To gain access to Akachochin, one must present themselves at The Sharing House next door and announce your intentions to dine. The friendly staff at The Sharing House will then escort you to Akachochin where you will then be greeted again. Without a booking, we were informed that spaces were available at the sushi bar and I happily accepted the invitation to sit there.
A sushi bar in a purported izakaya I found novel but almost necessary for the restaurant to differentiate itself in an area littered with choices and also those fortunate enough to work just over the pedestrian bridge in Docklands that would systematically go on the hunt daily for nutrients at lunch like the hounds of war, ravenous and frothing at the mouth. There was a good selection of fish on display and I did find it intriguing that despite it being stored in a cold enclosure that plastic wrap was still being used to protect it.
The very attentive server was happy to provide water without being asked and when the bottle of sake that I wanted to order was out of stock, he happily consulted with me and I found a suitable alternative - the Kamoshibito Kuhelji Kudan Yamada Junmai-Ginjo a dry sake with good acidity which I thought would be a good match with not only the delicate flavours exuded in the raw fish but also the deep fried dishes that I anticipated enjoying.
The first round of food ordered from the sushi bar included the Maguro Tataki (6 pieces at $18) and the Sushi Moriawase (12 pieces at $33) both I found outstanding. The Maguro Tataki is seared tuna, chives and chilli with a ponzu jelly and anchovy dressing. It matched extremely well with the sake and borders on being one of my favourite fish dishes that I have found (it would be high up on my list of tasty delights that I had at both Taxi Dining Room and Nobu recently) which was all very exciting.
Being pleasantly surprised by the sushi offerings, we continued to explore this part of the menu whilst enjoying the sake. Shiromi Uzsukuri (9 pieces at $15) and the Shake Aburi Sushi (4 pieces at $18) were then ordered to round out this sushi experience. The Skake Aburi Sushi, sweet soy marinated seared salmon with a very special onion salsa was the sandout. I could have ordered another six rounds of this however I didn't want to deprive myself from experiencing things off of the deep and simmer fried menus.
The Ebi and Pumpkin Harumaki ($13) was a very intriguing spring roll filled with prawn, blue cheese and pumpkin deep fried. I really enjoyed the texture and the pair of this dish with the sake. The blue cheese and pumpkin matched well but the tastes overwhelmed the prawn, however the dish in general was great. I tend to enjoy most dishes that exploit the flavour inherent in blue cheese well.
The Butterfish Nitsuke with Kinpira Gobo ($16) - simmered butterfish in ginger, soy sauce with pan-fried burdock followed. Having been spoiled by the delicate tastes of the sushi earlier and being out of sake didn't allow me to cleanse my palate before enjoying this dish so the blue cheese experienced earlier which lingered in my mouth overwhelmed the butterfish however the smell was absolutely delightful. Vacating the 720ml bottle of sake was indeed a shame however I did really enjoy this dish despite having a dirty palate to start.
A Black Sesame Pannacotta with Green Tea Ice Cream ($14) finished off this two hour tasting extravaganza. That certainly cleansed my palate - in a good way.
The service remained tight, efficient and friendly throughout this dining experience. Generally speaking the other patrons looked happy. Although when I arrived, most of the tables were occupied, I did not find the restaurant loud. The tables are spaced an acceptable distance apart so you would never feel as though you are minding someone else's business.
Overall I was impressed by Akachochin and I look forward to returning. The fish is fresh, the service was efficient and you felt like you could relax. After the stolid service and frozen fish that I enjoyed at Koko, I am very happy to have found a quality Japanese offering in South Wharf.
33 South Wharf Promenade
Federation Square, Melbourne VIC 3000
My Rating: 14.5/20
Value For Money: 3.5/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
When I made this post originally, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked Akachochin.