Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Akai Hana : Chapel Hill

We were kind of in a rush to find a nearby place and to eat something, so we picked something on Google Maps, quickly glanced at the star ratings and ended up picking Akai Hana, a local sushi joint.

In short, this was overpriced for the mediocre quality ingredient and cooking technique here. It's a little unfortunate, as our server was friendly and attentive in a college student kind of way and there was a jazz trio that was hmm, how do I put this kindly, trying their best to entertain.

But I would agree with this chowhound thread (fyi, skip to the last paragraph of the first post). I wouldn't eat here again even if it was paid by someone else.

Anyhow, here's the breakdown:

Miso Soup - Tasted home-made. No particular complaints

Agedashi tofu - Somewhat clean, but flavorless without sauce. the "flapping" and slight flavor of fish flakes (Katsuobushi shavings).

Tempura - Light. Strange to have such a big chunk of carrot and onion. Again somewhat flavorless.

Okay, so the apps weren't so bad, a bit bland, but not atrocious, but this is where things take a turn for the worse.

Sushi ala Carte: Shrimp Tempura, Philly Rolls, Tuna Rolls (Tekka Maki) and a couple of rolls that I forget.

Do you ever have those dining experiences, where you're eating with family, significant others or good friends and conversation lulls and comes to a stand-still. And perhaps you're sharing food, but passing around the plates becomes a somewhat mechanical process? And finishing off those last pieces well, perhaps someone else wants it more?

That was this. I was hungry, but subconsciously I really didn't want to continue eating the pasty rice or the equally perturbing fish pieces. In hind-site, the food wasn't egregious enough to shock you per se, but rather it just gradually squeezed all joy out of eating a meal.

I forget what this was called. Basically, it's sashimi over a layer of rice and oh boy, did finishing these pieces of fish become a chore.

Which I really really hate having to say, because I really enjoy finishing off every rice grain in my bowl. I just felt like shaking the chef and yelling at him, "Where is your pride? Where is your joy of cooking?"

It gets even worse. Given how I felt about the meal, I was pushing to order fewer desserts, but ultimately didn't succeed in convincing someone in my family who will go unmentioned. :P

Green tea ice cream - I only recall thinking that this was geared towards the Americanized palette. Probably store-made shipped from somewhere else.

Sakura Mochi - My family (myself included) has had limited exposure to authentic Japanese food, so I think we were intrigued by this different kind of mochi. But I felt rather stupid afterward for any ounce of anticipation I gave this. It just felt clumsy, both the rice mochi and the red bean.

Tempura Fried Ice Cream - Finally the most idiotic of all of us (me) was responsible for ordering this monstrosity. A ball of so-so vanilla ice cream wrapped in Americanized tempura batter, deep-fried, yet kept waiting long enough so the tempura batter was mushy. Oh and add one of those horrible maraschino cherries on top. Shoot me now.

All in all, I don't regret trying out this place. I think, especially after moving, trying out random places allows you to recalibrate yourself to the local area and figure out the questions like: how good is the "average" restaurant in the area? How enthusiastic/lenient is the general population about food? and other such subtleties.

But I will repeat that I won't come back here, even if someone else is paying.

Akai Hana
206 W Main St Carrboro, NC 27510-2028 (Map)
(919) 942-6848

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