Location: 2627 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403. (310) 586-7469
Date: July 16, 2018 & July 21, 2021
Cuisine: Japanese Izakaya
Rating: Very Izakaya
I first went here when an old co-worker of mine from Ramen Roll invited me out to drink (and eat) at a local Izakaya (Japanese Tavern) little did I realize that it was the old Akbar Santa Monica space. Since then I’ve been back again.
As Akbar, it was always a favorite of mine and…
I probably ate here 100 times, several times a week for lunch while working at nearby Naughty Dog. The space is barely changed too. The new owner kept the walls, even the furniture, just adding some Japanese banners and sake bottles.
But the menu is very different 🙂 This is a parade of traditional and mildly reinterpreted Izakaya foods (that being Japanese tavern or bar food).
Kinpira Gobo. Julien cut burdock roots and carrots stir fried with sesame oil, flavored with soy sauce, sweet mirin, and spangle of sesame seed. This traditional dish is made here and has a nice crunch — basically Japanese cole slaw.
Zenmai-ni. Stir fried flowering fern, carrots, am noodle and bean curd simmered in bonito, soy sauce and mirin. Another lightly fermented dish with good texture. I particularly liked the bean curd.
Marinated Tofu. Lightly potato starched and fried tofu, marinated in the sauce of sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegar. Topped with chopped tomato, cucumber and zasai radish pickles. A variant on agadashi tofu. I was skeptical at first, but this was a delicious dish. The tofu type was a coarser tofu than I usually like but the textures were fabulous and I loved the tangy sauce.
Sunomono. Vinegar marinated cucumber salad with daikon radish, wakame seaweed and shrimp. A very nice homemade version of this classic dish.
Albacore and Avocado. Like a Japanese tuna/avocado tower.
Assorted sashimi. A small section of tuna, yellotail, and salmon sashimi.
Shiokara. Strongly salted squid and its guts. Yep, fermented squid guts. This is a classic Japanese drinking food and not for the uninitiated.
Takowasa. Chopped wasabi marinated chopped raw octopus. If you don’t mind slimy textures (I like them actually) this was quite lovely. Easier to handle than the squid guts for the casual.
Uh oh. Sochu!
From my cellar: 2001 Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes. VM 95. Dark red. Extravagant, superripe nose combines strawberry, raspberry, roasted game, gingerbread and molasses. Huge and dense, with powerful extract and compellingly sweet strawberry, raspberry and spice flavors. Full-blown Chateauneuf that almost magically maintains its freshness and balance. Like a solid on the slow-mounting, compellingly sweet aftertaste. This has blossomed spectacularly since I tasted it in barrel last November.
Sliced ribeye beef with Brussels sprouts.
Kankuni. 6 hour simmered pork belly flavored with soy sauce, sweet mirin and sake, accompanied by hard-boiled egg and steamed potato. I love this home-style Japanese dish. The soft over-cooked meat is so pleasant.
This was some well prepared and serious Izakaya food. Everything was quite on point and delicious. The space was a bit odd, looking as it did like Akbar.