Part One: There are times when you have a spectacular food experience. There are also times when you have excellent service. Akiba has both, and the combination is really quite something. Going for a solo lunch (apparently solo dining has become a thing), I was warmly welcomed and seated at the ‘raw bar’, the waitress explained, so I could watch and chat to the chef. This was very thoughtful and set the tone for my whole meal. I started with the strawberry and mint ‘Aki Pop’ – a soft drink served in a pre-opened bottle. It was sweet and refreshing, and I’m keen to go back to try their cocktails on the basis of this being so tasty. My first dish was the sashimi yellowfin tuna served with wasabi pannacotta and organic soy sauce – I watched the chef prepare it with care, including slicing the tuna delicately. There was a lot of both the soy sauce and the pannacotta, which, with the crunch of the fried onion crisps, was tasty, but which masked the tuna flavour a bit. When it came through though, there was a fantastic balance and richness to the dish that I loved. Everything sang of quality and care. To be continued…
Akiba, 40 Bunda Street, Canberra ACT http://www.akiba.com.au/
Not everybody is a ‘sushi for breakfast’ person, but if we’re talking Sushi Zanmai, I absolutely am. I dragged my colleagues out to Akihabara bright and early, promising that sushi at 7am was something they wouldn’t regret. Sushi Zanmai is open 24 hours and you are always met with a chorus of ‘irashaimasen’ to welcome you. Here, seating at the bar is best, so you can watch the sushi-san work and have a chat. The staff are super friendly and are always happy to give you their recommendations. On this occasion, we were the only people in the restaurant, and had a sushi-san to ourselves, so we started the nigiri feast with salmon, followed by tuna, mackarel, scallops, and unagi (eel). We tried the ootoro (top grade fatty tuna), but all found it a bit too fatty for our tastes. The highlight was the aburi tuna, which had sprigs of spring onion on top and just melted in your mouth. I’m pretty sure that piece alone managed to convince my colleagues of the wisdom of eating sushi at 7am. A must visit for a real Tokyo experience – although not necessarily for breakfast!
Sushi Zanmai, 1F Yodabashi Camera building, Akihabara Tokyo http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
When you Google ‘best Japanese in Cairns’, Ochacha is the first place to come up on the listing, and for good reason. I went on a Monday, which is lucky because they are closed on Tuesdays, for both lunch and dinner. I dined alone at lunch, and had a lovely chat in Japanese with the waitress who was visiting on a working holiday. It was a particularly hot day, so I opted for the zaru udon, cold udon noodles in a dipping sauce. The meal was so refreshing – the noodles were beautifully chewy and the flavour of the sauce took me right back to Japan. Having had such a nice lunch, I took my friend back there for dinner, and we feasted on sushi and sashimi. The aburi salmon nigiri sushi was the highlight, although I was impressed by the relatively large pieces of salmon and tuna sashimi on the two plates I ordered. The miso soup was hot, flavoursome and not too salty. My friend also ordered the chicken katsudon and we were both stuffed full of delicious Japanese food by the end. A must-visit for Japanese food fans.
Ochaha Modern Japanese Dining, 34 Lake Street, Cairns QLD, no website