Celebrity chef Akira Back to serve up nine-course menu at Dubai’s Armani/Hashi

Korean-American chef Akira Back will be at the Armani/Hashi in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on December 8 and 9. Courtesy Armani/Hashi
Korean-American chef Akira Back will be at the Armani/Hashi in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on December 8 and 9. Courtesy Armani/Hashi

He’s a former professional snowboarder who swapped the slopes for the stove; he is Korean-American chef Akira Back. He’s coming to the UAE on 8 & 9 December to take over the kitchen of acclaimed Japanese restaurant Armani/Hashi in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Read our exclusive interview with chef as he reveals the inspiration behind a creative tasting menu that includes Alba truffle and tuna pizza and a Seoul garden dish, complete with edible soil.

Chef Back, tell me how the decision to come Armani/Hashi came about?

It has always been my dream to be able to share my culinary offering to the world, and specifically to Dubai.

Explain more about the nine-course menu.

Like my other menus for all my restaurants (Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge in Las Vegas & Akira Back in Jakarta), the tasting menu presented at Armani/Hashi will represent my life as a chef, the things I love to eat, the travel experiences, and it has of course a Korean essence from my heritage.

What are your two favourite courses and why?

My two most favourite courses are the tuna pizza and the Kobe beef short ribs. I purposely serve them at the beginning and at the end of the meal, with the hope that this will be a great unforgettable journey, which starts and ends with the best experience.

Walk me through the steps of the pizza.

Well, it will definitely be the best pizza you will ever try! It’s a super crispy & thin crust pizza layered with slices of fresh bigeye tuna sashimi, with a creamy note from the ponzu aioli, and shaved white Alba truffles.

Tell me more about the edible Seoul garden — the inspiration behind it and how it’s put together?

The Seoul garden is inspired by the flavours and the love of vegetables I’ve had since I was a little boy. This dish resembles a garden with its baby root vegetables sprouting from the earth, which I represent by creating an ‘edible soil’ made from 13 different roasted nuts. It truly enriches the dish and gives a different flavour dimension to the baby vegetables.

How do you view Dubai’s Japanese/Asian fusion food scene? How does it compare with other dining destinations around the world?

I believe that demand for a more modern Japanese/Asian food scene in Dubai has grown significantly. Diners are increasingly educated about finer styles of foods from all over the world; their palates are also evolving along the way. And now, being in the top 7 of international tourists destinations — with the thoroughly modern and global approach with my Japanese style cooking — I believe that my cuisine will be enticing for Dubai’s market, the locals and international tourists.

Your love of sport is well documented; explain your decision to focus on food instead of a professional career?

Well it’s fair to say that I never dreamed of becoming a chef. As a kid, I always wanted to become a baseball player. However, following my family’s move to Aspen in the USA, hanging out with snowboarders was something that became an interesting chapter in my life. I picked up snowboarding surprisingly fast and became really good at it. But I was aware that being a professional didn’t detract away from the reality that pros also have their bad days. After a few accidents, I therefore decided to pursue my other passion at that time, which was food.

You’ve cooked for many famous patrons, who have been among your favourites?

My famous clients in the past were all extremely friendly and many became good friends of mine. It reminds me of the old adage “food brings people together”.

How did your nickname ‘Akira’ come about?

It came about when I was a junior league baseball player and I had a Japanese coach. He suggested that I should just use the name ‘Akira’ because the meaning of my first name ‘Ook’ in both Japanese and Korean, was the same. It translated to ‘victory forever’. My nickname stuck with me as I entered the food industry, which had its great advantages, as nobody could really pronounce my real Korean name easily anyhow.

Chef Back’s 9-course menu:

1st course

Tuna pizza with winter Alba truffles & ponzu mayo

2nd course

Lobster carpaccio with Serrano chilli and amazu ponzu

3rd course

Jeju domi, micro shiso and chojang

4th course

Seoul garden: edible soil, baby root veggies and chilli dill

5th course

Duck prosciutto, micro arugula and kombu butter

6th course

Alaskan king crab tempura & rock shrimp with micro coriander and nanbazu sauce

7th course

Amadi, maitake mushroom chips, lemon grass foam and basil air

8th course

Kobe beef short rib with a quail egg and fingerling potato

9th course

Kalbi roll with kimchi coleslaw

Desert courses

Yuzu citrus tart with sable crumble and strawberry gelato

Manjari chocolate in a cup with banana foam

To make a reservation at Armani/Hashi call +97148883888. Chef Back’s menu is priced from Dh600 per person. Armani Hotel is located in Burj Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd No1, Downtown Dubai. For more information about Armani/Hashi and all restaurants in the Burj Khalifa click here.

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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