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The Akaari, a temple of fresh sea food

Update: February, 25/2018 - 09:00
Sea veggies: A delicious dish of seaweed with flying fish roe salad. VNS Photos Hồ Hoàng
Viet Nam News
by Hoàng Hồ
Since the first time my mother made me shushi five years ago, I’ve been fascinated with Japanese food and culture. Last week, my appetite for Japanese food rose strongly and I started to look at several eateries in Hà Nội. I asked my friend Keisuke Ishiguro to choose one and invited him to go with me. As a Japanese working in Hà Nội for five years, he has tried in many places.
This time, our destination was Akaari located in a peaceful street beside Văn Miếu, the Temple of Literature. Opposite the ancient structure is a lovely white house decorated with Japanese lanterns. This made a good impression for me. The elegant design of the restaurant is perfect for shushi, sashimi and all the other Japanese foods, especially seafood. 
“There are more than 100 Japanese restaurants in the capital, why did you choose Akaari? What is the best thing about it?” I asked.
“Just go in, try the food, experience the atmosphere and you will understand why,” Ishiguro replied confidently. When we entered through a simple wooden sliding door, the staff greeted us with a familiar Japanese welcome — Irasshai mase (welcome honourable guest). I was amazed by their friendliness.
The kitchen is in front and fresh food is stored inside glass cabinets. The dining room was really comfortable. Tables were separated by big cozy booths which provided absolute privacy. Many more customers arrived, mostly businessmen and women. 
We began our lunch with a Japanese trademark appetiser eda-mame (Japanese beans) for VNĐ42,000 and ginnan (ginkgo nut) for VNĐ45,000. While the beans were buttery and fresh, the ginnan was dry, sticky and slightly greasy and a little bit bitter, but was still pleasurable. That was just the start.
I let my Japanese friend order the main dishes. Ishiguro suggested sashimi (VNĐ620,000), tobikko-to-wakame sarada (seaweed with flying fish-roe salad) for VNĐ168,000, kaki soup (oyster soup) for VNĐ120,000, gindara shio (grilled snowfish with salt) for VNĐ238,000 - all with sake of course.
We started with sashimi and salad. The chef make such a delicate and attractive dish. Three slices of salmon and red-roe and yellow-roe herring placed neatly on big perilla leaves looked delicious. Alongside were dried seaweed and sliced turnip.
We used the seaweed to roll-up the salmon, herring, perillas and turnip to create a delicious summer roll. With wasabi soy sauce, the taste was wonderful. We could feel the freshness of the fish while enjoying the crunch of seaweed and other vegetables.
The flying-fish roe salad was made with wet seaweed, which provided a novel experience: fresh, salty and slippery. Together with sesame sauce and sliced cabbage it combined to make a perfect taste. I was impressed with the roe. Inside my mouth, the roe popped open and the delicious, salty delicacy from the sea just melted in my mouth.
Ishiguro suggested: “Try mixing it up and use the salad with the sashimi, it will be much better.” I tried, and certainly agreed.
Favourite: Sashimi is one of the signature dishes from Akaari that you must try.
Yum: Salmon-grilled rice balls are a luscious looking dish.
Spacious: Akaari is located near Văn Miếu (The Temple of Literature).
Before the waiter brought in the kaki soup, we could smell the oysters and could hardly wait as the salty aroma filled our booth. There were two oysters in each bowl of soup, so the flavour was stronger. I could sense all the nutrients were mixed in the broth used to make the soup. The oysters were buttery and so fresh.
I was so impressed, I inquired where the ingredients came from. “All our oysters are imported from Japan and Canada on a daily basis, that’s why they are so fresh and healthy," said a waiter. For me, that confirmed Akaari’s reputation.
I was really pleased with the service as the servers were friendly and enthusiastic. They were always there whenever we needed something and didn’t hesitate to offer explanations.
The best part came when the gindara shio was served. First, I thought it was going to be just another fish, but it was extraordinary, wonderful! The slice of snowfish had few bones, so they were easy to avoid. It was the first time I had tasted fish so delicious.
The dish also contained fresh vegetables, including salad with carrots,  to make it tastier and more attractive. The snowfish is imported directly from Japan, an important factor in serving up the best and the freshest in the middle of Hà Nội.
At the end, we were so full and satisfied that we ordered one more set of yaki onigiri-sake (salmon grilled rice ball) to take away. — VNS
Akaari Restaurant
Address: 5 Văn Miếu St, Hà Nội’s Đống Đa District
Phone: (024)73089995/097148333
Hours: 9am to 11pm
Comment: Authentic Japanese cuisine with modern flair served in a spectacular setting, cosy ambience and refined hospitality.

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