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196 Essex Road
This grand old former pub, all Victorian tiles & imposing gold-painted pillars, is now home to an izakaya – a kind of Japanese tapas bar where food is served to accompany drinks. Given the
quality of cooking here, however, eating is a more serious business than that description might suggest. The east-meets-west vibe continues on the extensive menu, where adventurous dishes such as
tako su (boiled octopus & okra on plum & shiso-leaf jelly) share space with the likes of ebi fry (deep-fried prawns in breadcrumbs, with tonkatsu & tartare sauces). You’ll also find
miso, teriyaki, katsu & gyoza on the list, as well as a sushi & sashimi menu with reasonably priced maki rolls. Drink draught Asahi or Kirin, saké or shochu – or wine from the serviceable
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196 Essex Road
020 7226 9943
Essex Road Station 68m
Highbury & Islington Station 770m
Little Angel Theatre 438m
The Tower Theatre 448m
Tues-Fri 5-11pm Sat-Sun 12N-11pm (Sun -10.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
I have eaten here many times over the past 4 years or so and am surprised to see so many scathing reviews on here as its always busy and I think the food is authentic & very tasty. I'd especially recommend the yellowtail carpaccio, Akari steak and squid tempura from the specials, but the cod in miso is also delicious (though the portion size can vary). The sashimi on the whole is excellent quality and I'd recommend the soft-shell crab and Akari rolls too. I do agree that the service can be a bit patchy - they don't seem to train new staff very thoroughly so occasionaly you can be unlucky and get somebody who doesn't seem to have a clue. However I have found any mistakes have been rectified apologetically, including on one occasion replacing our steak (which had been brought to the table well done as opposed to medium rare as ordered) without hesitation. Its not fine dining but its a great local if you enjoy no-fuss authentic Japanese food.
Food + drink: 1
We had the seaweed salad which we thought was very nice, followed by chirashi which was presented nicely, but we felt the portion was extremely small compared to other Japanese restaurants we have visited in the past. In addition, we ordered a tuna special from the menu. Unfortunately, it was a little overcooked and some parts of the dish was very salty. We wouldn't recommend it. We finished off our meal with the pudding and cheesecake. Neither was really worth mentioning or worth reordering in the future.
Overall, the salad and chirashi was nice, although a little small, the other dishes were not worth the money.
Food aside, I felt the service we received was below par. We asked the waitress for recommendations and she could not give us a straight answer. All she said was, everything is nice. I asked her for a description of the desserts and she she the pudding was traditional. I asked her for more details, she said wobbly… I had to ignore everything she said and made up my own mind.
We noticed the staff were very clumsy and did not seem to know what they were doing. The waitress spilt the soya sauce, she poured tea outside the cup over the table, she nearly dropped the dessert, she gave us two plates of soya sauce each and did not give us any wasabi to go with the chirashi and to top things off, she bought the base plate for the dessert after she put our desert down…total chaos.
When we went to pay the bill, we asked for the bill to be split in half. After we paid, I noticed that she had overcharged us by rounding the bill up – this isn't what we asked her to do.
We called her over and explained that we were not happy that this act had taken place as it was dishonest, esp as they had already taken 10% service charge. She said she did not understand why we were unhappy. She said the bill was hard to split in half (it wasn't, she only had to halve it), she also said that they always did that to all their customers, but we were the first people to complain…she then proceeded to rant at us and said it wasn't a lot of money (it was 98p), we said that wasn't the point and we weren't after a refund, we just wanted to point out that it was a bad way to do business esp when they had already charged service charge. She then very rudely said to us we could have our pound back. But we didn't take it as just wanted to get out of there as she was starting to get hostile.
It's fair to say that we will not be returning and if you have any common sense, I wouldn't bother going there either. There are much better Japanese restaurants around London and this is def one to add on to my black list. Unprofessional staff and average to low quality food. Absolute disappointment.
Food + drink: 3
I have been to Akari several times now and I cannot escape the conclusion that it is overrated however hard I try to give it the benefit of the doubt. On paper, it should be very interesting given it is housed in a listed old pub, has an extensive menu and has both a more casual sushi bar area and tables for traditional dining. Howveer, the service is always sub-standard when I go there with orders regularly mis-delivered or arriving late and having to beg for basic stuff (latest, a jug of tap water seemed inconceivable to the waitress until the manager stepped in). The food is good, especially the sashimi in my view. But the menu lacks the creativity and unusual plates of more upmarket places and the fun of more casual restaurants. And the prices are rather extreme for the area and ambience. If you must have sushi in N1, then I guess Akari is easily the best on offer in N1, but more due to lack of local competition. For my part, although I love sushi and live 5 mins away from it, I would frankly go somehere else for a local meal.
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