AOI Japanese Restaurant Review @The Emporium Mall

AOI is one of the finest Japanese restaurants in Thailand. It prides itself in authentic recipes & extravagant presentations (website here).

We were meeting w/ a family friend who is also Japanese, so this place was a fitting choice. Many of the restaurant’s customers were Japanese so this place is Japanese approved 😉 

The orders that came first were vegetable-based (mine, of course):

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(rough names)

Grilled Eggplant in Miso Paste

I kind of changed up the menu names for better sounding… (80% of the English menu names @restaurants in non-English speaking countries make the dishes sound incredibly unappetizing).

I think the eggplant was actually baked.

TASTE – Very good. Although the eggplant wasn’t crispy, they were cooked all the way through & without being mushy. The flavoring was also on point – saltiness of miso & sweetness of sugar. The downside for me would be excessive amounts of oil which the eggplant was drenched in. There was probably more than 2 tbsp of oil in that eggplant bowl (which is not too bad) but unncessary.

What interests me is the fact that the Japanese & Chinese tend to use lots of oil in their eggplant dishes i.e. this Japanese grilled eggplant dish, Chinese stir-fried eggplant w/ pools of chili oil, etc. meanwhile, in Thai cuisine we have dishes like spicy grilled eggplant salad where the eggplant are 100% fat free. Could the oil be used to unlock the beta-carotene & other fat-soluble nutrients in the eggplant? The hot-fire cooking is understandable as a way to get rid of toxins in this Nightshade plant.    

But overall, it was so tasty I ate the entire eggplant bowl (that was meant for decoration) in front of my dad’s respectable friend.

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NUTRITION – Eggplant has never been hailed as a ‘nutritional powerhouse’. It’s a plant of the Nightshade family that is not so rich in nutrients (per serve) but contain some antioxidants like Nasunin. What eggplants are rich in, however, is fibre. Because of its carb content, it is also more caloric-dense than other vegetables. Eggplant also have certain amounts of toxin, they are an allergen & even contain trace amounts of nicotine. That said, consuming eggplant every now & then should not do any harm. Just don’t get addicted to it! Perhaps this is why in Italian & Indian cuisine, eggplant are often pickled & consumed in small amounts? 

The eggplant also comes w/ lots of vegetable oil & a bit of sweet & salty miso paste. Miso is Japanese fermented soybean paste. Miso may contain beneficial probiotics & vitamin-B 12. However, miso is simply used in a small amount as a condiment here, so its nutritional benefit is negligible. This dish is, however, abundant in vegetable oil, which is harmful to your health in large amounts (click here for a simple explanation).

In conclusion, this dish is moderate in calories (max. 150 calories per serve). However, it contained a lot of unhealthy vegetable oil. It contain small amounts of vitamin C, B-6, magnesium & iron. It will also contain at least 20% of your daily intake of fibre (per serve). Although this is a vegetable dish, it should still be consumed in small amounts. This is something I definitely need to practice next time.

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Grilled Salmon Salad

TASTE – The salad was just your typical lettuce w/ a bit of purple cabbage & tomatoes. The grilled salmon slices were very well-cooked. Slightly seared on each side leaving the middle raw. They also topped the salad w/ fried salmon skin which I thought were not very crispy & a bit chewy & oily. The salad dressing was very good though (Japanese sesame dressing). Over all, I felt the dish was a bit of a rip off since it was quite expensive by Thai standard & there were not that many salmon pieces nor was the dish very tasty either.

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NUTRITION – Salmon is healthful in many ways. It contain plenty of vitamin Bs, good Omega-3 fatty acids & is a great source of protein (100 g = 20 g protein or 40% daily recommendation). Lettuce contain mainly vitamin A, purple cabbage & tomatoes will provide small amounts of vitamin C. 1 serving of this salad w/ dressing (1/2) will provide ~200 calories or less, ~10 g protein, ~50% daily value for vitamin A, ~10% daily value for vitamin C, (this is difficult to say) >600 mg of Omega 3. It is doubtful the sesame salad dressing provide any nutrients other than fat, sugar & flavor.

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Here’s the definite star of that dinner:

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Wagyu Beef Steak 

Undoubtedly, the taste must be great. Why? Because this 6 piece Wagyu dish was so so so so so so so so so so so so expensive. The most expensive Wagyu I’ve ever eaten.

TASTE – Not to say this dish was not tasty, it was not worth the ridiculous price tag. One bite of this beef & it’s a juice explosion in your mouth (okay, this is a bit exaggerated. But the pieces were very fatty). The beef was a bit rough on the edges but moist in the center. There was absolutely 0 beefy smell. I also tried the side veggies (potato & asparagus). They tasted incredible. High-class veggies right there (just kidding). Actually, the potato was very special in which I couldn’t even tell it was potato in the first bite. It was very well-cooked & its texture delicate. Slightly sweet w/ no flouriness.

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NUTRITION – In fact, Wagyu beef do not contain that many more calories than normal beef. Its meat may contain more fat content, but often they also contain less protein. In addition, Wagyu beef is prepared in the most natural manner to preserve all its flavors. This means they are often grilled without oil or other additives. Wagyu cattle are also raised in much better conditions. They are often raised in the open, not in a crowded manner & fed high-quality feeds. Wagyu beef contains a high amount of monounsaturated fat, oleic acids & iron. They also contain protein & very little cholesterol. The Wagyu steak is served w/ sour ponzu sauce, chopped chili & scallion. 1 serving of this Wagyu steak (3 pieces) w/ veggies & sauce will provide ~250+ calories, 20 g protein, small amounts of carbs, vitamins A, B, C, some minerals (including iron from the beef) & healthy fats.

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Buri Fish Stew w/ Ginger

TASTE – The stew is very flavorful. The fish portion used was the fin, which was fatty & very tasty. Its fattiness was balanced w/ crispy asparagus & fresh ginger.

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NUTRITION – Buri or the Yellowtail Amberjack is not an oily fish. It is high in protein & nutrients like Bs, D, E & minerals like phosphorus & potassium. The piece of fish used in this dish, however, is quite fatty (for making stew). Nevertheless, the fatty part contain monounsaturated fatty acids. The soup has also been stewed w/ radish, which is rich in fibre, cancer-fighting compounds & other antioxidants.

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Other than the dishes pictured above, we also ordered cold soba noodles, which I had forgotten to taken photos of… The soba were expectedly high-quality & flavorful. Soba has been consumed for centuries by the Japanese as a healthy carb alternative. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat & contain plenty of amino acids, minerals & are low in calories. Read more about soba here. There were also Japanese green tea (highly recommended) & Singh Beer, which you can read about their nutritional value here & here.

This restaurant may be $$$$, but it also serves up healthy & authentic Japanese cuisine. If you are looking for top-grade atmosphere, quality & flavor, this is the place.

Map here:

– Izzy.