Sunday, January 14, 2007

Aoki, Shaw Centre


Named after the restaurant director Kunio Aoki and designed by a Japanese interior architect, this minimalist designed yet stylish Les Amis restaurant is located alongside the parent Les Amis and sister La Strada along Shaw Centre right beside Pacific Plaza. Fronted by a the sombre dark exterior, the interior furnishing of Aoki is largely done in wood providing a warm sanctuary of zen like enclosures which separates dining booths for the visitors of the restaurant.


The dining areas of Aoki are separated into three main sections. First of which are several alcoves of private space shielded by wooden sliding doors along the main passage after the entrance. The same corridor also leads via a short flight of steps to the bar counter where one can watch the chefs in their dangerous knife art. Behind the bar counter are more private dining rooms which I did not get to explore. The restaurant was manned by a host of very polite and attentive staff, a portion of which are real Japanese. What I had really appreciated about the service in this restaurant was that their wait staffs, while attentively observant and barely out of sight were also not intrusive by keeping a distance. This made the eating experience here a largely pleasant one

I had lunch today in one of the hauntingly peaceful (the weather helps) booths by reservation with courtesy of sinquanon88 of HWZ. These booths were just the alcoves of private dining space which I have mentioned earlier with the shielf of sliding doors that separates the said booths from the main corridor. The walls of the booth facing the sliding doors are of a fogged glass which, when catches daylight creates a ethereal wall of impenetrable mist; the illusion of a permeable backdrop with bamboo silhouettes just behind the wall of opacity.



Aoki does lunch sets and has an accessible menu from their website. Their lunch sets are priced ranging from $30 to $60. We went with the Mazechirashi and the Shokado sets and decided on some add ons. These came in the form of fermented sea slug intestines, spicy cod role and uni sushi.

Fermented sea slug intestines

I didn't have any idea how these things would taste like before today. I didn't even know how a sea slug looks like. I was assuming that they would be small sea cucumber like mollusks and it would hence require quite a few of them just to get sufficient intestines for the dish. The taste we noticed was also strongly masked by the use of very salty soy sauce and a raw quail egg. I could imagine that without the use of those, the long semi-rubbery intestines would have a rather overpowering fishy flavour. Pretty thankful that the portions were tiny.

Spicy cod roe (mentaiko?)

These spicy cod roe were soft and heavily salted and had noticeable heat. It was with sheets of dried seaweed which was used to wrap the roe along with sliced strips of zucchini; presumably for the offset of the saltiness of the roe. The skin of the mentaiko was soft and the eggs misshapen when pressure is applied to them.

Uni sushi

The uni sushi here costed $24 for two. It was pretty good, but surprisingly not even Akashi good.

Shokado ($38)

Mazechirashi ($35)

Their Mazechirashi came with very generous portions of cubed raw fish toppings. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, tamago, sliced zuchinni and other fish which I've either forgotten or cannot identify. On the side, grated wasabi. Underneath the bed of raw fish were also fine strips of seaweed which blanket the rice at the bottom of the bowl. I was really quite pleased with how this turned out. I had thought that lunch was usually not a good indicator of how good a restaurant could be. Apparently inn Aoki, there was considerable efforts made in their lunch sets. Each of the lunch sets came with a side of pickles, a prawny miso soup and dessert.


I mentioned prawny miso soup earlier because the soup does in fact come with a prawn head. Besides surprising unwary drinkers there is actually a rather robust flavour of prawn in the soup. In fact, that prawn flavoring was probably greater than that of the miso. Another pleasant surprise.


Dessert from lunch came with a delicious pumpkin custard pudding topped with a raspberry, a scoop of melon sorbet and plum jelly. It was so good that I wished there was more, but I suppose these good things are usually better in small portions. Lol. The melon sorbet was very flavourful, but it didn't taste like any melon which I knew of. That plum jelly which was also rich in the flavours.

I was really pleased with this lunch at Aoki. This was probably one of the lengthier write ups I've done on lunches which meant that it left a pretty deep impression for me to say what I had to say. Be advised that it doesn't come cheap.

I visited the washroom before leaving and noticed that they had an interesting wooden basin with dry towels on the side. Nice.

5 comments:

jx said...

saw your blog while looking for food blogs to get inspiration from. you have a wonderful looking blog. very informative too. i guess you must love to try new food.. i started a food blog not too long ago too, because i realised that i'm having too many entries on food on my main blog.. haha ... it's nice to have stumbled upon your site... will come visit often... and 'll go try out the reccommended places.. :)

LiquidShaDow said...

Hi jx,
thanks for dropping by. Your site is pretty good too. I that you have location shots apart from the food. Keep the entries up. :)

ice said...

hi LSD. any idea if there are any restrictions on photography over at Aoki? coz i understand you and company were in those private booths so there's pretty alot of privacy to accommodate your cameras.

any idea what happens if u whip out your camera at the sushi counter? thanks

LiquidShaDow said...

I don't know really, but from my experiences so far, most places seem to be fine with photography with the exception of a few places. Buko Nero comes to mind and I've heard, Shunjuu too. If you're taking photos of the food, I think it ought to be ok, but don't quote me on that. :p

There are other blogs out there that look like they feature some very obliging chefs, so...

ice said...

thanks. i'll take your word for it. =P