THE BUZZ A former professional snowboarder, chef Akira Back took an interest in the culinary arts and has since worked under famed Japanese chefs such as Masaharu Morimoto and Nobu Matsuhisa. He has more than a few restaurants to his name but it is Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge in Las Vegas that has earned him various accolades.
AMBIENCE Phillipe Starck’s philosophy of democratic design and statement furnishings, such as lights that looks like a tangle of multiple lampshades and antlers, runs through the entire JW Marriott Singapore South Beach hotel and Akira Back. At one end is a life-sized LED screen displaying an abstract painting by Back’s mother, which overlooks a long communal dining table meant to bolster a convivial experience for customers.
FOOD & DRINK Although Back’s Korean heritage and Japanese culinary background gives his food the potential to be as colourful, his creations tend to gravitate towards safer and more predictable flavour profiles.
There are, of course, a few exceptions that showcase his ingenuity such as the Tuna (S$25) and Mushroom Pizza (S$18) – thin slices of tuna sashimi or oyster mushroom over a creamy ponzu mayo on a biscuit-like crust then topped with truffle oil and micro shiso. We were divided as to which was better but could all agree one slice wasn’t enough. Another was the Jeju Red Snapper (S$23) served with a garnish of tobiko (flying fish roe) and a dab of gochujang; a befitting homage to his native country, after all nothing is more Korean than the spicy fermented bean paste. A plush interior and forgettable modern Japanese plates make for a compelling first date; we’re generally impressed but we’re not sure if we’ll agree to a second.
Not all kinds of sashimi benefit from a strongflavoured marinade. The flesh of Hokkaido scallop (S$28) on its own is naturally sweet and soft, requiring just a refreshing touch of citrus. Back’s take of the shellfish came with slices of kiwi, seaweed caviar and a somewhat overpowering yuzu radish.
The first hot dish we had was the Canadian Lobster (S$110) cooked just right. Cut into thick slices to share, the crustacean was paired with an umami butter made from chicken stock and nori paste. Take each bite with the accompanying garnish of hearts on fire leaves, a sorrel-like micro-green, and sea beans succulents for an intriguing combination of textures.
Next came the relatively conservative mains of Line Caught Pacific Halibut (S$30), Ji-dori Chicken (S$28) and Margaret River Ribeye (S$65). The Halibut, seared on the top and bottom gave a nice crisp to the soft white fish, went well with a classic soy beurre blanc sauce while the creamy truffle potato puree stood out the most in the Ji-dori Chicken dish. Probably the best of the bunch was the Ribeye, done medium rare then seasoned with charcoal salt that gives it an intense smokiness and pickled wasabi butter sauce.
We ended the meal with sour cherry champagne granite and tiny marshmallow knots in a dessert called Yuja (S$12) and a glass of Yamabudo-shu (S$21 for a glass, S$99 for a bottle), which is a blend of Junmai sake infused with ume (plum blossom fruit) and wild grapes. Alternatively, have your choice of nightcap when you choose from any of the four sake that the restaurant gets from Nanbu Bijin brewery in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture. ADDRESS 30 Beach Road
OPENING HOURS Tuesday to Saturday (including PH) 6pm-11pm for dinner Closed on Monday and Sunday
WEBSITE www.jwmarriottsingapore. com/dining
PRICE Soups from S$5 Shared Plates from S$15 Salads from S$12 Sushi and Sashimi from S$10 Mains from S$30