More belated birthday blogging...
My determination to mark my birthday with uncharacteristic financial prudence was swiftly eliminated by a simple counter-argument - that special occasions are meant for splurging, and if we don't go to Akane now, it'd be another year before we could justify going again.
The only problem is that, now that we've been, I want to go every day.
Akane, by way of quick introduction/refresher, is located at the Japanese Association of Singapore, and is the flagship restaurant of Nogawa-san, Singapore's godfather of Japanese cuisine. The Nogawa group includes two other restaurants under the Nogawa name - at Sentosa Golf Club (read about our dinner for Philippe's birthday here) and Le Meridien - but it's at the Japanese Association Akane that Nogawa-san actively presides.
And indeed it's hard to miss him. A collage of photos featuring Nogawa-san alongside various local and foreign luminaries (including our own MM and President Nathan) marks the end of the entry corridor. Behind the sushi counter, his deep tan, even deeper wrinkles and bustling energy is unmistakable. The boss is here!
Our initial intimidation, however, proved unfounded. Nogawa-san was unreservedly friendly, even grandfatherly, as he educated us on a variety of topics ranging from the mating habits of sea bream to the genealogy of burdock roots. The charisma seemed infectious, with sushi chef Anson taking equally good care of us throughout the night.
As for the food, the sashimi and sushi were definitely the stars. Philippe's initial reaction upon sampling the sashimi platter was that we had never tried these fish before; the sad truth was that we had many times - this was just so superior a version that you could not mentally link what Akane was serving with the limp and rubbery pieces that pass for sashimi elsewhere.
Sashimi, including otoro, sea bream, mackerel, octopus, akagai
The sashimi was really sparklingly fresh, incredibly sweet and varied in flavour, and, in the case of the otoro, so chockful of fatty goodness that honestly. the marbling had marbling. Since the word "sublime" has now been outlawed from food blogging, I shall simply say that this is the stuff that happiness is made of :)
Likewise, the sushi that rounded off our meal was meaty yet delicate, often accompanied by a light searing, a crisp pat of grated ginger or a splash of tart sauce. I loved the way the fish carelessly blankets the rice so that the flavours and texture of the fish can really shine through. I took pictures only of the two below, but in addition we had eggplant sushi, botan ebi sushi, mackerel sushi, baigai shell and a couple more.
Seared otoro sushi
The rest of the dishes we were served, omakase style, were well-executed and enjoyable, but, unlike the sashimi and sushi, none really stood out as dishes I would obsess about and come back specifically for. In particular, although the otoro soup was luxurious with its large otoro chunks that literally dissolved in your mouth, at $65 for two bowls I would've preferred a simple seafood soup and otoro sashimi instead. Likewise the grilled saba and braised red snapper with burdock root were delicious, but the repetition of fish in every dish began to wear somewhat thin.
Starter of anglefish liver
Braised red snapper with burdock root
Can't remember too much about our last pre-sushi savoury dish, except it (finally!) did not contain fish, and seemed to be the chef's take on takoyaki - a tempura-ed mashed yam ball with some secret filling (ok I've forgotten) inside. Fun but forgettable.
Dessert was a simple plate of fresh persimmon and pear slices with a cup of strong oolong tea. Nice but we enviously noted that the group of young Japanese next to us had marinated mixed fruit in persimmon cups instead, which was featured in Yoshihiro Murata's Kaiseki as a classic autumn dessert. Missed my chance :(
Conclusion: If I won a million-dollar lottery tomorrow, I would superglue my butt to Akane's counter seats and omakase myself to a bloated yet joyful death. Till then, I'm saving my money for the sashimi and sushi (definitely worth their premium price) and filling any leftover space in my stomach with the restaurant's reasonably priced udon.