Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Akira- March Restaurant Week : Collingswood, NJ

Akira- March Restaurant Week : Collingswood, NJ 
Just in case you missed my last post, it’s restaurant week! If any of you are New Jersey locals, you should already know about Collingswood and it’s restaurants. For restaurant week, participating locations make a special menu for the event (usually 3-4 courses) and list it at a pretty reasonable price. This is something I look forward to every year, and tonight my boyfriend and I ate at Akira.
Akira is a Japanese restaurant in Collingswood that I reviewed during last year's restaurant week. They aren't listed on the website as an official participant, which is odd, but they are offering the same 4-course menu as had last year. Normally I would try to go to different restaurants so I can try something new, but last year I mainly ate their sushi platters. Akira offers a lot more than sushi, so I thought I would revisit the menu and order some non-sushi items.

The dinner here was a bit more expensive ($35pp) than Indiya ($22pp), but Akira does have an additional course. The pricing is, well, pretty pricy, but very rarely eat out. If this wasn't restaurant week I wouldn't be dropping almost $40 dollars to feed myself, let alone $80 for a meal for two. (But I'm cheap frugal, and I like cooking meals at home.)
I ordered:
  • Spicy Kani Salad- Crabmeat with Shelly Cucumber mixed with our signature spicy mayo
  • Tuna Tartar- Minced Big Eye Tuna mixed with cavoar and spicy mayo, served with spicy Kimchi sauce
  • Shrimp Teriyaki
  • Crème Brûlée Heart
My boyfriend ordered:
  • Spicy Kani Salad
  • Beef Negimaki- Sliced Beef rolled with Scallion in the middle made with Terikayi sauce
  • Salmon Teriyaki
  • Crème Brûlée Heart
Before we get started I just wanted to mention that taking these photos in the restaurant was a nightmare. The restaurant is very dark, like most fancy eateries, it was snowing outside, and we were seated next to an illuminated wall that was constantly changing colors. It was really pretty, I mean I was basically sitting next to a rainbow, but the changing light made the photographer in me want to smash things. So I apologize if the images are a bit subpar.

I reviewed the avocado salad last year, so the only other starter I could pick was the Spicy Kani salad. Although it was picked by default, tat doesn't mean it was subpar. The spicy mayo dressing was just like the mayo served with the charsu onigiri at Terakawa Ramen, and the vegetables had a great texture. The dish has a decent amount of crab meat mixed in, and the flavors all work very nicely together. I think the portion size was great, because with such a rich mayo-based dressing too much of this stuff would definitely upset my stomach, and the presentation was pretty nice. There were little roe (fish eggs) sprinkled on top, which wasn't mentioned in the menu description, and a nice bright lettuce leaf for contrast. Both my boyfriend and I eagerly finished off our portions, and I really enjoyed it. Out of the two starters I think the avocado salad is a bit better, but it all depends on your personal tastes. 

Next up, Tuna Tartar.

The presentation for this one was pretty impressive, but I guess it had to be. Without it, this Tuna Tartar would resemble something out of a fancy feast commercial. (As someone who has cats, I can vouch that this little puck of fish greatly resembles their morning meals.) The unique white serving platter, that I wish I photographed better, and the little mango puree hearts made this dish look very appetizing, and pretty high end.

When I took a bite of the tuna it had this wonderfully creamy texture, and it tasted very fresh, but I thought it tasted best when it was mixed with the kimchi sauce and caviar. The kimchi sauce was unlike any kimchi I have had before, it tasted like a mixture of sriracha and A1 steak sauce, but I really liked the bold flavoring. As for the mango puree, I feel like that was more of a decoration than a flavor additive. It's pretty, but I didn't feel like it mixed well with the other flavors.

My boyfriend ordered these little beef negimaki, which is something I had never had before, and they were pretty tasty. Call me ignorant if you wish, but they reminded me of little sliders. They had a nice amount of onion flavoring, and the teriyaki sauce was sweet and sticky. I thought they were pretty yummy, but I really preferred my second course. (Although last year's sexy jalapeno was really enjoyable as well.)

For our main course we each picked a different seafood teriyaki. I ordered the shrimp, while my boyfriend picked the salmon. Both dishes were covered in the same sauce as the beef negimaki, and we each received a decent portion of fresh vegetables, but I thought my shrimp was a little rubbery and over cooked to be honest. Other than the shrimp, everything was really well cooked and seasoned. (The shrimp might not have been ideal, but I ended up eating everything on my plate.) I wouldn't say this was the best teriyaki dish I had ever had, but it was very filling and enjoyable.


Akira might have really yummy starters and sushi, buttheir desserts are a bit of a mess.

The dish you see pictured above is meant to be a "Crème Brûlée Heart," but this is neither heart-shaped nor a crème brûlée. There wasn't a crusty sugary top, but there was a thick caramelized syrup. To me, this is a Japanese style pudding with caramel sauce. The pudding had a really nice texture, and the caramel syrup provided some bitter, coffee-like notes, but this is not a crème brûlée. I am fairly certain Akira does not make their desserts in house, and they they come out of a freezer. With that being said, the  texture of the pudding was pretty nice for a pre-made treat.

This is my second time visiting Akira during restaurant week, and it has it's good points and it's bad. The starter and sushi options that are available are absolutely delicious, but their entrees and desserts can be hit or miss. After two full meals I'd recommend hitting up their sushi specials on Mondays and Tuesdays (where sushi is 30% off), but I wouldn't stray too far from the sushi menu.
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