Aka Teppan brings DIY teppanyaki to the Annex. Meats come sizzling on an extremely hot teppan plate, and your task is to mix it with rice, vegetables and a selection of sauces.
It's hard to shake off the feeling that Aka's concept is evocative of Pepper Lunch , the popular DIY steak/teppan chain that has multiple locations across Asia. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that the restaurant features something that its Asian mass-market counterpart doesn't - variety.
Not only is there a wide selection of rice-and-meat combos to choose from but there are also interesting drinks, a range of appetizers and fusion forms of teppan such as pasta and udon.
We started off with some signature drinks. The Nakafurano Lavender has a strong lavender taste that may be an acquired taste for some. Still, it's not overwhelming and is a refreshing option to wash down the food that follows.
The Okonomiyaki Fries are battered fries with bonito flakes, green onions, and savoury Japanese mayo. It's just big enough for two people to share.
The Single-Boned Chicken Wings, spiced with Shichimi Curry ($5.99), is on the small side but packs a lot of flavour. Spice-fiends might lament that the curry doesn't pack too much heat but the meat is tender as it should be.
The Mentaiko Kimchi Beef Udon and the Supreme Beef Rice arrive next. We're told the udon noodles are made to be intentionally chewier than most of your cookie-cutter ramen shop's udon. It's served covered in a sizzling hot herb cream sauce. It's the best udon I've had in recent memory.
The beef in the Supreme Beef Rice ($8.99) is served raw and we watch the staff graciously mix up the beef and garlicky rice until we tell them to stop. The teriyaki sauce it comes with ties the ingredients together without being too overwhelming. Garnished with generous amounts of sweet corn, this dish is like a whole meal to itself.
For dessert we try the Aka Tiramisu ($5.99), velvety smooth with crispy biscuit chunks at the bottom.
Finally, the Kokura Sesame Panna Cotta ($4.50) is essentially panna cotta with a sweet black sesame ice cream. The sweetness of the ice cream paired well with the pudding-like texture.
Along with the food, the space itself feels polished but also comforting. There is banquet type seating mixed with a range of table configurations. Wood and concrete feature predominantly here.
Photos by Hector Vasquez