The Conquest Continues
It may be a little known fact that Michelin-starred Chef Akira Back, who has recently opened one of Jakarta’s hippest Japanese restaurants, began his formative years not under the tutelage of some Japanese grandmaster, but as a pro-snowboarder in Colorado.
It might even seem irrelevant, but in fact, it’s far from being so since this Korean-born, Colorado-raised chef combines his culinary art with his taste for adventure. The result is embodied within a wonderfully creative menu that whisks guests on an authentic Japanese gastronomic voyage, but always with a hint of Korean attitude and fun.
Following the opening of his first international restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi, Chef Back, with encouragement from businessmen Manoj Punjabi, Reino Barack and Rudi Widjaja, turned his eye east towards Jakarta.
The brand new Akira Back has a modern, minimalist feel – its warm and subdued colours and quirky hexagonal decorations play against the Jakarta skyline, which is clearly visible from the 12th floor of MD Place Building, where the restaurant is located.
As you exit the elevator, the first thing you will notice is the illuminated Akira Back sign set amidst dark rich woods. The sign is multi-purpose and separates the left wing with bar and lounge from the right wing, which includes the restaurant and private rooms.
Akira Back builds upon the success and brand of his famous Las Vegas Restaurant, Yellowtail, where he won his first Michelin star. Yellowtail is regarded by many as the finest traditional and contemporary Japanese food in Nevada and many of the dishes offered in Jakarta are near identical. The menu Back has created is a combination of cold and hot small plates as well as a legion of fresh seafood, all presented and served with the utmost care.
The menu is, of course, evolving in the newly opened hang-out and dishes will probably be added and removed as popularity dictates. But here’s a small selection of what was on offer the day we visited.
From the Sharing Menu we tried the Akira Back Tacos – five bite-size pieces perfectly crisp on the outside with deliciously seasoned Wagyu galbi and spicy tomato ponzu sauce crammed inside. A scrummy taster that caused more than one squabble over the fifth piece!
Next was the Pop Rockin’ Roll – one of the sushi signature creations and, like much on the menu, this dish tips its hat to Akira’s diverse culinary and ethnic influences. Inside the roll is a spicy crabstick, asparagus and lemon pop rocks that crackle in your mouth. The tiny explosions come with a hint of refreshing sourness from the lemon crystals… crazy but marvellous.
Then came the classic Miso Black Cod – simple yet startlingly complex, the sweet and savoury cod came topped with a beetroot foam. Another creative and unusual dish, this lightly braised cod, marinated in a Japanese chilli pepper and miso sauce prior to cooking, was simply divine.
Back’s Slow Cooked Wagyu Short Ribs are a meat lover’s dream. The Wagyu is cooked for 48 hours resulting in a deep, complex and lasting flavour and a tenderness that is unbelievable. Amazingly, the beef retains a medium-rare pinkness, (how does he do that?) and comes served with baby veggies and quail eggs.
The surprisingly large Ginger Crème Brûlée – another direct lift from Yellowtail – arrived beautifully presented on a stone serving platter. It was smooth, creamy and full of flavour underneath its hard skin and made the perfect closing dish for a fantastic lunch.
The Executive Chef entrusted with helming Akira Back is Indonesian Chef Andri who, during his many years in the US, has developed a long and fruitful working relationship with Chef Akira. With an outstanding menu, an excellent location and significant backing, it will no doubt be exciting to watch the young Indonesian excel in what could become one of Jakarta’s finest restaurants.
MD Place, Penthouse level, Jalan Setiabudi Selatan no.7,
Jakarta 12910, Indonesia
Tel: (+62) 21 290 40 777