33 Dukes Walk
South Wharf, VIC 3006
Chris is pretty awesome. He knows me very well, so instead of buying me shiny things and fluffy toys for our anniversary, he offered to take me out for some lovely lovely meals. I’ve wanted to visit Akachochin since it opened, so that’s made for perfect perfection. 
Named for the distinctive red lanterns that hang from the eaves of izakayas, Akahochin is a part of the strip of new eateries that has recently sprung up on the once-barren South Wharf. It is a bit out of the way however, so whilst it’s gotten abundant blogger coverage in the few months it’s been around, the restaurant never got to half full the entire night. And it was a Saturday too! Maybe it was the unseasonable heat keeping punters from making the trek. 
Choya Umeshu ($8, 50mL)
Choya Umeshu ($8, 50mL)
Every since that ‘disaster’ at Izakaya Den where I had to drink a whole carafe of sake myself because Chris didn’t like it, I haven’t been game enough to order sake at a restaurant, knowing full well that I’ll have to drink it all. So to be on the safe side I ordered the Choya Umeshu ($8, 50mL) instead. It was a lovely little tipple – a sweet amber liquid that’s intensely plummy. Chris declared that it tasted like plum pudding, and gave it a big thumbs-up, deeming it to be the best straight-up alcoholic drink he’s ever had. 
To start things off, we were served a small appetizer of blanched vegetables. It wasn’t exactly appetising, tossed in a small amount of sesame oil and rather flavourless. To add insult to injury, I noticed that later in the night the appetiser had morphed into a miniscule quail leg instead. WHAT A BUMMER.
Hiramasa Namerou with Rice Crackers ($16)
Akachochin’s menu is rather expansive compared to most Japanese places, so I just sort of blundered around and jabbed at items on the menu that I liked the sound of. 10 minutes later, out came the Hiramasa Namerou with Rice Crackers ($16), aka kingfish tartar seasoned with miso, wasabi, and spring onion. The small mound of unassuming (and I’ll have to admit, slightly unappetizing looking) fish packed a huge wallop of flavour, the silken kingfish bound together by the umami of the miso and pungent wasabi. 
Hiramasa Namerou with Rice Crackers ($16)
What really sealed the deal though were the rice crackers. Translucent like crinkled tissue paper, the crispy shards held the hint of a crunch before dissolving on the tongue, leaving nothing but the tartar. However as tasty as this dish was, it was also extremely salty, especially given the small quantity of crackers. It was disappointing to see the sweetness of the delicate kingfish disappearing under the copious embellishment by other spices. 
Anago Nigiri Sushi ($8)
Next up was a pair of Anago Nigiri Sushi ($8). I have always wanted to try the fabled sea eel, having read that it was infinitely more buttery and delicious than the regular kind. I found that statement to be both true and not true – whilst the flesh was tender to the point of coming apart spontaneously in the mouth, the flavours were much too mild. It could have probably benefited from a few more seconds of caramelisation under the blowtorch, and a slightly thicker glaze of the sweet soy. It would’ve been even better had the rice not collapsed with the merest prodding by our chopsticks. It was a good pair of sushi but then again, I do have the meal at Shira Nui to compare it to. 
Chicken Wing Dumpling ($15 for 2)
When a chicken wing and a dumpling love each other very much, they get together and make a Chicken Wing Dumpling ($15 for 2). And it’s a beautiful, beautiful child they had created.  My senses got all confused when this landed on the table; my nose smelt fried chicken and dumplings, but my eyes saw nothing but really fat chicken arms. But my taste buds overruled them all, deeming that this was delicious and that is final. It was prime dumpling mince (heavy on the vegetables and liberal with ginger) stuffed into a prime deboned chicken wing, then fried. It shouldn’t work but it really, really does. Dumpling skins made of flour are so last year. 
Avocado Shake Roll ($11)
I didn’t really want sashimi but I felt like that wouldn’t be doing the long sushi bar we were sitting at justice, so I compromised with myself and ordered a Avocado Shake Roll ($11), a simple inside-out sushi of salmon and avocado, rolled in Texta-orange fish roe. It was a sushi roll done with delicacy and balance, neither the plump fish nor the lightly tangy rice overwhelming the other. 
Grilled Wagyu ($18)
I had mostly agreed to order this dish to appease Chris, who prefers chowing down on land animals to sea critters, but the Grilled Wagyu ($18) turned out to be the highlight of the evening. It isn’t all that remarkable when you first place it on the tongue but with each chew a little more of the decadent richness from the heavy-duty marbling is released, until your eyes are rolling back in our head as you marvel at how a simple piece of beef could taste so good. I loved how there was just a little bit of soy to give the beef an Asian twist, but it was really all about the juicy beef and slightly crisp edges. 
Butterfish Nitsuke with Kinpira Gobo ($16)
We wrapped up the savouries with Butterfish Nitsuke with Kinpira Gobo($16), a large, rustic bowl holding two firm squares of butterfish, and a delicate selection of vegetables. The butterfish was a lot, well, more buttery than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t too keen on the slightly spongy and dry texture of the fish. It was humbly done up in a ginger soy that was comforting and flavoursome. 
Sweet Potato Brulee ($12)
Sweet Potato Brulee ($12)
You may have noticed by now that we’re a little bit cray-cray for crème brulee-ay. The Sweet Potato Brulee ($12) is a fascinating twist on the classic custard dessert. The sweet potato custard was impressively smooth and light for something starch-based, and slightly more savoury than you’d expect. The toffee on top, whilst thick, was chewy instead of crunchy. There was the danger of dragging the entire sheet of sugar off the dessert with every spoonful.
 I liked Akachochin, but I didn’t love Akachochin. The service and the restaurant were lovely, and the food was all somewhere between tasty and astounding. Given all the good reviews floating in cyberspace however, I expected Akachochin to be something phenomenal. It ended up being no more, and no less than a restaurant styled after a Japanese drinking house – a good place for drinks, nibbles, and companionship.
Rating: 15/20 – do the akachakachochin!
The rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.

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