Lunch @ Aoki Restaurant [Revisit]

May 17, 2015 in Japanese

My most recent Japanese meal at a sushi-ya was more than a month ago! And in my dictionary, that’s not exactly recent cause I (normally) pamper myself with one such meal every month, at the very least. And so, when we were finally off to our (next) Japanese meal at Aoki, I was excited. Like yeah! Finally. Proper sushi. =p

Reservation is a must as the counter can only take 15 people at one seating. And thus, reservation was made for 3 people in advance by 1.5 weeks. There’re 2 seatings; 12pm and 1.30pm. We decided to go for the earlier time slot as 1 of us wanted to order Aoki’s mazechirashi. The barachirashi are prepared in limited quantity. So of course must come early.

Finding Aoki can be slightly tricky if one haven’t been to Aoki before. Located on the same stretch as units like Les Amis, the entrance to Aoki is only identifiable by Japanese letters. Which I’m assuming it’s the restaurant name. Duh. And after one pass through the draped cloth, one can’t help but feel slightly lost as one slides open the door on one’s right hand side as there’s no staff stationed permanently at the entrance to welcome confused first-timers to Aoki.

I fumbled with the sliding door (was pulling in the wrong direction. Oops) when a staff saw me and came up to me. And to get to the counter seats, one would be led down a short flight of stairs. This would be my first sitting at Aoki’s counter since I had been sitting in their cubicle for my past visits.

Priced at $115, lunch omakase entitles one to appetizer, sashimi, soup, grilled fish, tempura dish, sushi and dessert. However, I decided to customise it by requesting for ‘sashimi & sushi only’ omakase. On top of which, I went with $200 since I wanted premium ingredient. Although to be fair, I have not tried their $115 lunch omakase to know what’s served.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), we ordered:-

1) Omakase (jyo-sen), $200 comprised of:-

(A) Pre-appetizer, $6 (above) – Now, one thing that I can’t comprehend and stand is when I’m paying a significant amount for my meal, yet I am still charged for this (otoshi). $6 for a small bowl of vegetables? To me, it’s a rip off.

(B) Hotaruika sumiso (above) – Japanese firefly squid with vinegared white miso. Spring is definitely the season for firefly fly squid, and the ones served at Aoki sure were ‘fat’. Bite into the squid for an explosion of its innards. Pretty good. Although 3 would have been just nice. 4 was a little overkill.

(C) Murasaki uni (above) – Sea urchin. As we were given the best seats in the house (seated right in front of head chef Kunio Aoki), we witnessed the rock of salt being grated and sprinkled onto the sea urchin to enhance its sweetness. And the salt (that’s on the plate) looked like soft snow from afar. Ha. Sea urchin was good and creamy.

(D) Shiromi shio konbu kuro truffle (above) – Thin slice of natural white fish served with black truffles, sesame oil, lime and seaweed. And this is my all-time favourite at Aoki. I fell in love when I first had it 5 years ago, and it’s still as good after all these years! And coming at the correct season is key as this time, we were given sliced summer (white) truffles from Italy instead of the usual black. A must try!

(E) Katsuo sashimi (above) – Bonito fish sashimi. I liked how the radish sauce (kashidashi) and chives complimented the fish. Very refreshing and good. Am really glad we were given 4 slices (each) to (sufficiently) savour and enjoy the dish. Yum.


(F) Sushi (above) – We were given makokarei (sole fish), amadai (snapper), hiramasa (yellow tail), chutoro, maguro zuke (marinated tuna), otoro, kohada (gizzard shad), ebi (prawn), torigai (heart clam), shiromirugai (geoduck), anago (sea eel), bafun uni (sea urchin), negitoro-maki (minced tuna with spring onion roll) topped with bafun uni and negitoro-and-takuan temaki (minced tuna with spring onion and pickled radish hand roll) and tamago (egg omlette). And there’s many reasons to smile about the sushi at Aoki. I’ve started to pay more attention to the shari (sushi rice), and I liked that the vinegar taste was subtle without overpowering the delicate taste of the fishes. And I got to try more uncommon fishes like sole fish, gizzard shad, etc. However, it was odd that the dosage of wasabi was inconsistent. At least 2 pieces (of sushi) were too strong.


(G) Soup (above)

(H) Dessert (above) – Of the black sugar ice cream, orange pudding and mochi, I liked the mochi the most! So soft and chewy. Yum. The orange within the pudding was bitter.

2) Mazechirashi, $40 comprised of:-

(A) Pre-appetizer, $6 (above)

(B) Salad

(C) Mazechirashi (above) – Sushi rice topped with mixed sashimi. Served with miso soup and pickles.

(D) Dessert – Similar to what we had for our lunch omakase.

Did I enjoy myself at Aoki? Definitely! I always opt for counter seats when I go for omakase because I like watching the chefs at work. And head chef Aoki certainly did not disappoint. Although I have to say he looks pretty fierce and intimidating. Although he assured us that it’s his ‘busy’ facial expression. And busy, he sure was. Besides taking care of the patrons sitting in his section at the sushi counter, he was also preparing food for customers sitting within the cubicles, etc.

Service was good too. When it comes to topping up of warm drinks, I liked it when staff exchanged my cup (of warm water) with a new one. And taken from their website, one may want to take note that the minimum spending (per person) for dinner is $100 for Monday to Thursday and $180 for Friday to Saturday.

And for those who like to know what’s being offered in the (normal) $115 lunch omakase, one can read fellow blogger MakeYourCaloriesCount‘s review too.

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 @ Shiraishi Japanese Restaurant

April 26, 2015 in Japanese

And if one remembers, I mentioned in one of my past reviews in December 2014 of how a friend last minute cancelled our dinner appointment at Shiraishi when I had been wanting to head back (cause my first dinner in November 2013 was really memorable, just that I regrettably did not take sufficient photographs then to write a review for sharing. Ha!). So I was glad I finally got to dine at Shiraishi earlier this month. Talk about determination, eh? Haha.

It was a very impromptu dinner for my second visit to Shiraishi. We reached the restaurant at 8.35pm and sat at the sushi counter. While looking at their menu, the few options which grabbed my attention were:-

  (A) Sushi-kaiseki course at $135, $170, $200
  (B) Sushi edomae course at $180
  (C) Omakase course at $250

And upon enquiring on the difference between the $180, $200, $250 courses, I was told by the staff that the prices determined the ingredients. Ie, level of premium. And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and seasonal menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) Omakase course, $250 comprised of:-

(A) Pre-appetizer, $5 (above) – Shortly after placing our orders, we were served Japanese wild vegetables dressed with sesame sauce (kogomi goma-ae). The staff did not introduce the dish. Rather, I figured what it was by looking at their seasonal menu. But what really shocked me was that we were charged extra for these! I only realised it after we left the restaurant and was ‘studying’ the receipt. $5 for a bowl! Shouldn’t these be included in our courses? I am not a big fan of being served vegetables for my omakase course. Yet, I have to pay (more) on top of my $250 omakase course? Hmm…


(B) Appetizer (above) – The chef presented me with seasonal items of firefly squid with vinegared bean paste (hotaru-ika) and boiled broad bean (tenmame).

(C) Sashimi (above) – Assortment of yellow tail, yellow tail belly, sea bream, medium fatty tuna (chutoro), tuna belly (ootoro), ark shell clam and Hokkai shrimp (shima ebi).

(D) Simmered dish (above) – Steamed vegetable with seasonal simmered young bamboo shoot (wakatake-ni) and sea bream roe.

(E) Grilled dish (above) – Sea bream fish sperm (above, left) and snapper cooked in mirin and sake (above, right). And for the young ginger, I was told to eat the white portion as the pink portion could be pretty fibrous.

(F) Fried dish (above) – Deep fried blow fish (fugu karaage) with bonito sauce. I thought the season for puffer fish was over, so I was a little surprised to be presented with this. However, a couple seated at the other end of the counter was asking the chef about their supply of puffer fish. And if I did not hear wrongly, these were man-made (supplied from the farm). And the puffer fish tempura was quite good although I could choose, I prefer the novelty of eating puffer fish in the sashimi style. Ha.

(G) Sushi (above) – Tuna belly, flounder, medium fatty tuna (chutoro), sea urchin and sea eel. My favourite was the chutoro with 3 slices given. Such a mouthful! Yum.

(H) Soup (above) – Clear soup with clam.

(I) Brown tea (above)

(J) Dessert (above) – Musk melon and yuzu ice cream.

2) Sushi-kaiseki course, $170 comprised of:-

(A) Pre-appetizer, $5 – Similar to mine; Japanese wild vegetables dressed with sesame sauce (kogomi goma-ae).

(B) Appetizer (above) – Assortment included jelly fish, tomato, sesame tofu and sea whelk. And I was pretty impressed with the sesame tofu. Its texture was smooth with the aroma and faint taste of sesame.

(C) Sashimi (above) – Yellow tail, medium fatty tuna (chutoro), sea bream, prawn (ama ebi) and salmon.

(D) Simmered dish (above) – Steamed vegetable with tofu made from soya bean.

(E) Grilled dish (above) – Sole fish.

(F) Fried dish (above) – Deep fried small shrimps (sakuraebi kakiage). We were given dipping sauce and sea salt (not pictured) to go with the tempura. And this was pretty good. The more we had, the more addictive it was. But skip the salt as it just made everything salty. Ha.

(G) Sushi (above) – Tuna belly, yellow tail, tuna, salmon roe, mackerel, sea eel and egg (tamago).

(H) Brown tea

(I) Soup – Clear soup with seaweed and tofu cubes.

(J) Dessert (above) – Agar jelly cubes and sweet bean paste in syrup (anmitsu).

3) Chirashi sushi, $90 (above) – This was not included in the 2 courses we ordered. But having seen this on instagram, I enquired with the staff at 10pm (last order timing) if we could order this as a-la carte but in small (portion) for sharing since my friend and I did not have much stomach space left. And the chirashi was personally prepared by head chef Shiraishi where different cuts of tuna were used. And this was really good. But don’t mix the different ingredients up, also as instructed by head chef Shiraishi. It’s meant to be enjoyed as rice-tuna, rice-uni or rice-salmon roe. Yes, just ‘dig in’ literally with the spoon and enjoy. However, I was not too impressed value-for-money wise. I’m not sure if this is the same chirashi on the menu. But if it is, I would be pretty sore. The chirashi (box of sashimi with rice) on the menu is priced at $90 and comes with miso soup or clear soup. Our a-la carte order of small portion was also $90! So hmm… Can anyone who had ordered the menu’s chirashi enlighten me?

Frankly, I was not too impressed with my 2nd dining experience at Shirashi. It could be due to the season for the less than stellar dishes. I went during winter in my previous visit (December 2013) where we were treated to crab, etc. It’s spring during my repeated visit (April 2015).

Then, there was the service. I was definitely disappointed to have my sushi served (together) on a plate as to having the chef prepare the sushi one by one before us. Initially, I was comforting myself that it was probably because my friend and I came pretty late. However, our sushi was served at 9.40pm. That’s 50 minutes before closing time. So it wasn’t exactly ‘too late’. I also noticed some of our sushi were prepared by head chef Shiraishi (not in front of us) before the plate was passed on to his co-chef to prepare the remaining sushi. Hmm…

So yes, I did wonder if I am being overly critical since I came with high expectations due to my memorable 1st visit. Maybe. So with that, I am not giving up on Shiraishi. I will be back again. Probably in the later part of the year. Hopefully, service would be better. And I will be more vocal too and request for ‘sashimi & sushi only’ omakase.

And if one plans to come for their omakase and would like to get a feel of what would be served, one could refer to their website first for the monthly updated seasonal menu since Shiraishi includes seasonal items into their omakase course. So yup! =)

7 Raffles Avenue, The Ritz-Carlton, #03-01/02, Singapore
6338 3788, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
* Closed on Mon
Service: 7

Lunch @ Shinji by Kanesaka (Raffles Hotel)

April 3, 2015 in Japanese

I’ve long heard about the Japanese restaurant at Raffles Hotel. Oh yes, I’m referring to Shinji by Kanesaka. Friends who have dined at Shinji raved about their sushi. They said I haven’t quite tasted sushi till I tried Shinji. But with my stubbornness of not wanting to check out restaurants that’re located within hotels, it has taken me a long while to finally visit Shinji. Haha. And with that, reservation was made for lunch on a Saturday. Reservation is a must, by the way.

Taken from Shinji’s website, Shinji is an extension of 2 Michelin stars chef Shinji Kanesaka’s edo-style sushi restaurant and it’s his first venture outside Japan. Omakase menu is executed by a native Japanese team of artisan chefs with head chef Koichiro Oshino at the helm. And head chef Oshino has worked with master chef Kanesaka for more than 20 years.

Upon entry, one would enter the counter area which could sit up to 15 people. There’re private rooms too, but I believe the entrance to the private rooms are different cause halfway through our lunch, the chefs began preparing food for a big group. But I did not see the big group walk in. And it’s brilliant that there were different entrances to minimise disturbance to our dining experience. Taken from Shinji’s website again, the restaurant was designed by Junzo Irikado, with organic materials like wood and paper flown in from Japan to provide for the restaurant’s furnishing and fixtures. And one highlight is the restaurant’s main sushi counter which was singularly carved from the trunk of a 220-year-old Japanese cypress or hinoki tree.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) Omakase special (yume), $250 comprised of appetiser, assorted sashimi, assorted cooked dishes, nigiri sushi and maki sushi, soup and Japanese fruit:-

(A) Tai (above) – Snapper.


(B) Bafun-uni (foreground), murasaki-uni (background) (above) – Short spine sea urchin, violet sea urchin. Salt was also given to be used sparingly to enhance the sweetness of the sea urchin.

(C) Kobashira with awabi kimo (above) – Adductor muscles of clam with abalone liver. Clam was skewer grilled (yakitori). And I really liked the slight smokiness from the clam and chef Oshino’s creativity in using abalone liver as its accompanying sauce. So good.

(D) Aoyagi (above) – Orange clam.


(E) Katsuo (above) – Bonito.

(F) Shiro-ebi with uni (above) – Baby white shrimp with sea urchin. One of my favourite combinations!

(G) Kinmedai (above) – Big-eye snapper. Served with gravy and topped with egg-mayonnaise. Except for the Japanese kai-lan, I really enjoyed this dish.

(H) Momotaro (above) – Tomato. I did not really like this. Not because I am a bring-on-the-meat person, but it was acidically sour. But I finished this especially after witnessing the behind-the-scene; A long knife was used to slice off the skin of the small tomato, thinly. Wow. That’s some skill.


(I) Assorted sushi & makimono temaki roll (above) – Kanpachi (greater amberjack), sawara (Spanish mackerel), wakaremi (dorsal fin of tuna), shimofuri-otoro (shimofuri being the cut of partial-chutoro & partial-otoro of tuna where it has snowflake-like marbling), aji (jack mackerel) topped with spring onion and ginger puree, kuruma-ebi (tiger prawn) served boiled and halved for ladies, maguro zuke (marinated suka tuna), sayori (needlefish), temaki roll (hand roll) of crisp seaweed wrapped around warm shari (sushi rice) and strips of otoro & cucumber, preserved pickles (foreground in last picture) and custard-styled tamago (egg) (background in last picture). I especially enjoyed the sushi course of my omakase. I got to try many premium cuts like wakaremi and shimofuri-otoro which were my firsts. And it was indeed the shari (sushi rice) that set Shinji apart from their counterparts. The shari had more flavour with its stronger vinegar taste. And it’s because of this that one must eat sushi in the correct manner where the topping should touch one’s tongue first. Yes, it makes a difference. A newly-made friend (waves to @lailian27) who also frequents Shinji shared with me of how every sushi is made of 150 rice grains. Oh yes, apparently someone verified that fact too! And that fact showed the consistency in every sushi. Wow.

(J) Negima-jiruScallions and tuna soup. With kelp too, tuna was served in the form of a meatball.

(K) Dessert (above) – Our omakase set was to come with fruit (melon). However, it being spring, Shinji had its seasonal dessert of monaka which is a Japanese sweet with filling sandwiched between thin, crisp wafers. Shinji’s version was with azuki beans, matcha ice cream and glutinous rice that’s pink from sakura essence. I requested to change my dessert of fruit to monaka. But chef Oshino was very nice to give me both. All thanks to my friend who’s a regular too! Keke. Sakura leaf (not pictured) was also given for one to wrap the monaka with. But I chose not to cause I did not like the slightly bitter taste the leaf leaves behind.

2) Chirashi, $50 – Rice which was uniformly mixed with a generous amount sea urchin, and further topped with minced tuna. So good.

I totally enjoyed my lunch. It was one of my most memorable Japanese meals in Singapore. We were spoilt by chef Oshino with the beautifully executed dishes. And remember how I always feel short changed when vegetables were served for my omakase? I’m so glad I was given none at Shinji. Well, just 1 dish of tomato is acceptable for some balance. Ha!

And service was impeccable. Staff were friendly and polite. The same goes for the chefs too. Chef Oshino had a pretty good humour! But what I really liked about Shinji was the ambience. It was very… Tranquil. I was able to detach myself from what’s happening beyond the four walls and concentrate on the meal. I finally understand why friends flock to Shinji whenever they’re stressed. Haha.

As I came with a friend who frequents Shinji, my omakase meal was somewhat customised to her preference. Which wasn’t a problem cause we’ve similar palates. Keke. Chef Oshino served us 2 different types of sea urchin cause my friend loves sea urchin. So really, to have a memorable omakase meal, even if it’s one first time at Shinji, always let the chef know one’s likes and dislikes. Or be a regular at Shinji (which I think isn’t difficult cause one really do crave for their sushi) and have one’s preference remembered by the chefs. Ha!

Sushi? Shinji, for sure! They have reasonably priced sets which wouldn’t cost one to break the bank. For lunch, 9 and 15 pieces of nigiri sushi are priced at $75 and $180 respectively. If not, there’s 15 pieces at $220 for dinner. All come with maki sushi, soup and dessert. =)

1 Beach Road, Raffles Hotel, #02-20, Singapore
6338 6131, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2016.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant has moved to 76 Bras Basah Rd, Carlton Hotel, Lobby Floor.
UPDATE 3: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2017.

UPDATE 4: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.