Restaurant Review — Aoi – Japanese Food in Bandra (Mumbai)

Aoi pronounced “Aawee” is one of the new kids in town and have been promoting their version of contemporary Japanese cuisine fairly aggressively. Excited, my love of Japanese food saw us there last weekend.

Right near Mount Mary Steps (opposite the new Bunglow 9 restaurant), Aoi is a small place with 7-8 tables and an open kitchen. It was empty barring for an American couple when we reached there around 8.30pm and we were ushered in by the friendly staff. We opted for a fixed 7-course tasting menu which looked very interesting, noting the variety of items being served.

Restaurant Review -- Aoi - Japanese Food in Bandra (Mumbai)

They probably don’t have a liquor licence yet. We settled for a mocktail — AOI’s version of a Breezer, a nice lychee mocktail although a little too sweet.

We started with Soup (Aoi-style Chicken and a spicy Kimchi one) and Salad (hot Sesame Chicken & their signature Soba). The Soba salad’s dressing was a little too sweet and I wish the lettuce leaves were torn smaller as it was very difficult to manage with chopsticks. Then came the Sushi’s – 4 of them and pretty bad at that. Wish they offered the Nigiri ones … the worst was one with tempura style fried fish on it. Sushi & Tempura mix !!!!

For ‘starters’ they had Tempura Prawn Tacos and Chicken & Shitake Mushroom Gyoza, both nice and spicy. This was followed by Udon Stir Fry Noodle with Chicken and Yaki Donburi. The former was made in a yellow Thai style coconut sauce, nicely flavoured. The Donburi had this slices of chicken – nice. The best items on the menu by far were the deserts: Chocolate Sushi and Green Tea Cheesecake – the latter being one of the best I have had and a ‘must have’ when there.

Restaurant Review -- Aoi, Japanese Food in Bandra (Mumbai)

Now for a summary of the experience at Aoi:

• It is not authentic Japanese food at Aoi; not even close. It is contemporary with a heavy influence of Chinese & Thai cooking styles, tailor-made for Indian palates
• The Sushi was really bad, no flavor or authenticity at all
• The rice used in the Donburi was not ‘sticky’ at all. Maybe some Indian variety. Sad

• Value for money and an overall good experience if you are not so fussy about authenticity
• The portions are decent-sized. Can be quite difficult for a person with an average appetite to finish the 7-course offerings.
• Service is excellent with a smile. The staff is very friendly and attentive checking constantly about the experience
• For most Indians, raw food is not very appetizing and this menu gives them a decent introduction to ‘Japanese style’ food without a shock

The dinner tasting menu was at INR 1,000 per person. Not bad at all for Japanese food in India. Apparently they also have the lunch tasting menu at 600/- for a 4 course one.

Final word: If you are someone like me who simply, absolutely adores authentic Japanese cuisine and have eaten local when in Japan, go to Aoi thinking this is an Oriental Restaurant. Realistic expectations and you will be happy. Overall, the food is nice, somewhat different, but overall a good experience.

Bon Appétit !

— Jayanta

Also read: An Indian in Japan and Japanese Way of Life … My First Experience