Thursday, June 17, 2010

Akami Japanese Restaurant

Wifey and I continue to live in harmony. In the mornings these days I often wake up early and cook breakfast, which can be anything from fried rice to baked beans on toast. After that, I'll often be unable to resist checking my email, while Heather will drink coffee and stare into space.

The unspoken rule is that whoever cooks is exempt from dishwashing duties, although it isn't always followed. One thing I've noticed about Heather is that she likes to have the appropriate washing equipment. One of my more memorable quotes has been "Give me a sponge, and I can wash the house". Heather, on the other hand, has multicolored gloves for washing the dishes, a special toothbrush for cleaning bathroom nooks, and wears an apron while she vacuums.

I have a theory that females are generally more inclined than men toward keeping living spaces clean because it provides a more sanitary environment for children. And I don't really think that's being chauvinist. Natural selection isn't always politically correct.

Akami is a Japanese restaurant near Heather's workplace at the Seoul National University subway station. It's about 75 metres from Exit 6 if you come straight out of the exit and swing around to the left (don't cross the main road).

Heather did what she always does when we go into a restaurant for the first time. First she inspects the tableware, then the surroundings and then the menu. After she has taken two bites of the food, she will announce a verdict, either the restaurant is good, or it isn't. The reputations of restaurants across the globe have soared to gastronomical heights or withered to sundried dust at the whim of her decrees.

Chinese cooking has always appealed to me the most, for its robust flavours and variety of styles. Second on the list would be Italian and then Japanese food. Most Japanese food in Korea, however, leaves a little to be desired if one has had the experience of consuming it in Japan. I guess the same rings true for everywhere in the world, which is that the best place to eat foreign food is in that particular country.

Outback Steakhouse not excluded.

We ordered a set menu for around $35 per head, which started with this plate of sushi. The orchid flower was real and the rice beds were small and well-packed. I read about a study once where some researchers performed MRI scans on sushi rice packed by machines, as well as amateur chefs and master chefs. Not surprisingly, the machines were not very good, but the difference between the other two was that the master chefs create more air bubbles between the rice grains, which gives it a more fluffy texture.

Sting my eyes with kimchi juice for saying so, but I've always thought Japanese sake to be an order of magnitude superior to Korean soju.
Good sake is a golden fluid made from rice with subtle floral hints, but soju is an obnoxious concoction of tapioca peelings, recycled paper and goodness-knows-what. A curious thing is the advertising campaigns that run on the screens in the subway here. Good looking females will drink a glass cup of soju, and then give a cute little grimace as the imaginary shock of turpentine flavour hits their palate.

I'm not sure whether this was mackerel or tuna, but oily omega-3 rich fish fillets have always been a favourite of ours. I'd cook more fish at home, if it were more convenient. Did you know that omega-3 reduces heart disease and has been linked with better moods?

This platter had various UEOs (unidentifiable edible objects) layed out for our perusal, one of which I believe was a large sea snail of some sort. The scallop in the foreground had little black dots on the rim of it's outermost flesh, which are light-sensing devices that are technically simple eyes. Scallops are interesting creatures, their eyes are bright blue when they're alive and can protrude outside the shell. They can also swim through the water by rapidly clapping their shells together.
Higher molluscs such as octopuses evolved from shellfish like scallops, so imagine a shellfish with tentacles that eventually lost the shell. Cuttlefish and squid are the same, although the cuttlefish retained part of its 'shell' as a calcified internal bone that it uses for buoyancy.

The sashimi here was fresh and much better than your usual Dokdo-chamchi franchise, which sell all-you-can-eat frozen tuna.
One of the biggest differences between sashimi in Korea and Japan is that it's often served frozen here. I guess its because there's no access to deep sea fish at the morning markets. Frozen fish is fine, but it just tastes a little bland.

This steamed egg dish came out toward the end, and was light and fluffy, although we were too full to enjoy it a lot. These are fairly easy to make, just beat some eggs in an open bowl and steam for around 5 minutes. You can add chicken stock if you want to.

At the end of the day I was quite pleased with our value for money and the atmostphere at Akami. I thought it was a fairly exceptional restaurant for the Gwanak-gu area.

But most importantly, did the flavours within please the Dark Lord of the Sith?



Anonymous said...

Reading this blog makes me want to quit blogging. Pure and simple the blog is superior to most I have viewed and read. It is both entertaining and informative and of course it is not often we can sit and dine with a Master Taster whose mere whisper can cause ruination or an explosion in the popularity of an unknown eatery. My compliments to the Blogger and may I say his beautiful bride added immeasurably to the production and success of this successful production. Good Job, Lee.

Lee Farrand said...

Thank you Bill. The Lady of the House is most pleased with your comment.

xenok said...

it's unfair to compare soju and sake. One's made for cheap mass consumption, the other is (usually) made with more artisan care(?). Soju does mix well with a whole bunch of stuff though.

Goku said...

"Did you know that omega-3...has been linked with better moods?"

Then why are many ajosshi's a**hats?

I kid, I kid.

On soju vs sake I agree with xenok above. It's a apple vs orange comparison.

ZenKimchi said...

That mystery Omega-3 fish is Mero 메로. Some call it sea bass.

JIW said...

Good post...I put it in..