Aoki, Singapore

i could visit aoki every day (okay fine maybe not every day but every week) to have their chirashi. i love it that much and it is seriously that good!!! i’d probably go as far to say that aoki serves one of the best (if not the best) chirashis on our sunny island.

i had always thought aoki was extremely pricey and so never really considered visiting it until i read about their amazing chirashi in the papers and found out that they had a very reasonably-priced set lunch menu! the first time i visited was with the mother, and we enjoyed it so much that even before finishing the contents of our bowls before us, i think we already decided that we needed to go back at least once more before i left for london.

aoki offers their set lunch menu from mondays to saturdays, and it comes with a complimentary starter, a salad, miso soup, pickles and a dessert trio (my favourite part after the chirashi heehee). at $35++ for the chirashi (and i think they charge an additional nominal sum for cover charge), i think its extremely reasonably priced given the ambience and quality of food served.

on the first occasion we visited, the complimentary starter was some kind of pickled lotus root dish which was yummy, and not only because i love lotus root:
20130909_134933two of my favourite things in one – lotus roots and sesame seeds! yum. it was a tasty yet light appetiser that cleansed the palette, readying us for the meal ahead.

when the mother and i returned with the sister and father in tow, we had some sort of smoked fish-tasting thing instead:
20130921_133249my dad found it a little too fishy for his liking but my dad is someone who is exceedingly sensitive to “fishy” tastes, so don’t let what he thinks mar your impression of this dish! the rest of us really enjoyed it; it was very flavourful and reminded me of meat that has been slow-cooked and braised for hours – soft and yummy when you bite into it!

the actual set lunch (sans the complementary appetiser) started with a salad:
20130909_135704the salad was nothing extraordinary – the greens were fresh (wouldn’t expect anything less from such a reputable restaurant) and the dressing was the standard japanese salad dressing. on both occasions however, i felt that it could have been better chilled before serving (but maybe that’s just me – i like my salads cold).

and finally, on to what makes me want to return again and again and again (and again and again):
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mazechirashi

a standing ovation please, for the best chirashi i’ve had in singapore. i swear this is amazingly good stuff – if you are a chirashi lover, you will die and proceed promptly into food heaven. they are extremely (and i cannot say this enough, EXTREMELY) generous with the sashimi toppings. it doesn’t bother me at all that the sashimi used for chirashi are normally odd chopped-up pieces that aren’t good enough to star in a sashimi platter, not when the odd chopped-up pieces of leftover sashimi taste this good.

i think it is the combination of the right mix of condiments and textures and the fact that they are all in abundance in the bowl placed before you that make this a winning dish. i am normally not a fan of tamago at all, but what they serve here is super delish (of just the right sweetness) and perfectly done. the sashimi is extremely fresh, and they even have uni added to the mouth-watering mix!

also, to exemplify just how generous they are with the amount of condiments they add to your rice, these are pictures at various points of the demolishment of my bowl:
20130921_14115620130909_143326always more condiments than rice left at any point in time!!! which is amazing, because the annoying thing about chirashi is that you sometimes get left with a pile of rice and nothing exciting to eat it with. like i said earlier and am going to keep saying until you believe me, best. chirashi. ever!!! (i salivate thinking about it while back in london)

what better way to end off the meal than with dessert? at aoki, they really ensure that you get a sweet end to make a satisfying meal even more so by serving a platter of 3 desserts with the set lunch, instead of just one dessert. the 3 desserts they serve change daily, and on my first visit there, this is what we got:
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L to R: grape sorbet, plum wine jelly, mochi

i was expecting the grape sorbet to be too sweet like grape flavoured things tend to be, but it was surprisingly not at all! it was pleasantly sweet and certainly not overly so, leaving a very refreshing aftertaste on the tongue. as for the plum wine jelly, my mum really loved it for how daintily flavoured it was, while i thought it was good but wouldn’t rave about it. maybe it was because i had it after the sorbet, but i thought the flavours were not strong and distinct enough. the mochi coated in soya bean was yummy though; perfect texture and consistency!

on my second visit there, this is what we had for dessert:
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red bean ice cream, sesame pudding, plum wine jelly

i have never had red bean ice cream that tasted like this (potong is normally my trusty source of red bean ice cream); it was really yummy – creamy and just lightly flavoured with red bean. the sesame pudding was also delicious especially because i love all things sesame (white or black i’ll have it all)! its consistency was a bit like a dense tau huay (traditional kind, not lao ban pudding kind!) and i loved the taste of it though i felt it was a bit heavy and really filled you up. comments about the plum wine jelly are same as above!

i wish i had discovered this place in the earlier part of summer so i could have visited a few more times before coming back to london! but its okay, my consolation is that i’m sure its not going anywhere any time soon so i can go as much as i want when i’m next home. the chirashi is definitely going to be one of the first few things i need to eat; i am already missing my good and reasonably-priced (comparatively) japanese food!

be sure to make a reservation when you visit though, as the restaurant is small and fills up really quickly, especially with the recent raised awareness about their affordable set lunches (that are also served on saturdays yay)!

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Aoki Restaurant

1 Scotts Road, #02-17 Shaw Centre
SingaporeĀ 228208

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe, Singapore

my trip to Nana’s was a total spur-of-the-moment decision at 9pm on a sunday night. having just stuffed ourselves silly on crab bee hoon, we were craving something sweet to end off the night’s feasting and my cousin’s innocent suggestion of Nana’s and its matcha treats became something that was just too good to pass on. every time we discussed another dessert possibility in the car, the conversation would just be diverted back to Nana’s and that’s when we decided we had to make the drive to plaza singapura or it’d be on our minds for the next few days till we got to have it. (evidently, the love of food runs in my family ;))

located in the plaza singapura extension, Nana’s is a modern, open concept-type of cafe, surrounded by a few other japanese outlets like Hoshino Coffee, Tsukada Nojo (a place that serves collagen steamboat) etc. it is a popular chain in Japan with such a sizeable number of outlets that it is said to be the Starbucks of the land of sushi! however unlike Starbucks, the focus is not just on the drinks – Nana’s serves both proper food (by proper i mean typical japanese mains such as dons, udons & sushi rolls) and sweet treats like matcha drinks and a range of desserts.

we went all out with the matcha (what else would you do in a green tea cafe) and ordered a matcha latte, a matcha parfait and another matcha dessert to share. thank goodness the service was prompt and i didn’t have to wait in anticipation of matcha heaven for too long. the desserts appeared at our table looking almost identical to what was shown on the menu and i was so excited to dig in that i only have 1 picture (and its a picture of all the desserts together) from that night. sorry! here it is in all its green glory:

20130721_204748L to R: matcha latte ($7.00), matcha parfait ($11.80), matcha anmitsu ($8.80)

let’s start with the latte – it was thick and fragrant and the taste of the matcha was strong, but not overwhelmingly so. definitely one of the best matcha lattes i have had in singapore and beats Starbucks’ green tea offerings hands down in my opinion. i would come here on a rainy day for a warm matcha latte in a heartbeat! they have a range of other matcha drinks with toppings like mochi/red bean/ice cream – i imagine them all to be good especially when they seem to have a really good recipe for matcha-based drinks that are made using what appears to be good quality matcha stuff.

as for the matcha parfait, it was layers of yummy goodness. my favourite part about it was the cornflakes – despite being packed between dense layers of ice cream/red bean/cream/jelly/syrup, they retained their crispiness and added a very nice bite to the dessert. the mochis were also delightfully chewy, just as perfect mochis should be! the cup is huge and this dessert can definitely be shared.

the third item we ordered was the matcha anmitsu. the ingredients were largely very similar (minus the creamy milky layers in the parfait) to the parfait, except they were served in a bowl and drizzled with sauce (caramel, if i’m not wrong?). the azuki red bean paste was very smooth and satisfying, and the matcha ice cream was nice and creamy while the matcha jelly was yummy! but there was an addition of black beans which i could have done without. the black beans added saltiness to the dessert, probably an attempt at striking some kind of balance between sweet and savoury. it wasn’t bad at all; just a little odd in my opinion.

if i had to choose between the 2 desserts though (both are recommended in the menu), i would undoubtedly pick the parfait. there’s something very exciting about digging into a tall glass filled to the brim with layers of green tea goodness with a long spoon šŸ˜€ i’m already thinking of going back as i type this post!

we also ordered this drink (i can’t remember exactly what its called), and it was yummy since it came with mochis and a generous scoop of matcha ice cream!20130721_205241

for all matcha lovers out there, this is your mecca. for non-matcha lovers, this might just be the place that will make you jump on the bandwagon and convert you into someone who is greedy for green tea. i’m not sure how the main dishes at Nana’s are, but the desserts are certainly worth trying!

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe

68 Orchard Road
#03-80/82, Plaza Singapura