Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m about as far from the earth mother type as you can get. Seeing cute little babies does nothing for me really – no stirring of the womb or biological clock counting down. The little blighters can sense this, and my indifference pales into insignificance compared to the fury small children produce if I so much as step within a few feet of them.
Given the apparent incompatibility between me and small children, it seems sensible that I haven’t embarked down that route, instead opting for food-filled adventures and four-legged friends. But while I’m never going to be Mum of the year, I can boast the title of being a pretty cool auntie.
I’ve got two nephews who are (it seems rather suddenly) basically adults, as well as a niece who is 12 going on 25, and over the years I’ve realised that having fun with your younger relatives can be pretty darn good. An added bonus is that, unsurprisingly, they’re all into food, so our ‘quality time’ together generally consists of eating rather a lot.
The eldest of my nephews has recently started a job that takes him close to Milton Keynes every now and again, so I obviously bullied him into meeting his auntie for lunch. When he finally took me up on the offer, the onus was on me to find somewhere he’d enjoy.
I hit up fellow blogger Sophie Etc for a load of suggestions and decided on Akasaka – a group of three restaurants in Milton Keynes, Wolverton and Northampton that call themselves ‘Japanese and Korean Fusion’. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to sushi but my nephew is a massive fan so I decided it was a goer.
We went to the Wolverton branch which is a rather unassuming little place on the high street surrounded by shisha cafes and other random shops. Inside it’s a traditionally-decorated, low-lit narrow restaurant with a glimpse of chefs preparing sushi at the far end. The menu is extensive, with pages of sushi, sushi rolls, sashimi, maki, tempura, noodles and more.
They also do some tempting lunch deals, but we decided we wanted to try as much as possible so I decided to bow to my nephew’s superior sushi knowledge and put him in charge of choosing.
First up were crispy gyoza – fried parcels of chicken and vegetables with a satisfyingly crunchy outer shell. Deep-fried softshell crab was perhaps not the most picture-perfect dish of the day, but again pleasingly crunchy with the delicate flavour of the crab still managing to put in an appearance.
For our sushi selection, Tom picked out scallop and octopus sushi, with salmon sashimi and some prawn tempura rolls. Salmon sashimi is an old favourite of mine, though some people think it’s a bit of a boring choice, and this was delicious – fresh-looking and tasting. Octopus sushi I wasn’t too fussed about, though I’m not generally a fan of octopus, but the scallop sushi was a first time for both Tom and me and a really interesting choice. Tender yet still firm without being rubbery, and delicate in flavour.
My favourite, though, were the prawn tempura rolls – another one I haven’t actually tried before. For me, normal sushi rolls can be a bit boring and more rice than fish, but the fact the prawn was deep-fried added texture as well as flavour, making the whole thing a bit more of an interesting choice. Again, I’m no sushi expert but these were a winner for me.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, we decided we’d have to try Tonkatsu – a breaded and fried pork cutlet covered in a slightly tangy sauce and served with rice. For me, it was a tiny bit too crunchy and the pork not moist enough, but I’d like to try it again just in case that’s actually how it’s meant to come.
Having said that, with black cod on the menu, katsu curry, and various other dishes, I might be tempted in another direction.
For a lunch stop, Akasaka was a great place to try. It felt authentic to this amateur, the food was good – especially the sushi (my nephew said while it wasn’t quite as good as his favourite place, it wasn’t far off) – and there was a huge selection of things you might not see elsewhere.
Of course, when you’re fairly unfamiliar to a particular cuisine, it would be unfair to pass judgement like some kind of critic (which, by the way, I’ve never claimed to be). But it seems to me that Akasaka is a pretty good example of a place that is offering relatively classic Japanese food but making it welcoming and accessible to the uninitiated, which is no bad thing given that it’s not in some cosmopolitan urban location, but has set up in places where people might not be quite as au fait with this kind of food.
Would I rush back down there with my family or friends? Probably not. Would I return with my nephew, or call in while I’m in the area? Yes, most definitely. And you could do far worse than to do the same if you’re looking for something a bit different in that neck of the woods.
I paid in full at Akasaka. They didn’t know I was a blogger.