Akira’s philosophy is based around three principals: ‘food, tableware and presentation’. This is the second London restaurant from executive chef and namesake Akira Shimizu, following on from the successful Engawa at the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho. Akira brings authentic Japanese robatayaki and sushi to west London, housed within the Japan House cultural centre on Kensington High Street.
Elegant and minimalist, Akira has a refined and calming atmosphere. Clean white walls are softened by ambient lighting, wooden tables and chairs, and grey furnishings. The preparation and presentation of the dishes is the focus here, with an open kitchen allowing diners to watch the chefs at work while awaiting the arrival of each exemplary creation.
Our Robata Omakase three-course set menu began with a Japanese sashimi salad appetiser of miso-marinated salmon and daikon radish, served on a bed of ice inside a Shigaraki-yaki (specialist Japanese stoneware) bowl, which resembled a piece of volcanic rock. The dramatic presentation and fresh flavours of the sashimi-grade fish and vegetables told us we were about to experience something very special.
Next, we were served a Pandora’s box of 15 curious-looking appetisers, beautifully presented on an assortment of petri dishes in a compartmentalised wooden tray. Fishy delicacies – including eel, sea urchin and fish roe – take centre stage in most of the morsels, so a love of seafood and an experimental mindset is essential for diners opting for the full Akira experience. The crab and cream croquettes were a firm favourite, while a cold, savoury custard made the familiar unfamiliar to our western palates.
The second course was an assortment of the day’s best sashimi, accompanied by vegetable ‘osozai’ (Japanese side dishes) served inside a delicately hand-painted ceramic box. Moving on to the main event, the Robata (charcoal grill) course featured chicken and wagyu beef skewers served sizzling on top of a huge chunk of charcoal – the smoky aromas providing an alluring preview of the flavoursome treats ahead. The bite-size pieces of beef melted in the mouth like butter, leaving a delicate taste of smoke on the tongue, the warm, meaty flavours providing a nice contrast to the seafood focus of the previous two courses.
Our three courses complete, we couldn’t leave without also trying the matcha chocolate fondant – a deliciously oozy affair flooded in a matcha sauce, which some may find a little overpowering, but didn’t diminish our enjoyment of the cocoa-rich pudding underneath.
Robata Omakase three-course set menu for two, with dessert to share and a carafe of the house (Shirakabegura Kimoto) saké, £145
A memorable experience for fans of seafood, Japanese cuisine and experimental dining. Perfect for a special occasion or date. The presentation won’t fail to impress and the dishes are certain to spark conversation, while the calming ambience and subtle elegance of the interior design provides a welcome respite from London’s bling and bustle.
Akira at Japan House, 101-111 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA; japanhouselondon.uk/eat/restaurant