Dinner @ Aoki Restaurant [Revisit]

July 14, 2017 in Japanese

It has been a while since I last dined at a sushi restaurant (in Singapore). But afraid to be disappointed by new places, I decided to return to restaurants which I previously dined at.

And it was through Aoki’s website that I learnt the restaurant was in the midst of renovation and was scheduled for re-opening in mid June 2017. Perfect! That would be akin to eating at a new restaurant although it really wasn’t. Haha.

Reservation was made for a weekday dinner. And as per my previous dining experience at Aoki, I requested for chef-owner Kunio Aoki.

My friend and I arrived a little late for our reserved time of 8.30pm. At 8.40pm, the restaurant called which I quickly updated we were making our way down from the carpark. Oops. And as requested, we sat at head chef Aoki san’s end of the counter.

While most sushi-yas are increasing their prices, I was surprised to see friendlier prices on Aoki’s omakase sets. During my last lunch at Aoki, omakase was priced at $200. But this now cost $125 instead on their current lunch menu. Wow.

And from the dinner menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) which included seasonal menu (pages 1, 2), my friend and I ordered:-

1) Omakase course, $200 comprised of:-

(A) Pre-appetiser, $7 (above) – Otoshi. A cold dish of cooked tuna.

(B) Appetiser #1 (above)

(C) Appetiser #2 (above)

(D) Appetiser #3 (above)

(E) Sashimi #1 (above)

(F) Sashimi #2 (above)


(G) Soup dish (above)

(H) Grilled dish (above)

(I) Tempura (above)

  
  
  
  

(J) Sushi (above)

(K) Miso soup (above)

(L) Dessert (above)

2) Thin sliced white fish sashimi with truffles, $115 (above) – Not too sure where the extra $5 came from since the menu stated the dish cost $110. So I am guessing head chef Aoki san may have adjusted the portion and included an additional slice to allow my friend and I to have 3 slices each. I think. And for me, this was always a ‘must order’ dish.

It was a nice dinner at Aoki. I wouldn’t say it was fantastic as the food served were ‘safe dishes’. But for the amount we were paying, the omakase course was value-for-money. The only gripe I had was no introduction of the dishes were given. Except for the obvious (dishes) like marinated tuna (zuke maguro) sushi, my friend and I didn’t know what we were eating. And compared to the new decor of black-gold wallpaper against the brown furniture, I actually preferred the previous decor of Aoki which was more Japanese.

AOKI RESTAURANT
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #01-17, Singapore
6333 8015, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:30 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 7

Dinner @ Kappo Shunsui

June 21, 2017 in Japanese

Hitting a dead end in my search for sushi restaurants, I texted my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) if she knew of any new ones. And that was when she shared a picture of a gold door. However, that was all that she knew of the new Japanese restaurant. Now, I pride myself as a search guru. So… The challenge (to identify it is) on. Keke.

Unfortunately, nothing turned up when I google-ed ‘new Japanese restaurant’ and ‘golden door’. No! Die, die must find out. So I analysed the photo (of a mere gold door) and concluded it should be located in an old shopping mall based on the faint reflection of the shopping mall interior. Hmm.

And fate had it that I was meeting a friend at Cuppage Plaza that night. Just when my friend and I were at level 5 and making our way to the carpark after dinner, I caught a glimpse of a familiar-looking wallpaper at level 4. One can say I was on full alert mode. Ha! Excused myself to check it out and there it was… The Japanese restaurant which my IGGF and I were looking for. Kappo Shunsui!

Unfortunately, due to my IGGF’s and my conflicting schedules, we were only able to meet for dinner 3 weeks later. And it was a huge bummer when we saw posts of Kappo Shunsui appearing on instagram just days before our visit due to the restaurant having conducted media invite. Secret, no more. Sob.

My IGGF and I arrived at the restaurant at 7pm. I honestly loved how low key the exterior was. Reminded me much of Japan. Pressing the console was akin to pressing a door bell where the staff would be alerted to open the door.

Opposite to the minimally designed exterior, the interior was designed with much attention put to the smallest details. The corridor to the toilet had floor lights in addition to ceiling lights. And yes, they have their own toilet which was nicely furnished too.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), my IGGF and I ordered:-

1) Omakase, $249 comprised of:-


(A) Dish #1 (above) – Simmered octopus, broad bean, seaweed, potato lotus, and jelly made with bonito broth, soya sauce and vinegar.

(B) Dish #2 (above) – Pike eel.


(C) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of torched barracuda, kingfish (hiramasu) and red snapper (tai). My favourite was the barracuda! We saw head chef Tomo Watanabe spritzing some liquid over the dish before it was served to us. And out of curiosity, we asked the staff what it was. The staff humorously replied “Ajinomoto.” Hahaha. But of course, that’s just water.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and vinegared gizzard shad (kohada) sushi.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – With ponzu sauce, grated radish and chili, we were served long tooth grouper (kue) and vegetables in a pot of simmering soup.


(F) Dish #6 (above) – Grilled arctic surf clam (hokkigai). And for this dish, we were treated to a (mini) performance where head chef Watanabe san slammed the clams onto the counter and exaggeratedly sprinkling salt into them before grilling it over charcoal. It was a good thing I finished my soup cause some salt went into my pot. Ha. And we loved how he put the grilled clams onto shell-looking ceramic plates. And yes, we were told the ceramic items were all head chef Watanabe san’s personal collection. Nice.


(G) Dish #7 (above) – Tomato with tomato jelly and micro tomato. How cute! And yes, we were told hand-squeezed tomato juice was used to make the jelly. A really refreshing taste. I enjoyed it much.


(H1) Dish #8 (above) – For the meat dish, my IGGF was served beef from Omi. We were told the slab was grilled on the surface before continuing to slow cook it for 1.5 hours in dashi stock. And she couldn’t stop raving about it.


(H2) Dish #8 (above) – And because I don’t eat beef, I had a fish dish instead. Was told it’s a family of cod; Abura bouzu.


  

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Claypot rice with braised red snapper head. And we gasped to know we each had half a head to ourselves! Such generous portion! We were loving it, of course. Haha. I normally share fish head with friends cause I am not too good at eating it. So for the first time, I was taught to eat the ‘correct’ parts; The jelly parts around the eye. Yummy! No more peaceful sharing of fish head in the future. Haha.


(J) Dish #10 – Almond pudding with cherry from Yamagata.

2) Homemade ‘warabimochi’ with ‘hon-warabiko’, $12 (above)

For all the excitement that my IGGF and I built up leading to our visit, I was glad the dinner didn’t disappoint. We left happy and satisfied. =)

Head chef Watanabe san couldn’t speak much English. So we depended on the waiting staff for translation. And it was through the staff that we learnt head chef Watanabe san moved from Japan (Tokyo) to Singapore with the aim of achieving a Michelin star. “Japan too tough. Too many stars,” the staff said. Haha.

But back in Japan, head chef Watanabe san opened an izakaya which was on Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list for 3 years (2015 to 2017). “Chef’s dream was to do multi-course (kaiseki),” the staff further explained. Ahhh… And hung on the walls (near the entrance) were extracted pages from the Michelin Guide. Evidence? Keke.

Do I recommend Kappo Shunsui? A big yes from me!

KAPPO SHUNSUI 割烹 旬水
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, #04-02, Singapore
6732 0192, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tue – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 01:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 02:00
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Beni Singapore [Revisit]

March 25, 2017 in French

After learning Beni exchanged space with Hashida Sushi in July 2016, I have been wanting to re-check out Beni. I was curious to see how differently the space will be furnished. You can say I was especially curious when their renovation coincided with the announcement of them being awarded 1 Michelin star.

And Beni (finally) opened for business in late December 2016! However, I was only able to check them out recently due to conflicting schedule between my friend’s and mine. Busy people lah.

Reservation was made through email, and with 2 weeks advanced notice. And on the day of our dinner, I received a mobile text from Beni to re-confirm our dinner.

Beni’s new space was brighter with lots of wood and marble used. A stark difference to their previous place which was dimly lit with black being its dominant colour. And Beni maintained its open-kitchen concept, but in a smaller scale. The remaining area was set aside as main dining area for customers who prefer traditional table setting. My friend and I took counter seats, of course. Keke.

It was interesting to see none of the chef was French when Beni served French cuisine. Instead, the chefs were mostly Japanese. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) Bread platter (above) – 3 types of bread served on warm stones in a sack. With salted and unsalted butter.

2) Dinner degustation menu, $258 comprised of:-


(A) Dish #1 (above) – King of green hiro gyokuro. This was also on the menu in their old space. Similarly, we were told this was the finest (green) tea leaves. For our first cup, warm water was poured into it where we were told to drink just the liquid. After which, we were given a spoon to eat the leaves after the staff drizzled olive oil and sprinkled sea salt. And it was interesting that there was a scallop after taste.

(B) Dish #2 (above) – Chilled sea urchin on egg custard with spring onion.

(C) Dish #3 (above) – And we were told this was created from chef’s memory of the days where they would eat Chinese cuisine after knocking off and were served roasted peanuts. An interesting dish of peanut purée served alongside olive oil. Though I didn’t think there was anything French about it.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Gambas with strawberry, cauliflower and micro leaves. This dish reinforced my dislike of using fruits in savoury dishes. My personal preference lah.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – Another egg custard dish, but topped with sauce of shitake mushroom and truffle.

(F) Dish #6 (above) – Scallop with celeriac puree, truffle dressing and squid ink crisp!

(G) Dish #7 (above) – Amadai with onion, sudachi and chicken jus. Skin and scales were fried to a perfect crisp.

(H) Dish #8 (above) – Because I don’t eat beef for religious reason, I was given the option of lamb or pigeon. And I went with the latter. Unfortunately, this was mediocre.

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Tangerine done in 4 ways. I liked this; Worked really well as a palate cleanser.

(J) Dish #10 (above) – Matcha souffle which was served within a pastry crust. The soufflé was very fluffy and settled deflated slightly when I attempted to break the dessert into bite size pieces. And it just dissolved once it went into my mouth. Really good.

(K) Petit fours (above)

(L) Coffee/tea – I went with latte. But expect no latte art.

3) Dinner experience menu, $178 comprised of:-

(A) Dish #1 – Similar to mine; King of green hiro gyokuro.

(B) Dish #2 – Same as my second dish; Chilled sea urchin on egg custard with spring onion.

(C) Dish #3 – Again, similar as mine; Peanut purée with olive oil and topped with crushed peanuts.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Chicken with foie gras.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – Onsen egg with onion and red wine.

(F) Dish #6 (above) – Monkfish with crustacean and fennel.

(G) Dish #7 (above) – Fromage blanc and strawberry.

(H) Dish #8 (above) – Tarte tatin and caramel.

(I) Petit fours

(J) Coffee/tea

And for every dish, we were given a detailed introduction. Be it by head chef Kenji Yamanaka or the staff. And it was through chit chatting with the staff that we learnt Beni, which was previously co-owned by chef Kenjiro Hashida (of Hashida Sushi), has been sold to 2 investors. Although head chef Kenji san still helms the kitchen.

How’s my experience at Beni compared to my previous at their old space? I preferred the latter. It was their ‘chef table concept’ which made my then dining experience interesting. Now that it has been taken down a notch with a simple counter setting, I felt Beni has lost that edge in providing a unique experience.

Would I recommend Beni? Well… I am on the fence. One can say I miss their old space. Or rather, their previous concept which was bold, daring and different. And it’s to note their 1 Michelin star was awarded when they were at their old space.

BENI SINGAPORE
333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery, #02-37, Singapore
9159 3177, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 19:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2017.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.