Restaurant Review: Akira, Japan House, Kensington in London
Alongside Whole Foods and The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, the most refined elements of the Japanese culture have truly made a mark on the quintessential Kensington High Street; and no, this isn’t another Asian coalesce that we’ve become accustomed to.
What makes Akira stand out is its effort to be entirely true to the Japanese heritage of its Executive Chef, Shimizu Akira. Hidden within the Japan House, peering in from our English pavement, I wouldn’t, at first criticise you if you were to think the Japan House was another Apple Store. Once inside its pearly interior, here you find a creative space that showcases the very best of Japanese art, design, innovation, technology and of course its cuisine, upstairs at Akira.
Minimal and modern, it’s hard to identify Akira as another London sushi joint because everything is so accurately authentic that you really could be dining in Japan. An immersion of ‘omotenashi’ hospitality, each guest who steps inside receives a Japanese greeting from the team of chefs in the open kitchen as they dart around roaring robata flames.
Executive Chef Shimizu Akira has a trinity of principles that revolve around food, tableware and presentation and this synergy paired with attention to detail and innovation give Akira its edge. Served on bespoke ceramics and glassware, personally designed by Akira with artisan Japanese producers are the finest touchpoints of Japanese gastronomy. Colours, textures and flavours are of abundance – from sashimi and sushi to robata, rice & noodles and lunchtime bento boxes, there is also a world-class collection of sake, Japanese whiskeys and beers available.
If this all sounds a bit daunting, the five course Robata Omakase or Sushi Omakase offering is a good place to start. An assembly of what is offered across Akira’s lengthy menu, each change depending on what the kitchen has that day. Easing diners in, each Omakase starts with a daily selection of appetisers, this is soon followed by an impressively presented assortment of sashimi, Japanese osozai side dishes with vegetable selections, each laid out within a square wooden grid that invites you to work your way around. Moving from famous sushi dishes to sizzling, hot stone grill options, following a ‘bowl of the day’ interlude, the main course for Robata Omakase is wagyu beef with mixed kushi-yaky grilled skewers, served with more sushi and a soup. For Sushi Omakase, a collection of wagyu sushi and eight kinds of sushi. Each finish with dessert, for us this included a Japanese inspired crème brulee.
Akira looks to achieve a dining space that epitomises the philosophy of ‘doma’, a place where family, friends and neighbours gather. Designed by Katayama Masamichi the interior of the restaurant mirrors the detailed precision of its dishes with wooden partitions, a black slatted ceiling and polished concrete floors. This is all set against the open kitchen counter which offers diners an interactive insight into the craft of the Japanese kitchen.
Veritably true to its Japanese roots, Akira doesn’t try too hard to be something it isn’t. Instead its goal is to execute and innovate Japanese gastronomy in its purest form whilst championing the finest culinary talent, the Japan House also has an upcoming schedule of exhibitions and events, workshops and seminars, encouraging us to accustom ourselves to the refined way of Japanese living.
Address: 110 -111 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA, 020 3971 4646, japanhouselondon.uk/eat/restaurant/
Lunch: 12:00 – 15.00 (Mon- Sat) 12:00 – 16:00 (Sun & bank holidays)
Dinner: 18:00 – 23:00 (Mon- Sat)