Experience omakase with a twist at Melbourne’s Akaiito

Visit one of Melbourne’s best-loved laneways for an ‘omakase at your table’ experience with a French twist. 

Hidden away behind a wooden door on Melbourne’s Flinders Lane is Akaiito. With bluestone walls, black marble and granite floors, the restaurant boasts a dramatic aesthetic centred around a twisting red overhead installation. According to Japanese mythology, akaiito means ‘red thread of fate’ signifying ‘the joining of kindred spirits creating an unbreakable bond’. Akaiito’s mantra is to connect people through exquisite food. Led by a team of robatayaki and sushi chefs, guests are guided through the multi-course degustation by culinary artisans – an East-meets-West interpretation of modern Japanese cuisine. 

Christine Chen & Winston Zhang
Owner Christine Chen and head chef Winston Zhang © Akaiito/Hugh Davison

Before embarking upon their culinary adventure, guests are presented with an ingredient box filled with fresh produce from which their meals will be constructed. All premium products, such as MB9 Wagyu, are sourced from specialist local farmers and suppliers. Head chef Winston Zhang leads the Akaiito concept and has been developing the seasonal menu, which showcases a unique blend of Japanese and French cooking techniques, since 2018. And although a traditional omakase would have guests perched at a counter to dine, Akaiito presents an elevated environment with a personalised table delivery. 

A box of ingredients
© Akaiito/Hugh Davison

Five to seven-course degustation menus are served throughout a two-hour seating. Each dish is presented on a unique selection of tableware handpicked by Zhang and restaurant owner Christine Chen, all purchased in Japan. Dinnerware is an essential part of the ethos of Akaiito and contributes to the story of each dish. 

The spanner crab chawanmushi has a velvety texture and is presented in an earthenware mug. The Glacier 51 toothfish is served with a beurre blanc and hand-peeled white walnuts and is plated on a black ceramic dish. The Western Australian marron is arranged with a pretty tomato salad that floats on a platter of glass bubbles. 

Chef plating a vegetarian dish
© Akaiito/Hugh Davison

Each course is delivered to your table by the chef, who explains the preparation while adding final flourishes. However, the true showstoppers are the golden glazed seven-day dry-aged duck and the wagyu striploin. The duck is initially presented to diners as a whole, then served as a melt-in-the-mouth wedge in a rough-cast pottery bowl with sweet beets, mushrooms and duck jus. The Wagyu striploin is arranged on a bone-coloured stippled pottery plate with ‘real’ Japanese wasabi, turnips, beads of black garlic and a classic demi-glaze sauce.

wagyu being plated up
© Akaiito/Hugh Davison

 Opt for the wine pairing and you’ll sip your way around the world as the sommelier explains the relevance of its match. Some highlights from Akaiito’s inventory include a Grololo Pithon Paille from the Loire Valley, Good Catholic Girl from the Clare Valley and Teresa Reisling. The organic Fattoria Coroncino ‘Gaiospino’ is like a ray of Italian sunshine in a bottle. 

To dine at Akaiito is to see food as art, from the smallest ingredient to the plate on which it rests. It’s an experiential foray into the world of fusion cooking.

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