Sunday, December 28, 2014

Akita Japanese, North Melbourne by Obelix

"When you have expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment."  Ryan Reynolds.

Yep, Mr Ryan Reynolds is not only easy on the eye, he is wise as well.  No quote describes my experience at Akita Japanese Restaurant as aptly.

I was very excited at the prospect of dining at Akita for my friend's 40th birthday.  It has a high rating on Urbanspoon and the staff and fellow diners were reassuringly Japanese (read authentic).  The table next to us was a raucous bunch of Japanese speaking patrons chuckling merrily over sukiyaki and sashimi.  I was preparing myself for an enjoyable dining experience.

When the waitress suggested we have a set menu specifically devised for us, we did not hesitate to place ourselves into her capable appearing hands even though we were flying blind.

To give you context, our dinner set us back $45 per person.  The photographs of what you are about to see often has a few morsels of something-something on a serving dish.  Once shared among us, it amounted to one morsel of something-something per person, sometimes two pieces per person but nonetheless not enough to touch the sides of my empty stomach.  We had to verbally ration it out between us, ie count the actual pieces and call out how many per person one can have.  When the waitress announced that the last dish was coming out, I had thought she meant the last entree to be served not the last dish period.  It was not a balanced set menu for it was more like a series of bite sized nibbles with no mains or rice served at all.

The sashimi was so so.  It was not very fresh and the serving size mingy.  Once rationed out, it amounted to three pieces of fish per person.

The vinaigrette was delicious on the oyster.  Yes that is the singular oyster, not the plural for we were allocated one small oyster each.  The camera angle gave the illusion of largesse but in real life, they were mingy.

The sushi was food court grade.  Two morsels apiece.

This was the patagonia toothfish.  I'm not a fan of the thick rubbery fish skin.  This piece was divided between four.

Chicken wantons.  One apiece.  I think they forgot to season the filling.  It was a bit bland.

Gyoza.  These were quite nice.  One apiece.

These were spring onions wrapped in John Dory fillets and fried in tempura batter.  I didn't really like this for it was like biting into a bunch of tightly wound semi raw spring onions with a fishy aftertaste.  Two apiece.

This was my favourite dish of the night.  It was a shitake mushroom stuffed with prawn mince.  We were allocated half a mushroom each.  Sad.

Green tea to fill the void.

Verdict: we wouldn't return.

I am flummoxed as to why Akita ranks so high on Urbanspoon.  Admittedly the food on the Japanese diners' tables were much more exciting and generous seeming - pots of steaming sukiyaki and platters of tempura.  Perhaps we were perceived as bunch of gentiles who didn't know any better so were given a couple of bite sized nibblies in a guise of a set menu.  As it was a set menu devised for us ad hoc, we did not know what (or how little) we were getting and placed our trust in the establishment in providing us with a menu that was balanced and commensurate to the price we paid.  I think our faith was misplaced.

Akita Japanese on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

used to be authentic until it changed hands. Standard of food dropped and quality substituted for lower grade...

EatAndBeMerryCrew said...

I so agree!

Anonymous said...

I used to be the chef at Akita for 4 years before I left in 2012 and I would like to apologize on behalf of the previous owner Toshi-san for the lack of attention and care given to the quality of the food. It pains me to see how the food has dropped in terms of standard and increase in price and whats more, Akita being a landmark authentic Japanese restaurant has lost its touch. It's sad to see and hear that the new owners are somewhat more financially motivated compared to Toshi who constantly ensured that the best ingredients were being used.

EatAndBeMerryCrew said...

Dear ex chef, no need to apologise for something not within your control. I'm so sorry I didn't get to try Akita when you & Toshi-san were at the helm. You guys had a great reputation for fine quality authentic Japanese food.

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