Give me berries over any other fruit as for me personally there is nothing more delicious than biting into a ripe juicy plump berry, be it strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or blackberry. Other than the taste I find them visually appealing as they come in vibrant colors. And they are “health treasures” as these little wonders come packed with cancer fighting antioxidants which neutralize those dangerous villains called free radicals that cause cell damage in our body. Berries contain tons of vitamins, anthocyanidins which can slow down ageing and something called flavonoids (also found in red wine) which have a slimming effect on our bodies as they inhibit fat absorption.
You must be wondering why I am extolling the health benefits of this luscious “super food”. Well that’s because a few days back I got a chance to try out some great berry based dishes at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity’s contemporary Japanese restaurant Akira Back, where currently, there is food festival called “Berries and More” going on. It was a revelation to see seasonal berries being presented in a non-dessert form as they were incorporated in savory dishes and combined with seafood. I thought it was a brilliant way of making dining out a healthy option.
Hawaii born Chef Corey E Asato who heads the team at Akira Back, suggested I begin my meal with Strawberry Salad featuring juicy strawberries, thinly sliced cucumbers, mixed greens and balsamic reduction served with an amazu pepper dressing. The salad, though simple, packed quite a punch. Fresh strawberries and balsamic reduction have a natural affinity for each other and the sweet tangy flavors in the salad were balanced nicely with the salty sharp amazu dressing.
The next dish I tried was Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu. Tataki, which is basically pan seared meat or fish, is a very popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants. So in case you have a fear of eating raw fish (sashimi) I suggest you try Tataki as it’s a great way to eat tuna. This dish had some interesting components like truffled amazu ponzu shaved onions, micro pea shoots & renkon chips (Japanese lotus roots same as our nadru or kamal kakri). Berries were used more than just a decorative garnish here as the berry wasbai tosazu was layered with acidity and umami flavors and helped in bringing the dish together.
Negami with Raspberry Ginger was next on the table. In simple English this was skewered grilled chicken basted with a delicious raspberry ginger glaze, macha salt, the chicken pieces interspersed with curled negi (Japanese onion). This is a great option for the non-fish/seafood eating Delhi folks. The vegetarian version comes with roasted vegetables with cranberry ponzu (a tangy soy-based citrus sauce)
The last berry based savory dish presented before me was Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille served on a bed of Inaniwa Udon with lemon grass coconut broth. Since this was the first time I tried these noodles, Chef Corey explained that Inaniwa are hand-stretched & thinner than regular udon and are counted as one of Japan’s 100 best local dishes from rural areas. The noodles had a distinctive feel in the mouth as they had a firm body. As for the salmon, we all know it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and when combined with the goodness of berries, this was a super healthy delicious dish that I finished in no time.
I ended my meal with Panna Cotta garnished with fresh raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and a berry tuile providing a crunchy textural contrast.
Talking to Chef Corey Asato who along with Chef Tomoyuki Kiga has been entrusted with executing the vision of Chef Akira Back, I could easily see his passion for cooking and desire to learn and better himself by experimenting with various techniques and ingredients. Here he takes a classic cuisine like Japanese and with subtle twists, turns it into something so palatable that it suits Indian taste buds perfectly. It is not without reason that Akira Back has firmly established itself as the top fine-dine option for Japanese Korean cuisine, not just in Delhi but in India.
The pleasure of eating here increases manifold when you have people like Beverage Manager Ankur Chawla, one of India’s most knowledgeable sommeliers, to guide you through the well thought out wine list and explain about the various types of Sake (Japanese rice wine) like Jun Mai, Honjozo, Ginjo & Daiginzo on offer.
Believe me eating out becomes an experience to cherish.
By: Lavina Kharkwal
Berries & More 18th -27th February 2016
6 pm -11.45 pm
Akira Back at JW Marriott
New Delhi Aerocity