34 Courtney St, North Melbourne
For James’ birthday dinner we went to Akita in North Melbourne. I was originally going to attempt some wagyu steak but the butcher was only getting it in later this week, so it was not to be. We first tried Akita a couple of years ago, not really expecting anything, and were blown away by the food. It looks kind of dingy on the outside (to the right of the photo is a wheelie bin that I had to crop out), but there is a reason this place is packed every night.
There are two menus you can order off – a regular menu and a specials menu that changes from time to time. The regular menu is bound like any other restaurant menu, and the specials one is in fobby handwriting wedged inside a plastic sheet.
The specials menu is where it’s at though. The first time James and I came here we ordered off the regular menu like chumps and even though it was still great, the items from the specials menu were a lot more interesting.
This time we did order the sashimi platter from the main menu. It was so tender I hardly needed to chew, everything just melted in my mouth. There was one that I didn’t care for – the one in the shell, covered by the garnish – which tasted a bit lemony and soapy to me, though James seemed to enjoy it just fine.
Next up was spring onion and shiso leaf rolled with john dory then deep fried. This reminded me a bit of spring onion pancake. It was very light despite the deep frying, and the napkin underneath only had a couple of splotches of oil.
Pretty much our sole vegetable dish was deep fried eggplant grilled with minced chicken and soybean paste topping. It was salty and full of flavour – I might google around and see if I can recreate this at home. The waiter served this before I had a chance to take a photo, so this is my half of the eggplant.
It was about this time that James said “I think I like Akita more than Bistro Vue”, which is high praise, given that he had the tarte tatin at the Bistro and was like “this is the best dessert I’ve ever had”.
And then he said “I think I like this place better than Rose Garden”.
Fighting words! I had to defend Rose Garden, because you can’t compare a $9 dish BBQ shop to a nice restaurant. Rose Garden is excellent value and I won’t hear a word against it!
But anyway, the next course to arrive was grilled lamb on bed of spinach, bacon and fried garlic. This one didn’t actually seem that Japanese to me, but it was still tasty.
We get the tempura every time we come, because it’s so tasty and looks so cool. We initially didn’t order the tempura that night, but we kept seeing it go to people’s tables, and were like “OK if we’re not full after the next dish we’ll get the tempura”. I actually was a little bit full, but I wanted tempura dammit!
Like the john dory pancakes, the batter was as light as air. I have no idea where they get such giant prawns from.
We were really full at this stage, but I can’t come to Akita without having some of the black sesame ice cream. I’ve heard that the secret to getting it very sesame-y is to use black sesame paste instead of (or in addition to?) toasting the black sesame seeds. I made the mistake of telling James this (thinking I was imparting an interesting piece of information) and now he’ll just randomly say in a snotty voice, “the secret is to use sesame paste“.
The total bill came to $105ish, which included a couple of Asahis for James. It was very reasonable for a meal that had us oohing and aahing the whole time. We’ve been here four or five times, and every time I leave in a warm bubble of happy fullness.
Just like Rose Garden. *glares at James*