Panda Peeks — Akira
We were on the way back to our hotel after a long day of touring Tokyo. The homeward commute got us hungry so we immediately turned to the restaurant closest to our station’s exit. I ordered a bento box without even knowing what it came with; the menu was in Japanese and I just had to eat already. Upon tasting the appetizer, the first thing I said was, “I had this in Akira!”
Japan reminded me of Akira instead of the other way around, and that was when I knew that this restaurant might just be one of the most memorable Japanese fusions here in Metro Manila. I was already in Japan, but there I was craving Akira instead – a reaction that not just any restaurant could achieve.
That appetizer was Chawan Mushi, a native Japanese side dish that’s been perfectly re-crafted by Akira. It is a steamed egg custard with bits and pieces of prawns and chicken, finally topped with crabsticks. The serving was minimal given it came in a tea bowl as with tradition, but the taste only proved to be fuller than I thought in spite of that. I didn’t think that a couple of scoops would already get me hooked. It was also reminiscent of homemade lugaw, which made me love it even more. I enjoyed it so much that I saved it throughout the rest of my meal; I didn’t want it to run out.
Our meal also started off with Gyoza. It is a savory Japanese-style dumpling locally equivalent to our siomai. Akira’s version is meticulously wrapped and pan-fried just right, with a generous amount of wagyu beef (!!!) – placing it at the top of our Gyoza list by default. Wagyu on its own is one thing, but Wagyu as dumplings is something else completely.
We paired our set of appetizers with Akira’s signature Fruit Safari and Lychee-Lime mocktails – tasty concoctions made with honey, mint leaves, strawberries, cucumbers, oranges and lemons, all blended in crushed ice for a maximum boost of freshness. Aside from the great taste, the mocktails also worked perfectly as palette cleansers for the savory appetizers.
The live cooking demonstration and utensil exhibition was the climax of my Akira experience. We had the front row all to ourselves as the chef juggled meat and veggies with his spatula, all whilst seasoning and cooking the meal in the process. He even managed to make an egg ricochet from his spatula and into the top of his chef hat (which is now a skill added to my bucketlist). I had to wonder if there was such a thing as Cooking Olympics, because this felt a lot like it. His technique was amazing but it was hard to focus on his form when the slow cooking of the meat and seafood started to smell yummier and yummier by the minute. I wanted the exhibition to keep going but I also wanted it to end already – not because it was too long, but simply because I just wanted to eat everything already. I was already salivating without shame.
And then it was finally time to eat! Set A Japanese Wagyu came with chicken, shrimp, beef, mixed vegetables and additional separate servings of miso soup and fried rice. We also had another full plate of stir-fried mushrooms, string beans and sprouts. Finally tasting this thoroughly prepared banquet was worth the suspense of having it made right in front of me. It tasted like everything I imagined it to be, but even better now that the wagyu cubes were finally on their way to where they rightfully belong: my happy tummy. Every plate that came with Set A had something wonderful in store for us – from the freshly cooked meat and seafood, to the crunchy moist veggies, to the flavorful fried rice, right down to the steamy bowl of Miso! With five other sets available on their menu, I can’t imagine ever running out of authentic Japanese dishes to try and keep retrying in Akira. No need to book a flight to experience the authenticity of Japanese food when you can simply have the taste of Japan delivered right at your doorstep!
Christa is a visual artist who spends most of her time illustrating stories in her head alongside looking up pictures of sloths online. She relies on crunchy tacos and/or egg-wrapped Pad Thai to fuel her creativity without limits.