JEDDAH: Tokyo’s funky neon-lit side streets have long been a source of cultural inspiration around the world. Today, the electric vibe of the 80s has hit Jeddah, with the recent opening of concept restaurant Akiba Dori.
With a menu based on Japanese street food and with funky 80s music playing throughout the high-ceilinged room and its neon stations, the restaurant serves up everything from hearty salads and soft wagyu sando to Neapolitan pizza. and an assortment of sushi.
As a fan of authentic Japanese street food – a love inspired by a trip to Tokyo and Osaka a few years ago – I can confirm that Akiba Dori brings an authentic vibe right to the doorstep of its interior. industrial style. The friendly and enthusiastic staff only adds to the atmosphere, as does the disco ball. If you’re not a fan of retro 80s vibes, this might not be the place for you.
My companion and I were hungry and ready to sample the huge list of entrees: salads, sushi, “surprise” and pizza.
The crispy shrimp salad – a starter large enough to feed three people – had a satisfying mix of greens with slices of orange that added a tangy twist to the light and tangy dressing. The ratio of the salad to the fried panko shrimp (coated in breadcrumbs) was a little disappointing though; we would have liked more prawns. But it was still a great start to our meal.
The rock prawn maki, served with the salad, was fresh and tasty. A simple but satisfying dish. The Akiba rock prawn, however, was the low point of our meal. Still preparing our starters, we left the dish aside for a few minutes, which turned out to be a mistake. The breadcrumb coating quickly became soft and was falling off by the time we started tasting it. The spicy mayo sauce didn’t help – it was like the hugely overrated dynamite shrimp sauce that has become inexplicably popular on the Gulf food scene in recent years. This was a part of our meal that could definitely have been executed better and did not live up to the expected standards of Japanese street food.
For our mains, we opted for some of Akiba Dori’s most popular dishes; wagyu tacos and medium-rare wagyu sando. The Japanese-Mexican fusion certainly sounded appealing and the savory beef strips were a delight. But the guacamole and toppings made the fried taco slightly soggy – a soft taco might have worked better with the juicy strips of meat.
The wagyu sando arrived with fries and an assortment of delicious condiments. The medium-rare beef (as ordered) was really succulent and clearly high quality, but the honey katsu sauce was a bit bland. However, what the dish lacked in punch was made up for in tenderness and quality.
The large open brick oven that you can see as soon as you enter Akiba Dori had us craving pizza since we arrived. We selected a truffle strata pizza and a Neapolitan pizza, and they did not disappoint – served straight from the oven with the cheese still bubbling on the thin crispy crust. This was the highlight of our restaurant experience.
Fortunately, we still had room for dessert and only had to try the highly recommended lotus cheesecake. He did not disappoint. In fact, moist cheesecake topped with gooey caramel lotus sauce just might be the best version of this popular dish in town. The flavors were subtle and perfectly balanced, and the texture was perfect.
The staff were super attentive and the restaurant’s laid back atmosphere is ideal for those looking for a relaxed Japanese dining experience with a group of friends on the weekend. We especially enjoyed the music – a rare thing to say about a restaurant.
Despite some dishes not meeting our expectations, we will definitely be back. And as cooler weather hits Jeddah, one would expect Akiba Dori’s outdoor seating area overlooking Abdul Maksoud Khoja Street in the heart of the city to become one of the spring hotspots.