Akari – London N1
August 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
A Japanese kitchen in an old English pub, serving a simply incredible menu.
Standing across the road from the supposed address of a Japanese kitchen, I spyed an ordinary looking local pub. I’m dubious. But not one to judge a book by its cover, I venture in. Pushing through the swinging doors of what is now definitely the wrong address, my date and I are greeted by the familiar, welcoming sounds of an ordinary pub. But, on a moment’s reflection, none of the sights. Admittedly the entire room is decked out in pub-like dark wooden panelling – probably the original decor from when it did act as a local watering hole – and much like a pub, an assortment of wooden furniture is packed into the room in such a manner that you are pretty much guranteed to bash your neighbour whilst trying to squeeze out from your pew, but instead of pints, each table is adorned with chopsticks; instead of bowls of nuts and pork scratching there are dishes piled high with edamame beans; and where one might expect to see a bartender pulling pints, stands a chef preparing plates of sushi and sashimi. We had found the right place alright.
Akari offers a menu of dishes that range from strictly traditional to delightfully different, creative and colourful, banishing any quibbles that “it’s all just sushi and raw fish”. The main menu in fact contains no such delicacies, which are reserved for the separate sushi menu, and is dominated by an array of noodle and rice dishes, grilled meats, stir fries and sautéed fish.
Immediately homing in on my favourites on the menu I order ‘Soft shell crab maki roll’ (£8) and the‘Akari roll: prawn tempura, raw salon and avocado’(£5.5) with a single serving of the ‘Sweet prawn nigiri’ (£2.3) and ‘Scallop nigiri‘ (£2.7). I do realise that all of these are sushi and half of them do indeed contain raw fish – but I’m not a quibbler and in any case they are all executed perfectly – the prawn tempura is crisp and crunchy, the soft shell crab is melt-in-the-mouth good whilst the expensive-but-worth-it sweet prawn nigiri hits the mark and would have left me wanting more, were it not for the other dishes that quickly followed.
A fresh salad of white radish and shiso dressing – Daikon salad (£5.8) – cleared the palette just in time for the gloriously delicious ‘Salmon Harasu’ (£6.5) - the grilled salmon belly is naughtily good; the fatty cut is soft and oily (but in a good way), the skin, crisp.
The ‘Tuna Tataki’ (£13.5) from the Specials menu is a superb dish – the gently seared tuna, dressed with garlic mayonnaise, spicy soy sauce, fried garlic & spring onion is mouthwateringly good and had me wishing for something other than just my fingers to use to scoop up the sauces which was all that was left in the base of the dish.
Akari came highly recommended to me and I would not hesitate in passing on the recommendation. Sushi lovers will not be dissappointed and those who are afraid of raw fish are more than well catered for, and may well be converted, should they be tempted to try any of the assortment of sushi on offer. A superb local restaurant for Highbury & Islington residents, and well worth the journey for those without an N1 postcode. Akari tops my list of Japanese restaurants in London – I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Dinner for two: £62
Drinks: Bottle of wine from £15.5, Glass of sake from £6.3