On Akira Back’s smallish menu, everything reads rather normally until you reach “Rolls”. There you’re met with Holy Cow, Pop Rockin’, Brother from another Mother, Perfect Storm and Hot Mess! The one Crispy Pork Belly seemed almost out of place and should be urgently renamed if you asked me!
With such intriguing names, it’s only right I start off my review with them. Our server highly recommended Brother from another Mother while we couldn’t resist something with a bit of heat. Perfect Storm is a pimped up Prawn Tempura roll with a dab of spicy tuna hidden somewhere between the crunchy prawn, cucumber and the rich salmon belly. Its a pop-in-your-mouth kinda maki, so seriously put your unrealistic “manners” aside and go for it (however small you think your mouth is). Although the flavors in this Maki was rather conventional. It was still very enjoyable given the ratio of fillings to rice at 2:1, and possibly even less (rice). So you get to taste a lot of fish and prawn instead of a whole lotta rice. And that’s how a roll should roll, people!
Brother From Another Mother was a bigger mouthful…, what with the whole family involved! Sweet Unagi Kabayaki, crisp Anago Tempura and a chunk of creamy Foie Gras Tourchon balance precariously as you pick up the enprmpus sushi roll, and try to devour the entire family in the same mouthful! Yes it can be done and no, don’t try otherwise cuz it’d just collapse into a hot mess! Despite a whole lot going on here, every element shone individually yet blend immaculately with one another. The mouthful finishes with the Foie Gras Tourchon which is salty and lusciously creamy. Tourchon basically refers to a cooking method whereby foie Gras (or any other foods) is wrapped in cheesecloth to form a cylindrical shape before cooking. And amidst all the different textures and tastes, the tinge of zesty ponzu Mayo (wherever it’s hiding) gave everything a lift, while the shiny plump rice neutralizes and brings everything together like a modern family!
Under Cold starters, we opted a half and half AB signature pizza that comprised of Tuna and Mushrooms. No, I don’t like cold pizza…, but this was something else. For a start, this could be the epitome of a skinny pizza. From the super thin pizza crust to the super thin spread of aioli to the super thinly sliced tuna and mushrooms that cover every inch of the pizza. Despite being cold, it was ultra delicious. The crust retained a good amount of crunch, and while they kept the chilled tuna and mushroom rather neutral, the garlicky aioli, bitter shisho and truffle oil complemented them to T.
Top anything with an Onsen egg and it will be on our order. But what actually brought out the Tuna Tataki Salad wasn’t everybody favorite runny protein but the beautifully dressed salad. Eaten together, the zingy ginger and balsamic dressing in the salad marinades both the raw tuna and runny egg in a fresh, chilly, appetizing manner. Not that I’m complaining, but onsen egg in tataki is a first for me and it delightfully adds a good dose of moisture and juiciness. Such a simple and effective touch!
Horenso Shira AE – Baby spinach, blanched, chilled, rolled and stacked like a cigar, then carefully placed in a shallow pool of sesame sauce dotted with rayu oil. Our server mixes the cold salad while she incessantly boasts of the dish’s popularity. We could smell the nutty sesame as the salad mixes. And I could see why this is one of Akira Back’s most ordered. The combination of tender spinach leaves and rich sesame paste is flawless! Add a teeny bitta heat with spicy rayu oil and a sprinkle of toasty sesame seeds. Man..! These simple ingredients just work each other like the cast of Friends! It reminds me of a similar cold dish I often eat in Beijing. Also spinach. Also sesame paste. And a good glug of sesame and chili oil to finish. Same same, but different.
Eggplant Miso– Akira Back gave new life and meaning to all time favorite , Melanzane alla Parmigiana, without robbing its distinctive cheesiness and tartness, by the simplicity of the humble Miso. No, it does not jump right out at you. But somewhere in there, the miso adds a quiet umami to the classic aubergine dish. It’s extra rich. Extra robust. And extra special. Another same same, but different. Must try!
Steering away from the usual, we decided on Kinmedai (golden eyed snapper) and Hirame (flounder) for our sashimi combo. Kinmeidai is a tad oilier, giving the fish a creamier finish. Hirame, on the other hand, is a little bit crunchy, and every chew brings out the sweetness of the fish. The sashimi was beautifully presented with the Hiram sliced thinly and formed into a rosette centerpiece I almost didn’t see it was fish! Needless to say, the freshness was also impeccable.
We were beginning to fill up but something felt amiss. Something warm..! The Line Caught Pacific Halibut was a good choice as it was light and delicious and warm. The fish was given the perfect pan-fry resulting in an evenly browned exterior that’s just crisp enough to hold the soft white flaky flesh together. Set in a light creamy butter sauce with a citrusy note. The fork tender fish emitted a perfect balance of natural sweetness and savoriness in every bite.
I had not known much about Akira Back prior to this visit. But it’s stood out enough for me to find out more. And what an interesting path Chef Akira’s had; starting as a sportsman before becoming the Michelin-starred Chef that he is today. 14 restaurants worldwide including 1 Michelin starred Dosa in Seoul, Korea, his birthplace.
I can’t strongly say the food had been mind blowing. But there’s a uniqueness about it that’s simply captivating. As I think and look back on the menu, a sense of curiosity hangs over me as I wonder what little surprises those straightforward descriptions alongside the dishes actually bring with them. And who doesn’t secretly like surprises?
AKIRA BACK @ JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, Level B1M, South Tower, 30 Beach Road, Singapore 189763 (Access via Nicoll Highway). Phone +65 6818 1914
Disclaimer– This is not a sponsored post.