Sunday, 6 March 2011

Binge - Japanese Dining That Won't Kill Your Prada

So many new restaurants sprouting up around Singapore, Madam is in a tizzy trying to keep up! Not too long ago, I tried out Akari, a new Japanese restaurant in the Marina Bay financial district. (With all the construction going on and the relatively new roads and buildings, I swear I am a dinosaur in stilettos trying to plod my way around this new swanky neighbourhood.) Let’s say on the outset that unless I had some reason to be in that glitzy outpost of town, I probably won’t make a special trek to that area….but Akari is surely a Good Thing to people who are already working in the vicinity.

Marinated black pork with miso
That’s cos Akari, just by the big water buffalo statue on the plaza of Marina Bay Link Mall, is a smart, quiet restaurant which would serve the office crowd there well enough especially if they need to entertain at mid-levels. While the d├ęcor is nothing to shout about – it won’t leave you gobsmacked in design heaven – the menu is actually very interesting indeed. If you’d venture beyond the predictable sushi and sashimi route and cast your eyes at the a la carte options, you’ll find lots of pretty intriguing dishes to tickle your fancy.

My dining companion and I had a parade of dishes which, by grazing, made up for a heavy lunch. Cutting to the chase, the dishes I liked the most by far was the simmered duck with spinach salad ($18) – lovely raw Chinese spinach which was surprisingly sweet and substantial in mouth feel, paired with pink, juicy slivers of duck breast. Very nice! The deep fried burdock was sweet and crunchy, and went so well with the smoky, mellow flavour of black sesame seeds ($7, above). Surprisingly, something as simple as Japanese rolled omelette paired with spicy cod roe ($8, below) was really excellent and I rather rudely polished off most of that dish! Just sweet enough, but well balanced with the savoury; and the eggs were nicely springy and tender.

The bestsellers though were none of these, but the deep fried simmered tender pork rib bone ($24) which was, to me, nice but didn’t call to me. The other is the marinated black pork with miso ($24) – also pleasant, tender, flavourful, but I guess there’s so much kurobuta hype that its perhaps a case of too much of a good thing. Not that either were disappointing – they just didn’t move me. You might like it though.

Definelly worth mentioning is the taikikomi gohan ($4.50) which varies with seasonal ingredients. I can’t quite remember what there was in my bowl but I remembered piquant, interesting flavours and textures and I really enjoyed the dish. Ingredients that the chef would pop in include perilla leaf, gingko nuts, bonito flakes, mushrooms, soy bean, beancurd, etc depending on the seasons.

Premium Bento Delivery which comes with a service staff for more than 10 orders

What I thought was pretty cool is their bento box takeaways and office deliveries, particularly the premium bento box which comes in a pretty wooden box ($50). If you have a delivery of over 10 orders of the premium box, a service staff comes along to pour your tea and serve it up nicely….then he hangs around to collect the boxes when you’re done and bring it back to the restaurant. I think this is pretty nifty if you are stuck in a power meeting over lunch in the office. Might as well eat well while you slog on. But this service is only available to offices in Marina Bay Financial Centre and one Raffles Quay. Another thing that caught my attention is the course meals which the restaurant offers. Starting from $35, these are ‘mini kaiseki’ with a range of dishes cooked in different styles. Omakase is available for dinner.

Mini Keyaki from $38

Good to know: On the wine list are over 20 types of sake and lots of Shochu and Japanese beers and plum wines. But corkage is attractive at $25. Closed on Sundays. Quiet in the evenings, so a good place for dinner without the crowds. The owners are also the people behind Tomo Izakaya and Tempura Bar at Clarke Quay.

8A Marina Boulevard #01-02
Tel: 66340100


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