It seems to be a common occurrence, a restaurant we’ve wanted to get to for quite some time but just never made it for one reason or another. Aki’s has been on the list for a very long time and when Lex and I decided to take a week off after her 30th one of the things that we decided on was lunch at Aki’s.
Sitting at the very beginning of the Woolloomooloo wharf it almost appears as if it were tacked on to the rest of the building due to the slightly different design and the lack of built-in awning like all of the other restaurants down the wharf. Lucky for us it was only a mild summer’s day because I’m not convinced their awning would have protected Lex from the sun.
To start we were given a basket of pappadums and we began munching away while we decided on what to order. Lex had a fairly good idea of what she wanted but it seemed if we were to try everything on her wish list we would have to eat here for lunch and dinner.
Side Dish Platter – Tomato, onion and cucumber ‘Kachumber’ / Cucumber & Yoghurt ‘Raita’ / Mango ‘Chutney’ ($10.00).
One thing we quickly decided on was the side dish platter, a great way to sample all three of their ‘accompaniments’. The kachumber with the pappadums was like an Indian bruschetta, fresh, vibrant and a good crunch to it all. No matter how hard I tried I could not convince Lex to try the chutney. Big on mango and even bigger on ginger it was ok, but not something I would order again. But the raita, oh how we both just loved this. Soothing and ever so addictive this is the quintessential match for pappadums and our favourite of the side dish platter.
Lamb Cutlets Adreke – Tandoor roasted lamb cutlets marinated in ginger, garam masala and lime juice ($14.00).
We knew we had to have something from the tandoor and with the choice being fish, chicken or lamb it really could only have ever been the lamb as far as I was concerned. Our selection did not disappoint, the lamb was truly wonderful. Perfectly cooked, succulent lamb cutlets with just the right amount of spice to match the boldness of the meat. I think we both could have eaten a truckload of these cutlets.
Crab with Iddiappam – A southern delicacy of shelled blue swimmer crab tossed with black mustard seeds, fresh tomatoes and ginger served with traditional Tamil brown rice string hoppers and a coconut broth ($24.00).
Aki’s signature dish Crab with Iddiappam was one we were not missing out on. The iddiappam are string hoppers that are a culinary specialty of the Tamil people. They are made with rice flour (in this case brown rice flour), pressed out into noodles and steamed. Atop the iddiappam was a glorious mix of blue swimmer crab, mustard seeds and a precisely constructed mix of spices.
My mind was in overdrive trying to decipher the complexities of this dish, there were so many things going on and many, many spices, but executed with such a deft touch they were harmoniously balanced with the crab. In addition to this was the coconut broth, so simple but as expected so lovely. Hints of saffron and curry leaves combined with the coconut so well I ended up hogging the broth all to myself.
Seafood Rezalla – Jumbo prawns, scallops, white fish and calamari, slow braised with pounded chilli, coriander seeds, black pepper and cherry tomatoes ($36.00).
A much more rounded curry than I had imagined it to be, and rightfully so with such an abundance of seafood, you would never want to mute their wonderful tastes and textures. My favourite seafood were the scallops, cooked quite well and still able to hold up against the chilli and pepper tones permeating the dish. Jumbo indeed, the prawns were meaty and, just like the scallops, cooked superbly. As one would expect hints of yoghurt were felt throughout and the various spices used did their best to complement every element in the dish, quite a clean and light curry and one that was perfectly suited to such fine seafood.
Kerala Syrian Chilli Beef – Cubed beef with roasted coconut, black peppercorns, dried whole chillies, garlic, tomato and cracked coriander seeds ($30.00).
If it seemed only natural for Lex to go with a seafood option, it is of course only natural for me to choose the beef. Although I am a beef fiend it was the chance of getting something quite a bit spicier than our other choices that had me picking this one.
This curry was deep brown in colour, rich in flavour and redolent of dried chillies. I was in heaven. Big and bold, yes, but still restrained enough not to blow your head off with spice. As far as beef goes though it was a little disappointing to have quite a varied batch. Some pieces were soft and meltingly good while others were quite hard and tough to chew. I found that when the beef was soft I loved the dish, but then there would be a tough piece and I fell out of love.
Pilau Rice ($4.00 per person).
Of course you can’t have a good Indian curry without some rice, and it was nice to see they only offer Pilau rice on the menu. Soft and fluffy with no clumping of grains was all the rice needed to do to be a winner but the subtle hints of saffron and various spices made this just that little more special than steamed rice.
I don’t actually know what you would call Petits Fours on an Indian menu but either way these were quite true to their French origins. Chocolate and mint truffles were just enough to give that after dinner mint feel without the mind-blowingly terrible taste and texture of those foil wrapped gems I remember as a kid.
Lex was rather disappointed we were too full to try desserts but we had to accept defeat and instead plan our return visit. The entrees impressed us beyond belief and we’ll definitely be back to try the rest of the menu.
1/6 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
(02) 9332 4600
AKI’s Indian Website