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Akasha... ready on Day 1

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It had been awhile since I had been strong armed to a table in a popular restaurant but such is the persuasion of my very good friend, the promoter, that arriving this past Tuesday at the newly opened Akasha without a reservation at the peak of the lunch hour rush, we were ushered to a lovely table on the banquette against their now famous unfinished cemented east wall. As another friend is fond of saying we all need someone in our life who holds the plane and stops the clock when necessary, and so it goes that my lunch companion on that day could sell ice to an Eskimo. That having been said it is worth pointing out that the host staff handled this all too familiar predicament with courtesy and consideration. In fact, service throughout was exemplary with servers who knew the menu, busboys who refilled glasses regularly and a food runner who replaced the necessary silver when delivering the food. The day before when the server, Megan, came back to assure us that our white bean hummus with garlic flatbread was on the way I wanted to stand and shout, "Yes we can!"

Understand that this was the second of three back to back lunches here this week partly by design, in part serendipitously; each visit underscoring the realization that in their opening days Akasha has better service than some neighboring operations after an entire year. Most telling was that on the third day, Wednesday, my business companions chose Akasha because they didn't want to deal with the attitude of an acclaimed nearby establishment. Service may not be everything in our food driven world but it does matter more and more in my opinion. Why does Akasha get it? Chalk it up to a strong catering background, perhaps, where running water and electricity are often not guaranteed and a management staff, headed by Daniel the G.M., who clearly deems it necessary to instill it.

As for the food, I feel like a bit of a convert, having ordered a vegan dessert, yes VEGAN, three times but such is the salty chocolate ganache like tart with whipped soy cream. Don't faint. It really is good. I'm not a faux burger kind of guy but I would gladly order the ground turkey burger again for all its spiciness and that brioche bun; but am more likely to order the very good beef burger that you can get with a side of delicious salt and pepper rice flour crusted onion rings. A lemongrass chicken salad was light and refreshing with ginger while a table next to us raved about their macaroni and cheese which we spied as having a nice burnished crust. My friend the promoter, who is also an avowed carnivore, was very happy with her quinoa salad though the requested removal of the carrots did not occur. I said exemplary not perfect.

Organic is the operative word here and I would add flavorful as well. Although I can't quite remember individual prices suffice it to say that the lunch menu pricing is closer to Tender Greens than either Ford's or Fraiche (while the interior reminded us of Zuni and its high arched windows) with our lunch totals breaking down as follows: Monday for two: $61.00 for two beers, three apps, two entrees and a dessert; Tuesday for two: $39 for one app, two entrees and one dessert and iced tea; Wednesday for three: $84 for two apps, three entrees, three desserts (the apple tart is also a homerun with a wonderfully flakey crust), coffee and tea. A top notch wine list offers a small interesting selection of boutique wines including those from Liocco, Lang & Reed ($42 for a bottle of the '05 Cabernet Franc) and Forman to name but a few. This happy Eskimo will gladly return.

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