UPDATE: AKA is now closed.
When HK nights got too steamy and we needed a place to cool down, there was no better place to go in LKF than Balalaika’s ice bar. However, Balalaika seemed only to be popular with hot people (their body temperature, not their level of physical attractiveness!) and tourists, and couldn’t handle Hong Kong rents… so standing in its place now is AKA Japanese Cuisine & Lounge.
At Balalaika, I never really went any further than the freezer-style bar in the entrance, so had no idea how large the space was – it’s huge! AKA uses it well, with warm eggshell colours and generously spaced seating. A closed off balcony overlooks Lan Kwai Fong, and a separate room at the back serves omakase (with a minimum spend of $800 per person – ouch). AKA also changes from a restaurant to a ‘lounge bar’ with DJs at 11pm; I found the space visually rather bare and masculine, but perhaps this makes it easier to serve its two purposes.
The menu seemed to go on forever and left me confused and intimidated, unsure where to start or what to order. We decided to follow our waiter’s recommendation of sharing one set menu between us and ordering a few extra dishes to bulk it out. In fact, the $680 eight-course set would have been far too much food for one and would have probably sufficed for two, although some dishes were more difficult to share than others.
The set started with a Wa Fu Salad and some salmon fish balls. Both were simple yet delicious dishes. The fish balls were tender and crumbly, garnished with pickles that brought out the delicate flavour of the fish. What made the salad special was the light citrusy yuzu ponzu dressing.
To follow came a beautiful little bowl of assorted sashimi served on ice. AKA receives two daily deliveries from Japan, so the choice of fish varies depending on what’s available. Our selection of sweet prawn, yellowtail and salmon was delicious and we could instantly appreciate their freshness.
Although a little difficult to share, the assorted tempura was just right: a light delicate batter encasing beautifully tender prawn, mushroom and pepper. You can’t go wrong with good tempura!
A traditional bonito soup (also a little tricky to share) was like a lighter, less salty version of a miso soup and included lovely little colourful dumplings. However, the definite highlight of the set menu was the assorted selection of nigiri, which again varies on a daily basis. I loved the swordfish and was surprisingly wowed by the mackerel.
Another of my favourite dishes of the night was the homemade udon in soup. The slightly al dente texture of the noodles was perfect and I found the whole thing wonderfully soothing and wholesome.
From the a la carte menu, we chose yakitori chicken, asparagus and bacon rolls, and Urume Iwashi (grilled sardines). While the chicken and asparagus were delicious, the sardines were completely charred and tasted horribly burnt. We also tried the Bar Bar Chirashi (above), a huge bowl of sticky sushi rice topped with seven kinds of raw fish, avocado and egg, which was beautiful.
To complete our set, we were each given a scoop of black sesame ice cream, the perfect end to a delicious meal.
As dishes are often small, Japanese food has the tendency to sneakily become very expensive. Our bill came to $1,180 for the two of us, not including drinks. We also tried a couple of cocktails; if you want to make a night out of it, I’d recommend the lychee and cucumber cocktail, although beware… it’s stronger than it initially seems!
Food-wise, AKA are doing everything (apart from the sardines) right to be a great restaurant, yet I was surprised at how empty it was. It’s still very new and perhaps it fills up later in the evenings, but I do hope people will give it a try and help it to become the success that it deserves to be.
AKA Japanese Cuisine & Lounge, M/F, LKF Tower, 55 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong, 2840 0007
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!