Akira Back opened three years ago in JW Marriott South Beach together with the launch of the hotel, and specialises in modern Japanese cuisine. Here’s a quick background: The restaurant’s namesake, Chef Akira Back was born in Korea and raised in Colorado. He trained in Japanese cuisine, opening 14 outlets across the world, with the 15th opening next month (May 2019) in Dubai. His restaurant, Dosa in Seoul, has won Michelin stars for the last two years!
above: Chef Akira back (far left) putting the final touches on his dishes. when he’s in town, he’s completely involved in every aspect of the business.
above: the cosy restaurant has your standard private dining tables, and even sofa seating, but it’s the island seating near the kitchen that caught our attention.
above: if you prefer something more secluded, book in advance for the sofa seats by the window that comfortably sit four.
Our expectations start pretty high for a food tasting with the man himself who’s in Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit.
Note: the following pictures show tasting portions for our food review. So what you see here may be different from the actual serving that you order.
AB Mushroom Pizza, $20 / AB Tuna Pizza, $26
above: a tasting portion of both pizzas.
A surprising starter. One bite into this combination of aioli, shiso and truffle oil, and it opened up the palate. Extremely tasty and and I would definitely recommend and order this again. Another surprise — I preferred this to the tuna pizza.
above: close-up of the pizzas.
The tuna was not too fishy and very thinly sliced. Like the mushroom pizza, it came on a delicate, crispy almost biscuit base, and was delicious. Each full pizza portion comes with 8 slices.
Soul Mate, $36
above: the jelly is served on the side.
above: close-up of the “sushi”
This “sushi” is a combination of amaebi (sweet prawn), uni and tosa jelly (made from soy). And wow, this was excellent as well! The prawn and uni were fresh, and the highlight was actually the jelly which was both salty and sour. I imagined this to be an odd combination but it worked so well, I lapped up the jelly even though we were advised to take just a little bit at a time.
above: close-up of yukhoe. it looks like sushi, but is not sushi at all.
This dish is described as “Tajima” Wagyu striploin (this is raw), nashi (pear) and sesame oil. It looks like a sushi but it’s a traditional Korean dish. The idea is to mix it all together in the “sushi skin” and eat it in one bite.
above: mixing everything together.
This is similar to steak tartare: raw beef and raw egg. It’s a little bit sweet and the beef was good quality. I would have preferred less sesame seeds because the taste of them overpowered everything else. Having said that, I would come back for this.
Jeju Red Snapper, $25
above: close-up of the raw snapper slices.
This comes in a plate of 5 pieces. It’s slightly spicy with the Chojang (a spicy red chilli pepper sauce, which Chef Akira Back mixed with miso and rice), and the fish is fresh, as one would expect. A straightforward “sashimi” style cold dish.
Hokkaido Scallop, $28
above: presentation of the hokkaido scallops.
above: close-up of the scallops, kiwi and yuzu.
This plate of scallops is complemented by kiwi and truffle yuzu. Eat them together in one bite. The scallop has a clean taste and topped with kiwi and yuzu, is absolutely refreshing. A must-try.
Crispy Tofu, $25 + Eggplant Miso, $17
above: tasting portions of the tofu and eggplant.
A fried tofu that was bouncy and had a bit of kick with the addition of Kochujang soy. This is similar to agedashi tofu, but I prefer agedashi tofu.
above: close-up of the eggplant miso.
I enjoyed this more than the tofu; it was meaty, but not heavy. It also had the right amount of sweet Miso, so the dish wasn’t too sweet or lacking in flavour. I can imagine being very full eating more of this. Unless you’re a big fan of eggplant, go for the the other appetisers like Soul Mate and Yukhoe — I think those were better.
Seared Foie Gras, $32
above: seared foie gras dish.
The Foie Gras is decently pan-seared, and matched with a unique combination of corn croquette which actually works. (I’m just glad they pan-seared the Foie Gras after my experience of Foie Gras in soup at table65…) The menu mentions a spiced litchi honey in this dish although I couldn’t taste it. The white powder you see here is truffle powder and is strangely not bad.
Line Caught Pacific Halibut, $32
above: the halibut looks amazing.
The fish on its own was fresh but unremarkable. But dipped in the soy, butter and white wine sauce, it was delightful! The sauce was tasty, but not jelat. Paired with the spring onions, the dish was fresh and not as filling as I anticipated. Out of all the mains, I’d recommend this one.
Ji-Dori Chicken, $28
above: chicken breast coins on truffled potato puree.
This is chicken breast sitting on top a bed of truffled potato puree. I initially thought that I would have preferred the teriyaki flavour to come out more, but realised I needed to eat the chicken smothered with the mash and sauce. This dish is nicely done. Overall the chicken was very tender and I learned that it is slow-cooked for 3-4 hours vacuum-sealed in water. Understanding how it’s cooked brings a new level of appreciation to this dish. I wonder if I can tenderise chicken breast at home this way.
DESSERT: AB “Egg”, $20
above: “a” for presentation.
The crispy edible egg shell is made from sugar, the egg yolk is mango passion and the egg white is vanilla foam. The “granite” you see is Korean red date. We’re told to mix everything together before digging in.
above: mixing everything together before eating.
The pastry chef should go easy on the crushed ice because it ends up diluting the dessert quite a fair bit. I had to search for the sugar egg shells for taste (and even then, I wasn’t a fan of them). If you’re ordering dessert for Instagram — this is the one. If you actually want something nice to eat, choose something else.
DESSERT: Chocolate In A Cup, $16
above: it’s chocolate in a cup!
This dessert is described as “Gianduja” cake, banana foam, vanilla bean ice-cream and “Bahibe” chocolate disc. You’ll either love or hate this dish; it’s not your standard warm chocolate cake (which you’re probably expecting). The cake at the bottom was hard (I was expecting it to be soft), and the banana foam tasted too milky for my liking. If you do order this, eat it quickly while the cake is still warm.
DESSERT: Homemade Sorbet (Campari Blood Orange), $6
above: campari blood orange sorbet.
We’re told that this is made with fresh Campari and oranges. It’s quite tart and tangy, and closes the meal well. This was the only dessert I finished, and I would recommend this out of the three desserts I tried.
This was one of the better food reviews I’ve done this year, and I would return with friends for the first few dishes I tried above. This is a fine dining establishment so you can expect the prices to reflect the experience as well. I would recommend booking early to reserve a sofa seat, and saving your money and stomach space for the cold dishes (and skip dessert).
above: the open kitchen SHOWS CHEFS PREPARING THE DISHES.