My friend Aston of Aston Specialties really understands the heart of Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are Kiasu (afraid to lose out) and a natural manifestation of this trait is that whenever we buy anything, we want it “Cheap and Good”. Nothing is worse that buying an item at what is thought to be a good price and then finding out that your friend managed to buy it cheaper! Aston has exploited this Singaporean trait when he opened his first Astons Specialties along East Coast Road. By providing good quality steaks at affordable prices, he has managed to build a household brand name within a few years and will soon be expanding beyond our shores into Indonesia and China.
He is now trying to do the same for Japanese food.
Aji Ichi has been around for a few months now and I have been tracking its progress. Aston has had some experience with Japanese cuisine when he opened the now defunct Maeda, a joint venture between him and a Japanese chef. But he hadn’t quite gotten a good grasp of Japanese food when he first opened Aji Ichi. Since then, he had traveled to Japan twice and is now ready take on the very competitive market for Japanese food here.
If his Beef Donburi is anything to go by, I think he is going to put some price pressure on many of the casual Japanese eateries around.
Aston uses genuine Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture for the rice bowl. This rice is regarded by many to be the very best in Japan and is usually found only in top end Japanese restaurants. The beef is a thinly sliced US plate and chuck that is simmered with a special donburi sauce imported from Japan. At $7.50 for a large bowl that is big enough for an NSman who has just finished a 24km road march (OK maybe he needs 2 bowls).
The beef is very good. It has a good beefy flavour and enough marbling to give it a nice bouncy texture. It can get a little dry if it is overcooked, so make sure you let the chef know if you like your beef a little pink. It is, of course, not as luscious (or as expensive) as Wagyu, so it is not something that you feel you need to slowly savour one mouthful at a time to make your dollar stretch further. Rather, it is something you would quickly wolf down, enjoying the sensation of big, warm mouthfuls of rice laced with sweet beefiness, then sit back and feel really happy that you managed to get so much satisfaction for just $7.50! 4.5/5
There has been of late, several local guys taking on the Ramen market. I have written about homebaked dough before and since then, there has been a few other stalls sprouting up in coffeeshops. Aston wants to serve up a bowl of quality Ramen for less than $10. He uses noodles that are manufactured by a Japanese company in Malaysia and has been using a soup base from Japan. However, he wasn’t too happy with the quality of the soup and has started to make his own stock using pork bones which are boiled for 24 hours. His bowl of Ramen is tastes better than many of the mass market Ramen you find at the shopping centres, but hasn’t quite reach the standards of the good Japanese ones. His normal ramen using the soup base from Japan is $7.90 and for a dollar more, you can opt for the soup he makes himself which is richer and has more body. As my ACS friends would like to say, “The best is yet to be!”. For us Saints, I predict that Aji Ichi would be going “Up and On!” 4/5
I am excited that Aston is taking on Japanese food! At $7.50, a bowl, this is probably the cheapest place in town that you can eat Beef Donburi that is made with US beef and imported Japanese Koshihikari rice!
I know Aston very well since the early days when he first started. Since then I have been invited by him to give feedback on his many of his new dishes. This review is written after a few rounds of tasting. I don’t pay for my meals but neither does Aston pay me for food consultancy. What we both want is good quality food at value for money prices for all to enjoy!
Update 5 Aug 2014
This stall has relocated to 4 Stadium Place, Kallang Wave #02-01, S397628. Tel: 67023015. The price has also increased to $12.90 per bowl.