Akari, N1 8LZ

Japanese restaurant in Islington, just near Essex Road Station.

The building is a former pub, with large windows offering a view onto the traffic of Essex Road. It's therefore appropriate enough that Akari is an izakaya, which is the Japanese version of a pub. Indeed, according to the Pubs Galore comments linked below, it seems to be possible, if unusual, to come in just for a drink.

The menu features lots of small dishes cooked in an open kitchen, and your food is brought to your table as soon as it's ready, rather than everything arriving at once. They also have a good selection of drinks, including Asahi and Kirin Ichiban on draught, Asahi Black and a couple of other Japanese bottled beers, cocktails, plum wine, and various sakes and shochus.

Kake and several friends visited on a Sunday evening in September 2011. We'd booked in advance, which was probably a good idea given the size of our party as the place filled up quite quickly.

Tofu tosa-age (£5) photo was quite a generous portion; four large cubes of tofu coated in starch and bonito flakes, deep-fried and then served in a beautifully savoury thin broth. The coating was perhaps a little too thick; it wasn't too easy to bite through. The broth was really good though.

Small assorted sashimi (£11.60) photo was fine, with good fresh fish and a reasonable selection (two tuna, two salmon, yellowtail, seabass, sweet prawn, and scallop). Umeshiso maki (£2.90) and avocado maki (£2.90) were just as they should have been too, with the avocado neither hard nor mushy.

Given the quality of the rest of the food, it's a shame that the chocolate tofu mousse (£4.60) photo was disappointing. Described on the menu as having "a hint of amaretto, pistachio and mint", it was just quite bland, with none of the promised flavours really detectable, and even the chocolate quite subdued.

Kake's verdict: I liked it here and would come back, though I'd skip dessert next time.

Stig Brautaset used to visit frequently a few years before this, and adds: I'm a big fan. I love their udon and soba noodles. They're the best I've had anywhere. The duck slices are also fantastic — unbelievably tender and supremely tasty. Try the calpico soft drink. The place isn't cheap, exactly, but it's reasonably priced. I usually end up paying somewhere between £15 and £20 a head before drinks.

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Last visited by Kake et al., September 2011. Opening hours taken from the Akari website, January 2012.
OS X co-ord: 532153 OS Y co-ord: 184111 (Latitude: 51.540433 Longitude: -0.095811)
Last edited 2012-01-16 16:09:58 (version 10; diff). List all versions.