If you’re looking for Japanese food, Japan House (aka the home of Japanese culture in the UK) is a pretty good place to start. Akira, on the first floor of the building, which is also home to a shop and gallery, from Executive Chef Shimizu Akira (also of Engawa) is all about showcasing the best in modern Japanese food, presentation and tableware.
The space itself is very sleek, very minimalist, very Japanese, with wooden partitions separating the bar and restaurant, polished concrete floors and open kitchen and counter where you can watch the chefs working the robata grills and preparing sushi. There’s a pretty extensive a la carte menu to choose from but if you want to forgo all that agonising over what to order, there are also three- and five-course omakase set menus and the only decision you have to make is whether to get the robata one or the sushi one. Or do as we did and get one of each, and let the kitchen do the rest.
Both start the same with a daily changing appetiser – ours was delicate slices of seared yellowtail on a crab and wakame salad sat on a beautiful gold plate. In fact all the plates and bowls are beautiful, having been specially designed by Akira himself and produced in collaboration with artisans in Japan. That’s the level of care and detail you can expect here.
Next up is a 15-piece bento box of sashimi, side dishes and vegetables, all presented in individual pots and bowls, and again it’s stunning (and a bit overwhelming) to look at. The selection depends on what’s best on the day, but ours included toro, lean tuna, salmon, eel (our fave of the sashimi), pickled vegetables, set egg custard, an incredibly rich foie gras croquette, tempura cabbage and dipping sauces.
This is followed by the main course, which is where the two menus differ. Both come with miso soup but from the robata menu it’s the day’s grill selection – for us this was lamb chop, a moreish sweet soy glazed chicken skewer and vegetable tempura served on a volcanic rock, a range of sauces including ponzu and spicy mayo, and three pieces of sushi. From the sushi menu, you get the special of the day – ours was fried salmon on a mixture of cornflakes and rice (the cereal element sounds weird but absolutely works) – and eight pieces of sushi, like octopus, scallop, toro, lean tuna and salmon roe in another bento box.
The kitchen clearly takes the food very seriously at Akira, so you really feel like you’re getting the real deal. Definitely one to get on the list if you’re into all things Japanese.
101-111 Kensington High St, London W8 5SA