I am the last person to discover Akiba - I'm happy to admit it - but I plan to make up for lost time.
Electric is the best way to describe this Tokyo/barbeque/flavour-explosion joint that has enlivened the space between the recently closed Academy Nightclub and the Actew AGL building.
Flashing red neon makes it impossible to miss the hyper-hip eatery, that runs an extensive outside area, as well as inside, running along Bunda Street.
On a normal Thursday night getting a seat is competitive, but not impossible, and menus are delivered and drink orders taken with vim.
One of the great things about the increasing diversity of Canberra eating is just that - food, vibe, and drinks really vary. Not everyone will love everything, and that's ok. Akiba is loud, let's get that out there. And not just loud in volume, music, loud chat - but loud in style. An outside table is slightly less rowdy, but not much. If you want a meal to linger over, with muted flavours, carefully calibrated timing and discreet 'anticipate your every need' waiting staff - you should go somewhere else.
So the food, there's a welter of great stuff to choose from, and a glass of Chaffee Brothers Rose from the Adelaide Hills, off the concise list, helps get the decisions flowing. As you peruse you will see a sake cart being pushed around, with chilled and hot options, and a bewildering array of choice.
Oysters ($12 for 4) seem a good plan and come beautifully chilled, and lightly dressed with a great ume mignonette that enhances the ocean-like flavours. Back to the raw bar for tuna tartare ($16), jewel-like cubes of bright tuna are scattered down a long plate with great sails of prawn cracker to scoop them up with their assertive jalapeño mayo. A good dish, and, as they all are. good value for the quality and size. Staff and new customers bustle by as the dishes pile up, and food comes when it is ready, not in any particular order. Many choose the 'just feed me' option - 8 of the favourites, which removes the need to think. Tables of two and four crowd the place, along with lots of bar seating. You need to flag down a waiter for another glass of wine, but they pass by often, and are hyper friendly - there are no frosty-cool staff here.
Peking duck soup dumplings ($14) next - labelled the 'people's choice. And they are a crowd pleaser. Packed with plenty of duck in a lovely round dumpling, they they are juicy and deep with flavour.
We are beginning to slow at this stage and a lovely piled high bowl of agadashi tofu ($12) in classic style, swimming in tasty broth and lightly deep fried, is a great clean, light-ish interruption to the flavour assault. This dish is, as it should be, a textural treat, smooth as silk tofu inside the slightly sticky fried shell. Next time we will try the miso eggplant with puffed rice, and the beef short rib with tamarind caramel, and the green papaya salad and the pork belly and Asian slaw bun - but all of that is for another day. Instead of dessert we take a serve of the oyster and kimchi pancakes ($10) with chilli sauce. Earthy and slightly sharp they are the least successful dish of the night, but good nonetheless, and send us into the night replete.
Akiba is an exciting place to eat - great food, served fast, in an almost pre-nightclub atmosphere.
Address: 40 Bunda St, Canberra
Phone: 6162 0602
Owner: Peter Harrington, Michael Harrington, Dino Jugovac
Chef: Ben Sutton
Hours: 11:30am-midnight Sun to Wed, 11:30am-2am Thurs-Sat
Wheelchair access: Yes