Saturday, September 25, 2010

Aoba - 279 Glenferrie Rd Melbourne, 3143

After gathering a long list of restaurants and cafés with names starting with A, it was only by luck that we ended up in Aoba. I’ve heard from my Japanese-crazed friend, Mr A, that the setting and food is authentic and that it reminded him of his travels in Japan. Also, the chef/owner’s apparently Japanese which is always a good start as they pay so much more attention to details.

Walking down Glenferrie Road towards the shop in Malvern, one cannot but be attracted to this small and dimly lit store that somehow gives a cozy, non-threatening feeling. It’s one of those few places where I felt instantly at home though it was my first visit. There were three other patrons seated when we got there. The place is fairly small and seats about 15 people. We were greeted warmly by the waitress who promptly directed us to a table and brought us some menus.

I was told by my bro that they do pretty good bento boxes and had already made up my mind to try the teriyaki fish bento. My fellow food hunter chose the tonkatsu bento. We were both peckish so wanted some entrée. First on our list of Japanese entrée would always be edamame which unfortunately wasn’t on the menu. There were many other options though including gyoza which was tempting.

As we were placing our order, I decided just to push it slightly and asked if they had edamame. The waitress popped her head into the kitchen and 5 seconds later, came back and said that they can make it. Wow!! Was I impressed?

The edamame arrived promptly and what a decent-sized bowl of it too. Whilst we were popping these delish green soy beans (they’re one of the super foods purported to help lower ‘bad cholesterol’ and reduce the risk of cancers), the miso soups arrived followed a few minutes later by our bento boxes.

For $13 ea, the servings were pretty good. I had 3 pieces of teriyaki salmon, a vegetable croquet, a spring roll, a skewer of fried dim-sim-like food, some seaweed and a small piece of fruit.

The vegetable croquet was fried to perfection, crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. I’m not a big fan of mushy food so Ms K finished the rest off for me. The spring roll and skewer too were fried to perfection though they tasted like store bought ones instead of freshly made ones. I couldn’t quite tell what was inside the spring roll either but they were nice to munch on.

The teriyaki salmon though was excellently grilled. It tasted fresh and was moist and was easy to eat. If I had to pick on something, I’d probably say that the sauce was a tad salty but that’s like me trying to be Matt Preston which I am not.

Ms K had the tonkatsu and loved it though I tried some and thought that it was a bit dry. Probably cause there wasn't much fat in the meat.

During the time we were there, the place filled up with more people coming in for takeaways. I was also struck with food envy when they brought some sashimi to the next table. I really wanted to go over and ask if I could at least take a photo of the plate but thought I’d leave them two to eat in peace. They also ordered tempura udon which looked really good too. The gyoza that I was going to order seemed like a popular dish too with every other table having ordered it.

All up, it was a great dinner and for $30.50, definitely value for money. Downside would probably be that the place is quite small and if you don’t get there early, there might be a slight wait. The atmosphere was great. If I closed my eyes, I could just imagine myself in Japan, having a meal in a small restaurant. The background music was soft and soothing whilst the interior, made of wooden boards, gives it a really warm and cozy setting. There’s a slight smokiness to the place too that reminds me of Izakayas in Japan.
Would I return? Need you ask? Aoba has definitely made its way to the top of my list of Japanese cafés for a delicious, quick and cheap meal. Next time I return though, I’d be getting some sashimi as well as trying their desserts.

Aoba on Urbanspoon

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