Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Food Junkie #6: AK Restaurant + Bar

A famous chef, good vibes and atmosphere... but the food is just... "meh."

AK Restaurant just opened its kitchen on Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Venice Beach area) in November, 2008. It has attracted attention of media and top chefs, and it is one of the most talked-about restaurants in the area.

No wonder, the owner-chef is a famous former executive chef Conny Andersson of Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel. He has served the last 19 years at Four Seasons with his impeccable "international cuisine," combining his knowledge and experience in middle eastern, mediterranean, south east Asian and European cuisines. He combines all these essences with Scandinavian style(Andersson is from Sweden).

So, I went to AK Restaurant with a couple of friends Wednesday night. I didn't expect that it would be crowded but I made a reservation the day before anyways. The hostess who took my call was very nice and she even called me back Wednesday to confirm the reservation. Anyways, I'm glad I made the reservation. I got there at 7:30pm and the place was packed.

As I entered the restaurant, the hostess would greet you and take you to the seat. You will be sitting inside the restaurant, but somehow it gives you a feeling that you are actually sitting in the spacious patio or something. It is probably because the restaurant had a nice high ceiling. They play vibrant yet quiet house music catering to people drinking at the bar. The tables and chairs are of modern style and pretty comfortable. The waiters, waitresses and bartenders are young but professional and they all have a good friendly energy.

The kind of crowds for that night was young-adults from mid-20s to 50s and up, dressing semi-casually and some of them even dressy. Each table had an average of 4-6 people, eating from a clean rectanble-shaped white plates with designer silverware (note: the pictures I posted on this blog are not what I took. I just googled them). Because of the music, you kinda have to speak up when you are talking to a person across the table. I didn't mind it but for some people it could be a bit noisy. You would have the same experience in Chaya on Navy St. in Venice - the atmosphere is decent but music is slightly overpowering. But overall, I liked the semi-casual atmosphere in this restaurant.

Now let's talk about their food...

The drink selection was pretty good, they had variety of wines from different parts of the world and some beers from about 10 countries. I noticed there was a Japanese beer called Hitachino Nest White Beer. I'm from Japan but I've never heard of such a brand. Apparently, it's a locally-brewed beer in Ibaraki prefecture, some place that is not well-known for their beer. Maybe it's a good find. So we got curious and ordered that beer. Also, we had Stark Porter from Carnegie & Co., a Swedish beer. Well, Hitachino tasted just like Blue Moon and Stark Porter tasted like mild Guiness black beer. Hmm... meh.

Currently, AK has 9 appetizers, from steamed blue mussles to hoedgehog mushroom toast to good ol' onion soup. I wasn't too impressed with the selection so I passed on appetizers. Two of my friends who were with me ordered Young Frisée Salad with Smoked Salmon Loin and Artichoke Three Ways from the appetizer menu. I had a bite of Young Friée Salad and it was not bad at all. But mind you, the portion for each appetizer is barely enough for one person so don't expect to share one appetizer with more than 2 people, unless one tiny bite is enough.

They have some selectoins of beef, pork, chicken, lamb and seafood in the menu (price range is $23 - $34), but they are rather limited selections: only 11 main dishes in total you can choose from.

Kurobuta Pork Schnitzel caught my attention since kurobuta (black pig) is a Japanese version of Berkshire breed, a rare kind and considered first class. I was curious how it is made. Well, basically they made the meat very flat and stretched out by beating it like 10 million times with a butcher hammer and deep-fried it tonkatsu-style. The taste wasn't bad, but not impressive at all. Without the sauce (which tasted like a bootleg version of Worcestershire sauce), the meat does not taste much. It was tonkatsu-style but was not nearly as crispy as I expected in tonkatsu. It came with brown butter to put on the meat and apple braised red cabbage on the side (tiny, tiny portion). I did not know how to apply or enjoy them. If you go to a tonkatsu restaurant inside Mitsuwa grocery store in Torrance, you can get a much crispier and tastier tonkatsu for less than $10. I'm sorry Mr. Anderssen, I would have to choose Mitsuwa tonkatsu.

My friends had Diver Sea Scallops and some kind of salmon dish I forgot the name of. Both of them came with a very small portion even for a girl with small stomach. These looked more like appetizers. They did not comment on their food so I supposed they were... "meh" or less (I'm only guessing here though).

I like the location and the atmosphere of AK Restaurant. Maybe I just have a different taste or maybe I didn't ordered what I would like. And, maybe my expectation was too high because of the hype. But in my opinion, the taste quality will need a lot of improvement to satisfy the tongue of food lovers. The food presentation was decent, though :)

By the way, I saw Mr. Conny Andersson walking around bringing some food to some customers... in suits. Wait, if he was dealing with his favorite customers, who was cooking all these dishes? Shouldn't he be in the kitchen, hello? lol

OVERALL RATING: 5.7 / 10.0

WHAT'S GOOD: Good vibrant atmosphere. Good dating setting.
WHAT'S BAD: The food is just OK. Small portion for a regular eater.

AK Restaurant + Bar [Cuisine: International Cuisine]
633 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291

Budget per person:
Dinner: $55 (one appetizer, one main dish and one drink)
Brunch: $25

In mid-2009, AK Restaurant closed its business.

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