Good Eats

Good Eats: A.K.A. (Kanazawa)

**A.K.A closed down for about 2 years (2014-2016) but now seems to be reopening/reopened closer to the Higashi-Chaya district near Share Hotels Hatchi. Check their website for details.

For a small city on the Sea of Japan coast, Kanazawa delivers a weighty culinary punch. On my trip through the region in the fall, I researched my options and ended up booking two meals in advance here so as not to miss out on some fantastic food. The first, an omakase (chef’s choice) dinner at a hidden sushi bar was a revelation in what sushi is supposed to taste like and I’ll likely not find its equal – for the same price at least – again.

My second dinner was more of an unknown quantity. I reserved a “short” course meal at Atelier Kitchen for Artisans, or A.K.A., a small restaurant in the Katamachi district known for giving up-and-coming culinary graduates a chance to hone their skills and show off their flair. When I walked in, I shown to a seat at the bar. Aside from a party of 10 work colleagues at a table behind me, I had the restaurant – and the staff – to myself.

The exterior of A.K.A.

The exterior of A.K.A.

My first course was a thick potato soup with a dash of sweet cream topped with a leek and a beautiful flower petal – a great start in the flavor department and not too overpowering.

First course

First course

My second plate was the zensai, or appetizer plate, a mishmash of bites that I couldn’t catch fast enough in my server’s explanation to write them all day. All I know is that there were appearances by some old Japanese favorites – miso, mushroom, daikon – and some rather unconventional tastes – candied orange and pesto.

Appetizer course - forgive the lighting

Appetizer course – forgive the lighting

My clear soup course had a delectable shrimp and edamame dumpling in it and the sashimi course that followed was nearly as good as what I’d been served the evening before at my sushi dinner. But it still was no match for the crab gunkanmaki (sushi roll) that followed, stuffed with the best specimens from the nearby waters and topped with the crustacean’s own innards. I’ve never gotten so euphoric over innards before, I must admit. Delicious. 

Crab roll and bite of fish

Crab roll and bite of fish

A jelly-like mushroom and crab concoction with a delicate sweet potato cracker preceded the rice and miso course. I was growing quite full – short course indeed! – but managed to find room for the plate of mini desserts. I admit that sweets aren’t their strong point – the apple jelly was great but the poundcake and pudding were just so-so.

Rice and miso course

Rice and miso course

For an eight course meal, AKA was a steal at ¥3800 and the caliber of the food is up there. However, I recently checked their website and noticed that evening prices seem to have gone up (courses now start at  ¥5800). Aside from dessert, I had one dish that I didn’t personally consider a winner and the rest were incredibly solid additions to the menu. If the new pricing tier looks a tad too much for your wallet (top course is  ¥10800), it seems they are now open for lunch as well at very reasonable rates. Staff don’t have much foreign language ability at all but unless you want a detailed ingredient list, they should be able to accommodate.

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