The Sushi Bar, Singapore

home for the holidays, and this is one of the first places i checked out with the sister when we were looking for somewhere to eat in town that wasn’t gimmicky/part of a chain. she had tried it with her friend a while back and given it her stamp of approval, so this is where we went before our annual tradition of getting christmas nails done ūüôā ah, its good to be home!

located in far east plaza, this relatively new hole-in-the-wall sushi shop is very randomly located (quite like everything else in far east plaza) opposite a hair salon, surrounded by clothing shops. it opens for lunch at 1230pm, but when i arrived at 1215, there was already a queue of 2 people that had formed outside, as my sister had rightly anticipated. by 1230, the queue had grown to this insane length:
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it occupies a corner shop, and though not tiny, it isn’t very huge either. decor is extremely basic and service is rather slow so i definitely wouldn’t recommend this for a fancy celebration or a special occasion. it is good for a quick (if you don’t count the long queue and the relatively slow service) japanese fix that’s reasonably priced and of good quality, though.20131218_123308they do 50% reservations and 50% walk-in, but when i called to try to make a reservation, i was told that they were fully booked for lunch and dinner for the entire week. which explains why i was an ultimate aunty and headed down to join the queue at 1215pm so we could secure a table.

worth the hype? based on what we had that day, i’ll definitely return, so i suppose the answer would be yes?

we had the aburi salmon with soft shell crab maki:
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aburi salmon with soft shell crab maki – $16.90

we all really enjoyed this! they have normal aburi salmon maki too, but this one with soft shell crab was recommended by a friend so this is what we tried! i must say sushi bar does their aburi salmon very well – torched just enough to cook a thin top layer of the otherwise raw salmon, it gives the generous pieces that hug the rolls an almost melt-in-your-mouth effect. the rolls are stuffed with perfectly ripe avocado and soft shell crab that was fried nicely and most importantly in fresh oil.

20131218_125154people will probably ask how this compares to shiok maki, and i would say this is lighter but as satisfying a maki! as you can see from the picture, there isn’t any heavy sauce that distracts from the roll itself; in contrast, shiok maki is drenched in a thick cheesy sauce that is delicious don’t get me wrong, but makes for a very different roll.

and the chirashi:
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normal chirashi – $24.90

they have 3 chirashi options – the basic, the normal, and the premium. we opted for the normal one and i was extremely pleasantly surprised by the amount of sashimi that topped the bed of rice. i can guarantee that it was as delicious and satisfying as it looked! not only were they generous with the number of slices of sashimi, each individual slices was also thick and very very fresh. this definitely exceeded my expectations because the quality of fish was honestly not what i was expecting from such a random shop in far east plaza of all places hahaha. my favourites were the scallops and aburi salmon, as well as the yellowtail and swordfish! actually, even the salmon was really good. okay – everything was good!!! we were given 3 slices of each type of fish (except the scallop and aburi salmon where we were given 2) – in total that made for about 20 things that topped the rice, and the fact that each piece was so good was fantastic. i was sashimi-ed out and extremely satisfied by the time i had made my way through the box.

i would definitely recommend sushi bar to people looking for affordable but good quality japanese food along orchard road. i was very pleasantly surprised and it did meet my expectations; it is quite a hidden gem given what you get for what you pay! the service and ambience is far from top-notch, but the food makes it worth the queue (and anyway the queue isn’t so bad if you go early, as i did! alternatively, you can make a reservation.). moreover, the prices on the menu are nett; there is no additional gst or service charge, which is always nice! hurray for exciting new food options along orchard road (Y)

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The Sushi Bar

14 Scotts Road
Far East Plaza #03-89
Singapore 228213

ps. check out my christmas nails that i got done after lunch:
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so pleased. annual sisterly traditions make me happy ūüôā
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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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
Singapore 228208

Jin Kichi, Hampstead

today we made our maiden foodie club trek to Hampstead, solely based on a recommendation by nic’s (dubious) japanese hairdresser (i mean, just look at the state of his hair…). this restaurant is just a minute away from the hampstead tube station, and is known for its yakitori.

first impressions:

1. japanese newsletters/magazines for customers to take home with them –> LEGIT…

2. sushi bar was manned by japanese chef grilling yakitoris on the spot –> OOOH….

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3. spoonless tables –> truly japanese

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4. just ONE blond-haired waiter –> #asianpride

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5. japanese fishmonger delivering fresh produce for the day

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the menu was extensive but nic had preconceived notions of what foods represent the hallmark of true japanese cuisine: miso ramen, tempura, sashimi.

sadly there wasn’t ramen on the menu (but udon and soba were available) so we ended up ordering tempura, sashimi, unagi sushi and a yakitori set.

the yakitori set was first to arrive. while nic was dying to dig in, rach and jo were excited over the prospect of breaking down food for the FIRST time instead of the usual “soooooooo good”. the set included fresh green asparagus with pork, pork with shiso leaf, chicken with onion, minced chicken meatballs, shiitake mushrooms and king prawn.

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Asparagus with pork

rach: asparagus was very fresh and there was a good balance between the amount of pork and greens. you can consider ordering just the asparagus- (THEY WERE SO HUGE AND JUICY LOOKING, NIC WAS ALMOST FOAMING WHEN THE WAITRESS CARRYING IT WALKED PAST – at the food, not the waitress)

nic: pork wasn’t crispy enough, but the asparagus was sweet and cooked to perfection

jo: would have liked the pork to be more flavourful, but the blend between the two flavours was divine

Pork with shiso leaf

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rach: a bit dry, but the shiso leaf was grilled nicely

jo&nic: there are layers of meat and fat in the pork, so you should eat each piece ALTOGETHER so the juicy fatty goodness can seep into the meat.

Chicken with onion 

this is rach’s FAVOURITE skewer of the day.

rach: the chicken was SOOO juicy and the onions were really crunchy and packed with flavour. it was SOOO GOOD.

Shiitake Mushrooms

nic&jo: so juicy, pity we didn’t have it when it was hot

King prawns 

nic: could have even the whole thing, shell and all, if not for the over zealous waitress. (100 marks for efficiency in clearing the table.)

rach: very naturally sweet prawns

Chicken meatballs 

nic&jo: the fineness of the mince is the selling point

rach, dissenting: chicken was too finely minced, could do with more bite

(OOOH- first instance of clashing tastes and preferences????)

the sashimi lunch set came with 3 slices of salmon, 2 slices of tuna, 2 slices of seabass and 2 slices of turbot. the star of the platter was the salmon, which converted nic from a maguro lover to a fan of salmon. the initial bite was crisp and clean, yet it melted in our mouths upon chewing. it was so smooth without the stringiness of lower grade sashimi. nic also announced to the whole restaurant (his voice tends to be loud and booming) about just how good the maguro was. it was a public display of affection ^^ Image

the ingredients for the tempura were amazing. the tempura here was all about the sauce (and source, since it was sooo fresh). the sauce had an unidentifiable mystery ingredient that gave it some sort of kick/oomph. nic describes it as ‘an alcoholic surge’. the initial kick of the sauce soon blends into the flavour of the meat/veggie and merges into an organic whole. heaven is a place on earth. like the yakitori king prawn, the meat was firm, juicy and sweet and the batter light, fresh; it was a distinct……(for the lack of a better word) DISTINCTION. the ingredients were also coated with just the right amount of this amazing batter; never tasted anything batter.

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the miso soup was pleasant though it seemed that the savoury flavour came from a stock as opposed to the miso itself. not sure if thats a positive or negative thing but it was nice.

there were let downs – the rice and hence the unagi sushi. the rice was too moist and clumpy. possibly reheated from previous days? for the sushi we wanted more unagi and less rice. we would have preferred a crispier seaweed wrap.

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Wrapping up, before asking for the bill, we three have a tradition of playing ‘the price is right’ this allows us to share with you what we felt the meal was worth and enables you to compare it to what we actually paid.

Our guess was: £55

Total bill: £54 nett

Ambience: casual, for the family

Service: efficient, though sometimes overly so; felt rushed as we didn’t make reservation;

Who we would recommend it to: small groups of discerning consumers of japanese cuisine; not people looking for a leisurely lunch

Will we return?: Rach: Possibly; Jo: there are comparable alternatives in central london but will go back for the hampstead experience; nic: probably.

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Jin Kichi 

73 Heath St  London, Greater London NW3 6UG
020 7794 6158