While Toronto is still waiting in the shadows for our own Michelin rated restaurant, we can now say we officially have a Michelin rated chef. Akira Back is that Michelin star wielding chef, recently awarded for his work at Dosa, in Seoul. His new project, with Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji sees the second floor of the Bisha Hotel re-imagined as Akira Back’s namesake restaurant, his first in Canada and from what it sounds like, definitely not the last. “I love this city; it’s a very positive place. It’s not like a crazy city that you can’t fit in. Everyone fits in here.”
Partnering with Bisha Hotel to bring his modern Japanese cuisine to Toronto was a natural partnership for the chef. Hanif and him are personal friends, and as Hanif weighs in, ““I’ve been going to his restaurant in the Bellagio for 7 years and I’m obsessed with some of his food- I think he has the best sushi pizza in the world. He’s an up and coming rockstar– He just got his first Michelin star and we’re growing our business and we’re into quality ingredients and great service and design, and his philosophy is exactly the same, so it just works for us. You’re going to see here a list of his greatest hits, it’s going to be really great.”
Drinks are precise and channel what the kitchen is doing. The Enomoto Margarita marries a sesame note through cinnamon infused tequila, while super insta-fame worthy Yasuke Sour brings charcoal and yuzu with a knock of Green Tea Bulleit. Plates are sharing size, naturally, and menus offer something for vegetarians too. Chef Back is ambitious with his energy, carried over from his stint as a professional snowboarder, wintering in BC, long before his days as a chef. Also a former competitive baseball player, Chef thinks this team dynamic helps immensely in not only how he forms his team, but how his kitchen runs. “In baseball, you know who’s going to be your 8th hitter, or who’s batting first. You drive the team, it’s not a one man sport. Running a restaurant requires a team, or kitchen. FOH and BOH has to be in sync. And our restaurant is in sync.”
Brought over from his other restaurant, the sushi pizza (see lead photo) is pretty mandatory, and as Hanif muses, “it’s the best in the world, and I eat sushi pizza for a living!” Other mains like the 48 hour Wagyu Short Rib rely on sous-vide to retain perfectly executed cubes of beef, and the only way to share a steak.
Veggies are respected and dressed to impress too. Eggplant Miso is tender and soft in a sesame flecked sweet miso sauce, while the Tofu Cubes are crispy little bundles, and a great protein alternative for those bucking beef.
Desserts are part of the program, all made in house. We sampled the earthy Black and Whie Sesame Matcha cake with spot on texture and plating. Plates, while we’re on the subject, were designed by Akira’s own mother, an artist in her own right.
An Omakase menu is unfolding in the new year, something to be excited about- an experience you quite actually can’t have anywhere else in the city. And as Chef Akira has a small army of restaurants under his name, he will of course be splitting his time in between locations. Devising his team carefully and executing on something that already works somewhere else is almost a guaranteed ticket to ride here in Toronto. Flag that with a giant star orbiting your restaurant and you’re all set. Welcome to Toronto Akira!