged tuna. The fish was pre-sliced prior to our dinner, and I was dismayed to see head chef Ashino using a poorly sliced piece for the sushi. I mean, there should be some minimum standard of quality. No?

(B) Item #2 (above) – For our second piece of sushi, head chef Ashino presented us with a 3 days cured spotted prawn (botan ebi). And for this, we were to pick our sushi from his hand. I tried attempting taking photo of it with the sushi in my right hand and my mobile phone in my left. To which head chef Ashino said I could take photograph of my friend’s sushi. Haha. So yes, if one wants to take picture, do let him know. Head chef Ashino will oblige, but don’t keep him waiting too long!

(C) Item #3 (above) – Botan shrimp paste chawanmushi with water shield (junsai).

(D) Item #4 (above) – Giant clam (ishigakigai). And for this, head chef Ashino presented it by slamming it onto the wooden board in front of us. Apparently, the immediate retraction of the giant clam shows that it is fresh.

(E) Item #5 (above) – Deep fried sweet fish (ayu) served with sweet corn.

(F) Item #6 (above) – 2 weeks cured flounder.

(G) Item #7 (above) – Was engrossed in a conversation with my friend. So no, we didn’t give head chef Ashino a chance to introduce the dish. Oops.

(H) Item #8 (above) – Barracuda. This was tricky to eat cause chef Ashino packs his sushi rice pretty loosely. I was eating my sushi with my hand, and it was a race to put the sushi into my mouth before it falls apart.

(I) Item #9 (above) – Baby white shrimp (shiro-ebi) topped with sea urchin (uni).

(J) Item #10 (above) – Big eye snapper (kinmedai) which had been cured for 17 days.

(K) Item #11 (above) – Fried flounder with stuffed green chili.

(L) Item #12 (above) – Baby cuttlefish. And to explain how small the baby cuttlefish was, head chef Ashino said what’s used was the entire body. And because we were conversing with head chef Ashino (Ie, understanding what spurred him to open his own restaurant), he used the baby cuttlefish as an example to illustrate how he aims to introduce premium ingredients to customers. He said not many restaurants serve baby cuttlefish as it’s pricey.

(M) Item #13 – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).

(N) Item #14 (above) – From the same baby cuttlefish that was served earlier.

(O) Item #15 (above) – White eel. This was pretty good. I liked it.

(P) Item #16 (above) – And head chef Ashino scooped some soup from the pot which had a gigantic piece of abalone simmered in.

(Q) Item #17 (above) – Abalone served with salted fish egg and liver sauce.

(R) Item #18 (above) – Sea perch.

(S) Item #19 (above) – Crab. This was pretty good. But again, I don’t like how head chef Ashino knead his sushi rice. A good piece of sushi would allow one to pick it up with ease. Be it with one’s fingers or chopsticks. And at Ashino, they certainly encourage customers to use hands as wet wipe was provided. However, head chef Ashino’s sushi-s were very fragile as the rice was packed too loosely. When my friend picked his sushi from head chef Ashino’s palm, his sushi broke apart. Yes, on head chef Ashino’s palm! And instead of making a new piece for my friend, head chef Ashino continued to hold his hand up for my friend to pick the remains of his sushi.

(T) Item #20 (above) – Sea urchin (uni). One of the better sushi for the night, thanks to the generous amount of murasaki uni.

(U) Item #21 (above) – Sea eel. And I really liked this. Eel was marinated by being soaked; Head chef Ashino took out the soaked eel pieces from its bowl of seasoning in front of us. Nice.

(V) Item #22 (above) – A very small piece of rolled omelette (tamagoyaki).

(w) Item #23 (above) – Fruits.

So what did I think of dinner? Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. In fact, I was hugely disappointed. To the extent I had been ranting about it to my friends for days. I, just, can’t, get, over, it.

Head chef Ashino’s specialty would be his aged fishes. However, the ageing didn’t do much to enhance the taste or texture. I had really good cured fishes (at other Japanese sushi-ya). And frankly, one would be blown away by the smooth texture of properly cured fishes. But that didn’t happen for me at Ashino.

And I couldn’t get past the fact that poorly sliced fishes were even used. Like seriously! And the fishes were all pre-sliced too. I mean, I would understand if the fishes had to be sliced for the curing process. But my friend and I were given non-cured items too. And personally, I think it’s a crime to serve pre-sliced sashimi. I mean, to dine at a sushi-ya which brands itself as fine dining, I had a minimum set of expectation. And pre-sliced is a big no-no.

Though the most disappointing part of dinner was definitely the sushi rice. It was too loosely packed. The proper way to pick one’s sushi is to tilt the sushi to the side before picking it up by placing one’s (master hand) thumb on the fish and ‘wrapping’ the other fingers around the sushi. And when the sushi is placed into the mouth, the fish should be the first thing that comes into contact with one’s tongue. However, with the loosely packed rice in head chef Ashino’s sushi, I couldn’t consume my sushi properly cause every time I picked my sushi up, I was worried it would break apart. Which my friend’s sushi did.

I also didn’t quite understand why some of the sushi-s had to be taken from head chef Ashino’s hand too. I mean, wouldn’t the chef want to reduce prolonged contact so that the temperature of the sushi won’t be affected by one’s warmth?

That said, service was just normal. Though one incident is stuck in my head. Upon seated, we were given 2 towels. A hand towel to wipe our hands, and a wet wipe to clean our fingers with every pick of sushi with our hands. My friend didn’t see the hand towel which was placed beside his elbow. And so, he unfolded the wet wipe that was placed in his path of vision to clean his hands. To which, the staff immediately went “No, no! That’s not for your hands!” After we managed to sort that out, they should have replaced the messy wet wipe for my friend. It’s all about the small details. Right?

But I guess what really annoyed me was that when I showed my girlfriend pictures of what I had for dinner, she said she had the same items except for the crab for the sushi-s when she was at Ashino for their $180 set lunch! Whattttt! That’s not even the most expensive course for lunch. So I can’t help but think that my friend and I could have just opted for the most affordable dinner set at $220 and be served the same items. Cause from the menu, it’s said that it comprises of appetisers, 12 pieces sushi, roll, miso soup, fruits and dessert. And that certainly doesn’t sound too far off from what we were given for our $400 omakase.

So no. I won’t recommend Ashino. But if one just have to give Ashino a try, go for their lunch. But seriously, don’t bother. We can get more value out of our hard-earned money at other sushi-ya.

30 Victoria Street, CHIJMES, #01-23, Singapore
6684 4567, Website
Overall: 6
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 5
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 5
Service: 6
* Closed on Mon