December 23, 2022
Hiroshima restaurant Akai subtracts distractions
Hiroshima Prefecture’s Itsuku-shima Shrine is a well-known World Heritage site. The restaurant Akai occupies an 80-year-old house on a hill, just under 10 minutes on foot from the station. Behind the eight-seat counter, Hiroshima-born chef and owner Kenji Akai brings his skills to bear. Following an apprenticeship at two well-known restaurants in France, he won the grand prix in 2017’s RED U-35, a competition for chefs under age 35.
For both lunch and dinner, an omakase menu is the only option. The first dish is always a lacquer bowl of okayu, a simple rice porridge. Additions vary with the seasons. For Akai, the okayu with fresh peanuts that he serves in fall is a particularly special dish. “I first made it four or five months after we opened in May 2019, and it was a turning point for me. It came together with hardly more than water, salt and the two main ingredients. This one dish determined the direction of the restaurant.”
The porridge is fragrant with fresh autumn rice and peanuts. The simplicity of the dish leaves no room for culinary trickery. Seasoned with salt and olive oil from Etajima, it pairs nicely with wine.
Akai keeps the focus on ingredients throughout the rest of the menu. “I use as many ingredients from Hiroshima as possible, but not because they’re from Hiroshima. I use them because I’m satisfied with the quality,” Akai said.
A French-style red wine sauce finally appears with the main meat dish. “People often ask me about that,” he said. “Since I’m aiming for a flavor that’s not ‘too delicious,’ I almost never use French cooking techniques that concentrate umami. My cooking doesn’t fit any category. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it my personal style.”
Although the area is a famous tourist destination, until now it has had no gourmet restaurants. It is significant that Akai has chosen this area for his venture.
Governor of Hiroshima
It is my great pleasure that Akai, a restaurant created with passion by chef Kenji Akai, has been selected as one of the prestigious Destination Restaurants 2022.
The charm of Hiroshima Prefecture is packed into the space of a beautifully refurbished traditional house and a course meal that uses plenty of ingredients from our prefecture.
We hope that this award will encourage as many people as possible to visit Hiroshima Prefecture with the purpose of enjoying a rich food experience at Akai.
Mayor of Hatsukaichi
We are very proud that Akai has been selected as a Destination Restaurant 2022.
When you listen to the voices of the ingredients and partake of a dish that adds magic to them, you will experience a fresh and mysterious feeling.
The chef says his cooking style “doesn’t fit into any category” and that is without a doubt the right description.
Please enjoy your fill of dishes that draw out the original power of the ingredients to their utmost limit, paired with carefully selected wines.