Maison Akira review w PHOTOS
Since my dad's birthday and my parents' anniversary are a day apart, we pretty much always combine the celebration into one event. This year, my dad chose his favorite, Maison Akira in Pasadena. My parents, sister, husband and I arrived promptly at 6:30 pm on Saturday, giddy with anticipation.
Maison Akira's decor is very old-school, traditionally formal. No minimalist vibe here- there are French-country-inspired printed curtains and yellow walls. We were seated at a round table in very comfortable chairs while the manager warmly greeted my parents (they're "regulars" so to speak).
The first thing you notice about the place is how quiet it is. Although most of the tables were occupied, you could actually HEAR your own dining companions while barely noticing that of the other patrons. I think it actually may be the quietest restaurant in Los Angeles. It was a nice change from the usual construction-level noise at most places these days. We perused the menu and, while my dad and husband opted for the Menu Rabelais prix fixe with wine pairing (4 courses, 2 wines $68.00- a steal), the ladies decided to go a la carte with one appetizer and entree each.
After cracking open a Gary Farrell Pino Noir which we had brought with us, we were presented with the amuse bouche. A slightly seared piece of albacore sprinkled with red sesame seeds accompanied a small slice of terrine made up of soba noodles and a yuzu/dashi gelee. Both were very light and delicious- the perfect way to rev up your appetite.
Next came the men's first course- the Warm House Smoked Salmon on Micro Green and Lentil Salad in a Ponzu Pesto Vinaigrette. Although I failed to take a photo of it, I have to say it was one of the highlights of the night (thanks to my husband who let me have some!). The salmon filet was extremely flavorful with just the right saltiness which combined so well with the creamy white beans and lentils underneath the fish. Being a big fan of both ponzu and pesto, I loved the slightly tart and very refreshing dressing. This was accompanied by a lovely French sauvignon blanc.
The men's second course looked as good as it tasted- the Braised Shiitake Mushroom and Goat Cheese Topped with Crispy Leeks consisted of 2 meat slices of shiitake held together by a generous serving of tangy goat cheese. The veal demi glace that it was swimming in was delectable and mellowed out the sharpness of the goat cheese. It had a bit too much cheese for my taste, but we simply swiped the excess with the addictive mini baguettes from the bread basket and all was good in the world. My mom and I both ordered the Chilled Maine Lobster Salad with American Caviar in a Lemon Mirin Vinaigrette and we both weren't blown away. It came on a bed of cha soba (green tea soba noodles) which were overcooked. The lobster was on the bland side and even the generous dollops of caviar on each piece did not liven up the dish at all. My sister's Brandy Flamed Maine Lobster Bisque was also a disappointment- it was just "eh" and again needed more flavor. Since my dad makes The Best Lobster Bisque Of All Time, we have quite high LB standards and this one, as pretty as it was, just wasn't cuttin' it!
Onto the main courses. My husband chose the Grilled Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass in a Honey Lemon Jus on Roasted Provençal Vegetables which is Chef Akira's signature dish- and it didn't disappoint. The fish literally melts in your mouth - just delicious. My dad's Sautéed Rib-Eye Steak in a Green Peppercorn and Béarnaise Sauce with Vegetable Printaniér was also good, but having only had a small bite I can't really describe it well. Both men enjoyed the accompanying wines. Mom chose the Sansyo Pepper Dusted Tuna Served Rare in a Plum Wine Ginger Sauce with Wasabi Potato Mousseline which was excellent- especially the mashed potatoes. The greenest mashed pots you've ever seen, they are filled with the flavor of wasabi while lacking the extreme heat which would be overbearing. The Sautéed Canadian Scallops with Braised Endives & Chasoba Pasta in Lobster Jus that my sister ordered was good, but again- I thought the chasoba was overcooked. I have to say that my Pan Roasted Rack of Lamb in a Rosemary Sauce with Potato Mousseline & Seasonal Vegetables was absolutely DELECTABLE. The meat can only be described as succulently tender and juicy- I mean gnaw-on-the-bone-may-I-please-have-another succulent. I thought about keeping a bone as a keepsake but hey- it's a nice place so I probably shouldn't sneak scraps off the table. Truly the best lamb I have had in ages. The accompanying mashed potatoes and vegetables were nice but nothing compared to the star. The glass of Echelon Pino Noir that I ordered was a nice accompaniment.
Since it was my parents' anniversary/dad's birthday, the waitress brought out their signature dessert- a butter cookie basket filled with vanilla ice cream and fruit, topped with a pulled sugar dome. My husband had his choice of the dessert menu, which is a nice surprise since many prix fixe menus have a predetermined one. He chose the sheep's milk cheese with jam....I can't recall if it was boysenberry or blueberry but wow- the combo of the slightly hard manchego with the sweetness of that delicious jam was positively addictive. It comes with a tiny glass of fruity dessert wine (sorry- I failed to write this down!!). My sister's flourless chocolate cake looked beautiful but she thought it lacked the richness that is usually associated with that dessert.
Even though not every single dish was a homerun, I have to say we had such a wonderful time. Don't get me wrong- the food is outstanding for the most part. The service is impeccable without being stuffy, and the ambience makes it so easy to relax and really get comfortable. I haven't been there for lunch and look forward to going or getting one of their celebrated bento boxes to go. All in all, highly recommended for a special occasion.
Maison Akira Restaurant
Address: 713 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone: (626) 796-9501
It's odd that you didn't like the Chilled Maine Lobster Salad with American Caviar in a Lemon Mirin Vinaigrette. When I had it in Oct, that was one of the highlights of the night, along with the signature seabass. I actually thought the noodles were very good and offered a nice textural complement to the very sweet lobster and flavorful caviar. You may have just had it on an off night (or I on a good night) because that is an appetizer I would highly recommend.
re: GI Joe
Great review. I'm a big fan of Maison Akira. I love the signature sea bass. I get it everytime, which is good and bad. Bad, because I haven't tried much else, but I just can't seem to resist it. My husband loves the filet mignon. Sometimes, I think the room is too quiet. I feel like I have to whisper. It's definitely a great option in that area.
Love Maison Akira! Went last weekend after a friend that I recommened to Maison had both their Epicurean and Rabelais menu and said he liked the Rabelais menu better. It gave us the greatest excuse to go and see. We had the Epicurean last time and EVERYTHING was fantastic. Every course lead up to the main exquisitely and dessert made everything complete.
I have to say though... I did not like this better menu. Don't get me wrong. Food is still fantastic. As much as I like Chef Akira's sig dish, his lamb is so much better. The "Crispy Soft Shell Crab Tempura and Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi" is delicious. The soup I did not think much of but depends on the person.
If you're going, the Grilled Duck Foie Gras in a Port wine Truffle Sauce Daikon Confit is a MUST! DELICIOUS! *drool*
Here are some photos from last weekend at Maison. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mermy/se...
Nice review and photos!
I was just at Maison Akira about 3 weeks ago and did the fixed-price too. I wasn't blown away, and I would say it was partially due to the service. Standoff-ish and in general, not around! It was disappointing, especially since I was treating someone for her birthday!
I'm so glad you brought up how quiet the restaurant is -- that must be one of the reasons I feel so at home at Maison Akira and feel so relaxed throughout my meal. I really wish more restaurants paid attention to this detail. Lately, dining at so many restaurants with hard reflective surfaces has made me question my own hearing, because I really have to strain to distinguish the conversations at my table from neighboring tables amidst the clatter of knives and plates. Meh. And I'm really too young to be suffering from hearing loss yet!
I've had the Maison Akira bento boxes and they are great -- delicious and beautifully packed, and they hold up well on the trip to the Hollywood Bowl :)