FRENCH FUSION AT ITS BEST
In Los Angeles, restaurants are constantly opening and closing. It seems there are hot spots that open with a splash and then eventually fizzle, while vanguards such as Dan Tana’s,and Musso & Frank, and out in Pasadena now celebrating 15 years serving fine French and Japanese cuisine, is Chef Akira Hirose’s beloved Maison Akira.
Best known for his Miso Marinated Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, which Chef Akira actually served to the Emperor and Empress of Japan while he was the Executive Chef at Tower Restaurant in 1994, Maison Akira is respected as a bastion of fine yet casual dining, which makes its longevity even more impressive. While the amicable chef admits his restaurant isn’t cheap, he describes it as a “special occasion restaurant” – a go-to place to celebrate in style, he does serve quality and affordable bento boxes as well as an impressive Sunday brunch buffet.
“People say location, location, location is important,” Chef Akira says, “but when restaurants last five, ten year or even fifteen years, it’s not only location. It’s how I take care of the community. Four or five years ago, we had a hard time but still held on. The community would be worried if we weren’t around. I’ve seen couples date and then marry and then come back two or three years later with their children. They’re family. I like to see people happy, and their happiness is my happiness. I want to see people leave happier than when they arrived.”
During our recent visit for dinner, we basked in the elegance and comfort that exudes at Maison Akira, along with first rate service. This is refined dining done right. We started out with a couple of traditional French dishes, just because it seemed like the right thing to do.
The Maison Duck Paté with green peppercorns was exquisite, as was the Escargots Bourgogne, which comes with six delectable pieces.
We opted for house recommended white wine, which was fine and pretty reasonably priced, but my recommendation, is bring your own bottle. A glass is between $12 to $15, and their corkage fee is only $15 for the first bottle (the price of a glass of wine) and $20 for a second bottle. You can’t beat those prices and this way you get to drink wines that you really enjoy.
A visit to Maison Akira wouldn’t be complete without having the renowned Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass with Grilled Ratatouille and Pilaf in a Honey Lemon Jus. There a reason why this dish is synonymous with Chef Akira—it is simply outstanding. It’s light and fresh and so savory, and at $35 a good deal. This dish alone made the drive to Pasadena worthwhile. Consider this a must-have menu item.
Another wonderful selection is the Maison Akira Bento Box with American Wagyu Beef, Miso Sea Bass, Scallop, Chawan Mushi and a side of Today’s Sashimi. This gives you a little bit of everything and is still a fine choice to share. It offers you a little bit of the sea bass, some flavorful beef and very delicious fish and sashimi. Again, it’s light and won’t leave you feel stuffed afterwards, just completely satisfied.
For dessert, we opted for the Grand Marnier Soufflé (preorder or allow 30 minutes), which was spot-on in decadence and deliciousness. It’s a perfect way to end a wonderful night out. Chef Akira says he would love to open a casual restaurant in Little Tokyo, I can only imagine what a treat that would be, but for now, dining at Maison Akira, whether you are celebrating or just treating yourself right, is the way to go.
Maison Akira is located at 713 E Green Street in Pasadena. Call 626-796-9501.
By: Jose Martinez.