Rooted in French philosophies, branching out with an Asian perspective, Akar Dining offers an enjoyable experience for customers who feel comfortable returning to restaurants. An evening here promises recipes that can’t be replicated at home or by meal deliveries, fortified by frills that have long been taken for granted, from the sight and sound of a culinary brigade cooking with a polished poise in the open kitchen to the patient warmth of a service team that takes pride in every plate.
With fewer patrons for now, it makes sense that only a ‘carte blanche’ menu is currently available – a prix fixe selection conceived by the chef, omakase-style – to curb the potential wastage of a larger, a la carte repertoire. Five courses, plus a bread starter and a palate cleanser, clock in at RM150, really reasonable by the measure by these creations.
Ciabatta and rye slices surface hot and toasty, with a dense crunch and deep maltiness, smoothly soothed by sun-dried tomato butter that’s gently tangy – if you love loaves and savour spreads, a reassuring prelude to the ceviche and confit that ensue.
The ceviche of scallops lined with paper-thin cucumber, ikura and sago crackers comes with a mandarin orange sauce, textbook-precise in its interplay of tastes and textures. It’s blamelessly balanced but could benefit from a livelier buoyance to make the delicate brininess of the scallops genuinely sing and soar with the citrus sweetness.
The thought and effort poured into the next seafood-centred ensemble mark Akar as a restaurant of merit – confit of Spanish mackerel, its inherently pronounced fishiness finding a refreshing counterpoint in a foam of fennel and espuma of asparagus-like celtuce, with morsels of clam layered with slivers of charred onions and a slender julienne of juicy apple, brightened by the herbaceuousness of basil oil. Mackerel might not be our first choice for this (its outer bands remain marred by a less-than-mild salinity), but it’s a more-than-respectable confit, flaky and sleek.
Our favourite dish follows: Cornish chicken, indulgently fleshy-chunky, grilled to a light but nectarous caramelisation that evokes the most lip-smacking yakitori, a delight with Asian-inflected accompaniments of okoge – scorched, crusty rice with a short-grained starchiness – showered with salted sawi and a thick, rich sauce of crown daisy, better known as chrysanthemum greens. Protein, carbs and fibre, in a combination of components that work well both independently and in unison.
Akar Dining does justice to the provenance of its poultry with its IGP-certified foie gras as well, by France’s much-respected Jean Larnaudie, its ravishing creaminess intact in every mouthful, presented reminiscent of a Hestonesque meat fruit, like a parfait coated in a sugary beetroot-syrup glaze, capped with succulent heirloom cherry tomatoes and crusted with almond nibs.
Even the palate-cleanser isn’t just a mere granita, featuring more labour, intent and resolve than typical, sprightly with mint, cucumber and calamansi. It could be its own dessert in a more substantial size, but we’re thankful for the even-better conclusion – Akar’s decadent take on Neslo, weaving together Belgian chocolate, Milo and coffee in a chilled mousse, silky jelly, snappy tuile and milk powder-like soil, rebooting a nostalgic childhood pleasure as a newborn, young-at-heart charmer.
With five courses, customers might be pleased to know that five French wines are available by the mindfully curated glass, from a light-bodied Riesling of the Rhine to a lush rose and lusty reds, also not busting the budget at around RM30 each.
109, Jalan Aminuddin Baki, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, Dinner service, 6pm-10pm. Tel: 018-2770597