A giant manga-style mural behind a canopy of origami cranes greets you as soon as you walk into Aoi (pronounced ‘aawee’). Rich wood tables offer a view of the busy Mount Mary street and the shelves are stacked with modern Japanese knick-knacks — a miniature Samurai warrior and cartoon figurines among others.
The restaurant, owned by the entrepreneurs behind Bandra’s Lemon Grass, promises a contemporary Japanese setting and that’s exactly what you get. The menu reflects this spirit and marries flavours from around the world in small plates, sushi, ramen and bento boxes. We started our meal with a classic California Roll (Rs 425) and Angus Beef Tataki (Rs 450). The former was made using smoked salmon instead of the traditional crab, and came with a generous helping of cream cheese and cucumber. It’s good value for money, though the chef could have gone easy on the sesame. The Beef Tataki was a delight — the thinly pounded slivers of melt-in-your-mouth beef were complemented perfectly by the tartness of the takuwan (a kind of pickled radish). The heat of the mustard enhanced the experience further.
We chose to stick to the small plates as the mains looked like the owners were trying a little too hard to bring eastern and western flavours together. Case in point: the Tenderloin Steak with Vegetable Fettuccini, Rice Fires and Bulgogi Marinade. We ordered the Yakitori Prawn Skewers (Rs 350), Grilled Prawn Sushi (Rs 350) and Crabmeat Sushi (Rs 375) instead. The prawn skewers were tender, but grilled a bit too long and tasted too smoky. The sushi was the surprise winner: the prawn roll had a great kick of Wasabi mayo, which was offset by the guacamole. The crabmeat roll, too, was spiced just right. Unlike sushi at other small joints in the city, we didn’t need to dunk the rolls into soy sauce and top them with other condiments to make them palatable.
The restaurant doesn’t have desserts on the menu, but there is a large offering of teas — with leaves from Assam and China to Japan and Egypt. All in all, Aoi is a great place to spend an evening with friends, eating budget sushi and chatting the night away.
Where: 1, Gloria, St. Baptist Road, Near Mount Mary Steps, Bandra W
Call: 2640 4004
What’s on the menu: Contemporary Japanese
What we like
We don’t like