Ashino in Singapore (Feb ’16): “compelling fish, flawed sushi”

20 Apr

Ashino is a Tokyo-style sushi-joint in Singapore specializing in serving aged cuts of fish, which opened in 2015. The chef is an emigre from Japan, and has its fair share of regulars who seek a more off-beat Tokyo-style sushi experience, than the standardized edomae menu that places like nearby Shinji serve.

I found Ashino-san’s handling of the aged fish quite compelling. The standout cut from our February lunch was his 24-day aged grouper, which was fatty and rich in tasty oils, and sublime with squeeze of lemon. Accentuating the impression were crunchy pickle strips which gave the impression of eating a decadent round of fish and chips.

The chef is also an iconoclast more generally, revelling in sushi esoterica. His tsubugai sushi was delicious, his cross-hatching of the common whelk giving it the crunchy texture akin to true hand-dived scallop.

The weakness of the meal revolved around his rice. First, he served a few pieces to the customer by hand. It was a nice touch. But it revealed the inadequate compression of his rice. His shari fell apart easily, and twice when I had reached out to take a piece from his hand, the shari broke into half. I’m not sure why he chose to pack the rice so loosely –  perhaps it was an attempt to pack more air inside the rice, but he had not mastered the technique.

Second, his sushi sometimes felt unbalanced, with pieces that would be better served as sashimi. I think this is because he is an iconoclast when it comes to toppings with his sushi, and therefore there is a higher risk of failure with his pieces. The sushi pieces for lunch were these:

  • akami
  • botanebi
  • tsubugai
  • kawahagi
  • kinmedai
  • ika
  • chutoro
  • aji
  • nodoguro
  • whitebait
  • uni
  • anago

Of this group, tsubugai, kawahagi, nodoguro, are uncommon cuts, while whitebait was completely new for me. I felt the nodoguro overpowered the rice, especially since Ashino-san gave it a peppery and citrusy skin. The whitebait was visually arresting since they were cooked 4-to-a-group on a cherry blossom leaf. But they were rather dry and tasteless as a topping. The kawahagi sushi was topped with ankimo sauce and spring onions but it is hard to generate any gustatory excitement from a tasteless fish that’s basically a human chew toy.

Overall I found the experience an educational one. All things being equal I value an educational meal with flaws, more than a boring but tasty meal executed with perfection, so I would return to Ashino because I don’t see many chefs here championing the esoteric cuts.

Other links:


2016-02-11 13.19.09 2016-02-11 13.22.45 2016-02-11 13.25.12 2016-02-11 13.27.30 2016-02-11 13.27.36

  • Magurozuke, Aomori, aged 9 days (4.25/5)

2016-02-11 13.30.22

  • Botanebi (4.5/5)
    • Creamy

2016-02-11 13.35.10 2016-02-11 13.35.38

  • Chawanmushi with botanebi eggs (4.5/5)

2016-02-11 13.41.11

  • Tsubugai sushi (4.25/5)

2016-02-11 13.42.14 2016-02-11 13.42.16

  • Pacific Saury (grilled) (3.75/5)

2016-02-11 13.45.40

  • Kawahagi sushi (4/5)

2016-02-11 13.48.36

  • Ankimo

2016-02-11 13.55.42

  • Kinmedai, aged 18 days

2016-02-11 13.58.16 2016-02-11 13.58.18 2016-02-11 13.58.20

  • Shiroebi with yuzu (3.25/5)
    • Too dry

2016-02-11 14.04.29

  • Grouper, aged 24 days (4.75/5)

2016-02-11 14.07.00 2016-02-11 14.07.02

  • Ika/Cuttlefish (4/5)

2016-02-11 14.08.48

  • Chutoro

2016-02-11 14.15.09

  • Aji

2016-02-11 14.16.47

  • Nodoguro (4.25/5)
    • Peppery and citrusy skin

2016-02-11 14.22.43 2016-02-11 14.22.49 2016-02-11 14.23.57

  • Whitebait (3.75/5)

2016-02-11 14.28.35

  • Uni

2016-02-11 14.34.50

  • Anago (salt) (4.25/5)
    • Powdery

2016-02-11 14.36.29 2016-02-11 14.36.40 2016-02-11 14.36.42 2016-02-11 14.37.30

  • Tamago (4.5/5)

2016-02-11 14.44.01

  • Green tea ice cream

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