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“Maison Akira is a good french restaurant with a Japanese name”
Review of Maison Akira

Maison Akira
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Ranked #86 of 741 Restaurants in Pasadena
Price range: $41 - $80
Cuisines: French, Japanese
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Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Large groups
Dining options: Breakfast, Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: El Molino
Reviewed February 20, 2012

The cuisine at Maison Akira, as you might expect from its name, is not a fusion of French culinary tradition with Japan's. The food is prepared with impeccable French technique, and only some of the ingredients come from Japan's culinary tradition.

The old Guide Kleber would have given Maison Akira one star out of a possible four. In those days, I dined quite well at restaurants with only one Kleber star and never felt sorry for myself for not dining at three or four star restaurants everyday while traveling through France.

Two of us dined at Maison Akira on a Friday night. They accepted our reservation on Thursday afternoon. The restaurant wasn't crowded when we arrived at six. When we arrived, we found a German couple who were ordering dinner and a bottle of wine. Later that evening, one of those diners pointed out to the waiter that he had omitted the bottle of wine from the check. That same waiter was also ours, and he spent a lot of time looking at one of us although one of us didn't notice his ogling.

We noticed as the evening progressed that most diners who arrived after us were very young Japanese or maybe Japanese American couples. We both smiled at the abundant puppy love.

One of us no longer owns any formal garments, not even a shirt with a collar or a dressy jacket, and certainly not a tie. A long sleeve knit shirt and slacks were fine although the young couples were dressed very smartly.

Not long after we sat down, a basket with warm rolls made with high gluten wheat flour arrived with butter that was too cold. The rolls looked like miniature baguettes although they had the texture and density of dinner rolls. It was very good, plain, unsweetened bread, and for one of us, that was a complete surprise for southern California.

We spent a long time choosing what to order because there were so many different dishes that we wanted to try. Finally, we chose the easy way out and ordered the Epicurean menu with wine pairings.

Midway through dinner, when I asked about a missing set of wine glasses, our waiter told us that he thought that only one of us ordered wine although he served us both champagne. That was our waiter's first demerit. The one of us who was served wine got only two glasses of wine instead of the three that the menu advertised. Maybe he held back one glass of wine to compensate for the "extra" glass of champagne. We might have had two meals paired with wine, but one of us was upset enough to not want to have to catch up in a hurry after the courses had already been served and eaten.

After we finished our meal, my friend told me that on a recommendation from another friend, we should have had the ten course omakase dinner. It would have been nice to know that ahead of time, and because the food at Maison Akira was good enough, we may return to order the omakase. Nevertheless, our enjoyment of the meal that we ordered was marred by our waiter's inept amateurishness.

In addition to our meal, we also ordered a sautéed Scottish salmon to go. That was apparently a problem for our waiter because he told us to remind him later during the meal when he served us desert. That was our waiter's second demerit because he's there to ensure our enjoyment of our meals instead of merely taking orders and delivering food to our table.

After all, Maison Akira is a very good French restaurant, and in France, waiters serve diners by anticipating their needs. For example, waiters in top flight restaurants over there refill your wine glass not immediately after you drain it but just before you are ready to take another sip. Our waiter didn't have even one lonely clue for how to do that kind of job.

Our waiter didn't have to be reminded of the sautéed salmon to go, and with our check, he brought a bag with the salmon.

The amuse-bouche was very tasty, but neither one of us could identify what it was. That was the start of a performance of culinary magic.

One of us had the oyster flan in sea urchin beurre blanc; the other had the grilled duck foie gras. We traded plates in the middle. I liked them both and had a difficult time choosing a favorite.

Next, we had sorrel soup which was magnificent.

For our next course, one of us chose the grilled miso marinated Chilean sea bass while the other had the catch of the day which was grilled grouper. As we did earlier, we traded plates in the middle. The grouper had a crunchy skin and was my favorite. It was cooked to perfection.

After that, we both had the plum wine and sake granite, and one of us said that it would be nice to have a whole pint instead of the just a chilled vodka shot glass filled only half way up.

For the next course, one of us chose the Angus filet mignon; the other had the venison medallion. One of us doesn't eat venison, but I got to taste the filet nigmon. Although the filet mignon was excellent, the celery root purée that came with the venison was extraordinary.

For desert, one of us had a roasted pear while the other had an apple tart. As we did throughout the meal, we swapped plates in the middle. The appearance of the roasted pear was disappointing because we thought that it would be perhaps whole as poached pears often are. Instead, a half pear was cut into fine slices and drowned in batter which was baked. I would have called that a pear clafoutis. Of the two, the apple tart was my favorite.

The espresso was excellent.

We had several courses, and although each course was small, we felt neither stuffed nor hungry. If you're the kind of person who needs to feel high pressure from the inside after a meal, dine somewhere else because you won't enjoy dining at Maison Akira and won't think that the meal was a "good value."

There is a parking lot next to Maison Akira; do remember to have your ticket stamped at the restaurant's front desk.

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1  Thank FastidiousDiner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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67 - 71 of 95 reviews

Reviewed February 5, 2012

You know the brunch is going to be good when the chef/owner mans the carving station himself making sure all the other entrees are kept fresh and replenished. Champagne optional (adds $3 to $36 cost). Everything from the salads, to the sushi, to the hot entrees, to the dessert were excellent. Brunchers demolished the sushi as soon as it came out, so be sure to pounce when you see it refilled. Would love to try Chef Akira's regular offerings some time...

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Thank cyclopseye
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 6, 2012

From the moment we entered the restaurant to the moment we left, this was one of the best dining experiences we have ever enjoyed! The hostess ensured that we had a more private seating location, while the waitstaff ensured we enjoyed every facet of our spectacular meal. The prix fixed menu choices including scallop over jicama slaw, Maine lobster with broccoli wasabi, miso Chilean sea bass, lamb chop breaded in an herb panko and a trio of desserts were served to perfection with a delightful flair. Every aspect of the meal was targeted to our satisfaction with the waitress even customizing our wine pairings based upon our preferences. Would definitely recommend this establishment to others!

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Thank Turtle9275
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 29, 2011

Maybe the most innovative kitchen in the city. French cuisine with a Japanese touch...crazy!

Thank H0WL_CAT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 13, 2011

It has been several years since returning to Maison Akira - French/Japanese cusine. We had a specially prepared brunch bento box for our group. The brunch included, a delicate seaweed salad, seared scallops, egg custard and baby vegetables - all intricately laid out and beautifully presented in a red lacquered bento box. Although the portion for each item in the bento box is relatively small, however, each of the items was so full of flavors as expected in any fine French style cooking. The dessert, oh the dessert, was to die for. We had fresh fruits with homemade vanilla ice cream in a pastry cup covered in a candied dome. See, picture. The dessert was so beautiful, we stared at it for a while, and had to eat it before the ice cream melts.

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Thank Moonlight
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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