Updated: 4th February 2013: This restaurant had closed.
The past weekend I was basically engrossed with planning for the 8GTCC Hunan project. Up to now, we have 50 people responding to the dinner. We had earlier made reservation with the restaurant for 40 people, thinking that 40 is already a lot of people. On the menu side, there were a bit of tweakings too. Everyone was looking at it from different angle … too spicy, too much pork, where is the beer duck, etc. So now we had landed on a feast of 12 dishes and 2 appys. Oh boy this is going to be a feast!!
On a related matter, Suanne and I met up with Carol. She is the producer of a local TV show. She wants to do a small documentary of chowtimes and has chosen to cover the 8GTCC Hunan dinner too. So we were there to discuss the details of the show. Scary times!
Suanne and I met with Carol in Richmond’s Aberdeen Center. The Aoyama Cafe seems to be the perfect place because it has a nice casual setting, serves gourmet coffee and have a full dinner menu too.
Half of this place used to be Starbucks. It is perhaps only in Richmond that Starbucks is out of place. I can’t really pinpoint why it is so. You don’t see a lot of people walking around in Richmond with a cup of coffee in their hands.
But the Aoyama Cafe is something else. It is packed with customers, mostly a young crowd.
Given the location, the prices here are understandably a little on the high side. I don’t quite know what to make of their menu … I would say it is a Japanese fusion cafe. Many of the dishes are named Japanese Style Something and yet you don’t really see anything particularly traditional Japanese fare here.
As for prices, here are generally how their prices look like:
- snacks are $6 – $7
- appetizers are $7 – $8, with pricier ones at $13
- entrees are $10 – $13
- desserts are $6
What Aoyama Cafe specializes in is called siphoned coffee. A cup of coffee ranges from $2.50 to $9.00. What do you think of the prices? Not too bad considering the location and all?
Suanne went with dinner special (picture above) and opted for the Scallop and Mushroom Spaghetti Soup.
This is siphoned coffee. The most expensive coffee they carry is the $9 Blue Mountain #1 coffee. I was expecting that they brew the coffee in front of us so that I can see how this is done. But it was brewed at the back of the restaurant.
I was kind of disappointed but the waitress was quick enough to know I wanted to see it. So she told me she will let me know when someone orders the siphoned coffee so I can see it in action.
Aoyama is split into two sections. One section is the self-serve section serving mainly coffee, pretty much like what you have in a Starbucks. The other larger section is the full-service section where people have food.
The moment I went to the self-serve section to see the coffee brewed, I see this huge brewing thingy at the back. It is monstrous. Being nosy, I asked if that is how my coffee was made. Apparently not. This is a cold drip coffee thingy where they used this to make the Sumiyaki coffee ($3.50). This is also called “charcoal roast”.
A guy in suit came over and gave me a small cup (with ice) to try since I was nosy and was asking a lot of questions. I like stuff like this.
I only had a small half cup of it and brought it to Suanne to try. It has a smooth flavour and does not have the distinctive bitterness normally you find in coffee.
The man in suit who happen to manage this cafe (I forgot his name) told me that siphon is the best way to brew coffee. I am not convinced really but I give them the benefit of the doubt. Frankly, I am NOT an expert in coffee and cannot tell one from another.
Oh, not really. I can tell a Starbucks coffee from a McDonalds coffee now because I had McDonalds coffee almost everyday when they had the two-week free coffee promotion just two weeks ago.
The siphon coffee contraption is quite unique. The picture on the left is when they started off — ground coffee at the top and water at the bottom. I am not sure if I can explain it correctly … but … as the water boiled, it is forced through the tube into the ground coffee above. When it is cooled, gravity lets the coffee drips down to the bottom.
How is my explanation?
While I was there, the man in suit was making a sales pitch to me saying how popular the above is and how long it takes them to make it in layers and all. He said … take a picture. I took it.
Then he asked me, what these picture taking is for. I said, I have a blog and they immediately laughed. I did not know what that laugh meant. It sounded like he was disappointed that I am taking the pictures for a blog and that he is expecting someone “bigger”, like a newspaper reporter or something. I felt kind of awkward when he laughed actually. Oh well …
More sales pitch ensued. He told me Aoyama have a branch in California and that the UCC Coffee that they carry is very popular in Hongkong. And then he told me that he also has 20 outlets in the Philippines.
Back to our table. Carol had the $9 Blue Mountain #1 while we had the “Barista’s Siphoned Coffee” which came with the Dinner Special. Guess which cup above is the Blue Mountain #1 and which is the Barista’s Siphoned Coffee? 🙂
The Barista’s Siphoned Coffee is made with a blend of the their signature UCC and Sumiyaki coffee … if you care to know.
Carol said that the coffee was good but had a hint of sourish note … it is just that it is not $9 good. LOL! It is expensive isn’t it? Yeah, I like the coffee here. They are not very bitter and so I did not have to load it with cream and sugar. Actually, I like this coffee in that this is one of the few ones I can drink Americano style.
Our waitress for some reason told us that she will make sure that she place the cup with the handle to our left side. She said that this is a standard Japanese cafe concept. First time I heard of this but interesting.
Carol had the Japanese Style Omurice ($13). It is basically … rice, omelet with sauce … a pretty and interesting presentation. I like the color contrast … makes it looked so delicious.
While it was nice to look at, Carol did not like it a whole lot. I did not ask her why but am not surprised.
Inside the thin omelet is curried rice pilaf which is then topped with tomato mushroom sauce. The seafood (scallop, prawns, mussels) topping it all however looked fresh.
For me, I had wanted something light. I had been trying to not eat so much — he he he, been gaining weight for the last two months and need to get back to the Normal BMI category from the Overweight range.
Actually, my primary goal is not to get to the Normal range in the BMI. The most important goal is just to have a lower BMI than Suanne … and I am getting close!
So I had the Tuna Pizza Toast ($8).
It was actually very good. Although I like pizzas with crisp thin crust and even though this is toast, I like the texture.
The thickish toast is unbelievably pillowy soft … very much like when you steam bread Asian style.
Before I had this I thought that the tuna would be like Japanese style raw tuna. Instead it is very much like canned tuna flakes. There are lots of melted gooey mozzarella cheese. I enjoyed this.
Suanne went with the $18 Dinner Special. She doesn’t care about weight because as much as she eats, she is fine. She is not slim or thin or anything … it is just that you can’t call her overweight at all.
For the $18 Dinner Special, there is the coffee, salad, dessert and a choice of mains. For $18, it is not too bad considering all these items.
The salad with lettuce, corn, pineapple, cucumber and tomato was pretty good. We enjoyed it. It was as fresh as one could expect.
Suanne’s choice of main is the Scallop and Mushroom Spaghetti Soup. The ingredients include scallops, inoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and some shredded seaweed.
It was nothing special really. The soup was interesting and has a sharp gingery flavour.
For the dessert, it was the raspberry mousse cake which is served with chocolate and raspberry sauce and whipped cream. Pretty presentation and pretty OK. Suanne thinks it is good. Me? I am not a dessert person. Dessert are for girls. Real men does not take dessert.
It was an OK meal. I don’t complain about the prices because considering the location, service, food quality and all, this is quite reasonable.
We had a great time chatting with Carol. We actually spent 3 hours there — lots to talk about. Filming starts on Saturday this week. I am nervous like hell. Not only I hate to see myself in photos, what do you think when it comes to TV?
So I asked Carol for tips and she just said “Oh, just be natural”. I know that already!
So the day after the dinner, I went for a haircut. I told my usual barber that I need it to look good on TV and she took twice as long to cut my hair that day. Now I don’t look like a hooligan. I actually looked smart. LOL!
Help! Any tips or advice for me?