Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Akira Japanese RestaurantRestaurant Insider
September 29, 2019
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with TAIKI KAWAI, executive head chef and owner
Akira Japanese Restaurant first opened its doors in August 2018, and since then, the business has been enthralling patrons with its traditional Japanese kaiseki-style cuisine using fresh local ingredients.
Taking the helm at Akira is Taiki Kawai, executive head chef and owner, who shares that his father’s guidance and encouragement led him onto the path of pursuing his culinary journey. His wife, Itsuko, the restaurant’s general manager, ably supports him in keeping the business running smoothly.
Kawai said that Akira has many variety options from the menu, including courses such as “Tasting” and “Omakase,” also known as chef’s choice. In addition, there are also the happy hour a la carte and the combo dinner sets with entrees that include salad, rice, hot udon, appetizer and pickles all for a reasonable price.
“You can’t find any place better than this. We also have very unique and high-end sake and wine offerings,” he adds.
Chef Kawai utilizes the local ingredients in Hawaii combined with cooking techniques he learned in Japan.
“My favorite part of this job is the opportunity to meet many great customers. My specialty is kaiseki-style Japanese cooking and incorporating the best of Hawaiian ingredients and the aloha spirit,” he elaborates.
Kawai sheds additional light here on the exquisite offerings available at Akira.
AL: What is your goal with customers?
TK: One thing would be to have that the customers are satisfied and enjoy their food. As long as we see smiles and satisfaction, Akira will never let you down!
AL: Why is the matsutake mushroom such a popular dish at Akira?
TK: Matsutake is a very popular ingredient in Japan especially in the fall season. Sold at a higher price than normal mushrooms, the matsutake mushroom is known for its intense aroma and flavor similar to pine, which has been compared to France’s truffles. This fall season, Akira started new matsutake dishes including dobinmushi, Chawanmushi, grilled and tempura. For the dobinmushi, our chef marinates it in calamansi ponzu and then foil grill, finishing off with a side of homemade ponzu sauce. Our homemade chawanmushi is served with egg yolk and dashi steamed with shrimp and water crescent, topping it off with matsutake mushroom.
AL: What are some of Akira’s specialties and events coming up?
TK: One of our specialties is that we accommodate customers’ wants. When requesting courses if there is any special request such as a food restriction, we are able to prepare and present the dish in any way the customer likes. The customer favorites are the combo dinner sets for our happy hour, or some of the a la carte from our menu such as Eggplant Ponzu, Miso Butterfish, Deep-Fried Soft-Shell Crab with Arare and more. We are starting our fall seasonal menu. We change the menu quarterly. We are incorporating matsutake mushroom specials — Matsutake Donbin-mushi ($20), Grilled Matsutake ($20), Matsutake Chawanmushi (9.50), Matsutake Tempura ($15), Beef Filet Steak and Miso Foie Gras with Matsutake Sauce ($45).
AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?
TK: We are located in the Eleven 50 Building (formerly Atlas Building) 1150 S. King St. Parking entrance is on Young Street — for validated valet parking that’s just $2 for three hours. In the evenings, there’s often plentiful street parking. We also offer some Kenzo wines as well as Caymus and an extensive array of sakes. We also have the Dassai Junmai Daiginjo “Beyond” Sake for $600 a bottle.
AL: Any fun facts most people wouldn’t know about the restaurant?
TK: We have two happy hours every day!