Aki Bay in Chennai goes from ramen only to an expanded full-fledged Japanese menu
Regulars at The Velveteen Rabbit (TVR) will recall that the watering hole started as a cosy basement space below L’Amandier in 2016. Since then, the latter has shut to make way for a bigger, sprawling restobar and the compact 36-seater now houses Aki Bay @ TVR. For the uninitiated, the Japanese restaurant was started in Velachery by Satoshi Akimoto in 2015 and had become wildly popular for their authentic ramen noodles with rave reviews about the hearty broth. Now Akimoto has teamed up with Ashish Thadani (director at Absolute, the firm behind TVR and Cicolo Cafe) to bring us Aki Bay @ TVR.
“Aki Bay will serve as a bridge between Japanese and Indian food culture and will continue to provide authentic Japanese taste,” says Akimoto about the collaboration. Currently travelling, he tells us to expect a menu that is constantly expanding to include more variety — be it including more vegetarian offerings or adding dishes that incorporate Chennai’s local seafood. With our curiosity piqued, we promptly head to the restaurant that opened to the public earlier this year, in February.
Minimalist décor ensure our attention is on the table — as we catch up with Ashish over a chilled cuppa ‘tea’s answer to a cold brew’ — the Mugicha Tea. “To make it easy dining for groups — we have added more veg dishes and have introduced the pre-set meals.The teppanyaki will be up and running soon — also expect bento boxes,” informs Ashish, adding how they have included the local fish in the menu and source it fresh from Kasimedu. A bowl of fresh green, lightly salted Edamame works as an amuse-bouche and in no time we find ourselves munching on Chicken Karaage. The tempura is crunchy and the creamy dip complements it well. The Chicken Gyoza, pan-roasted pot-stickers, are easy favourites with their flavoursome chicken stuffing.
As we reach for the quintessential salmon on the sushi platter, Ashish tells us that the pink slices are in fact local catch of fresh marlin (called kajiki maguro in Japanese) — and not salmon at all! Adding a delicious twist, we find the chef has used the local grouper and marlin as the fish of choice. We nibble on an octopus tentacle, and the soya sauce and wasabi mix keep up the heat for the perfectly wrapped Fresh Local Fish Traditional Roll (of grouper that is surprisingly not fishy!) and the Dragon Roll (prawns). Fish in Teriyaki Sauce is a delicious patty of seafood that has hints of shredded cabbage and the accompanying fried egg and leafy salad makes it a great meal — ensuring we are rooting for their pre-set meal concept!
Broth in arms
Finally, we concede that the proof of the pudding is “in the broth”. the Ebi Paitan Ramen is a heavy, soupy concoction of veggies, chicken and yellow noodles. The latter is soft and delightful and gives us hints of being the authentic ancestor to the addictive Maggi noodles! But it is the slow cooked, flavourful soup that finds us relishing the dish through loud, happy slurps.
Meal for two INR 1,000.