I was downtown Vancouver with a handful of foodies, and we were in search of a nice sit down meal. A few of us rattled off a few places we have visited and liked in the area. And when we came to the possibility of “Aki”, we all agreed; after hearing this was one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and one of the first Japanese restaurants to open in Vancouver. However this isn’t their first location. They originally opened on Powell, between Chinatown and Gastown. And even with the move, they have kept the same menu that has given them so much success for the past fifty years.
The restaurant was spacious, more suitable as a lounge with vaulted ceilings and spacious booths. Warm in rich reds with their wooden walls and cushy upholstery. Definitely the type of setting you want to elongate your time within.
The one who recommended the place comes specifically for their uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon eggs). She declared it the finest in the city, with the restaurant owner confirming that they are always flown in fresh from Japan, unless it is in season in Vancouver. (This is in summer.)
So naturally three of us had to have some in the “Uni and ikura don”, which was done with no regrets. Sea urchin and salmon roe in a bowl of seasoned rice. They all agreed on its really clean flavour, stating it was not the least bit overly fishy. Then they made plans to return again.
Our host also suggested the “Nabeyaki udon” as another one of her other go-tos. Prawn tempura, chicken, fish cake, vegetable, and egg in noodle soup. It was filling with a good variety of ingredients to pick and choose from. And best of all the serving stayed hot in the clay both. A good thing, as broth is best warm, and every sip can be as comforting as it smells and looks.
Our host herself was keen on her self selected sushi platter. Two of each nigiri: uni, ikura, and scallop nigiri. She too found the quality of fish as fresh and tasty as the others did.
I, on the other hand was indecisive of what to get. There were so many unique things on the menu that caught my eye, but eventually I went for what my tummy wanted at the time, the “Katsu curry” with a deep fried pork cutlet. Although sadly, it didn’t satisfy. Where I was expecting a sweet Japanese style curry, this one was spicy and overly peppery. Good if I wanted those rich flavours. If only there was more rice, to enjoy it with and to help balance out the strong flavours. That and a lot more of the palette refreshing, tangy ginger. Although I did like the heartiness of the curry with the chunks of potatoes and slices of carrots mixed in.
For dessert I couldn’t pass up trying their “Kinako vanilla ice cream with maple syrup”. To it you have the option of adding in red bean and coffee jelly, like I did here. Each element was great on its only, and was only heightened by the creamy gelato used as base. This is a sundae that I would go back for and one that I would ask to take out next time around.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given the restaurant’s heritage and this successful first taste, I would definitely like to come back and try more of what they offer. Next time I would ask for and take the owner’s suggestion, as I did find the menu hard to sort through without photos or much more explanation. Don’t deny your cravings.