Aki's is an understated, almost shy restaurant that fills the breach at the top end of Sydney’s Indian dining scene. It's on the popular Woolloomooloo Wharf with Manta and Otto Restaurant. The city view, and the sport of people watching are definite attractions of the space. For chef/owner Kumar Mahadevan, this is the second of two outlets, both named for his sons. The first he opened in North Strathfield, and it's called Abhi’s.
More so than most Indian restaurants, this has the look and feel of a fine diner. Before our drinks have arrived we're given a complimentary amuse bouche. The views of the city, amuse bouche and palate cleansing tonic between courses make one inclined to linger at their al fresco tables; and ease the higher prices.
Begin your journey into the contemporary cuisine with an Indian Mule ($15) – a refreshing (and original) blend of Vodka and Sake, flavoured with Coriander Root and Ginger. Later move on to explore the excellent wine list, designed with Indian flavours in mind. I also tried a Cardapirinha ($16) which had cardamon-infused 42 Below Vodka, muddled limes, vanilla sugar and mint. The Indian Mule was by far the better cocktail - the cardamon was a bit strong in the other one. The signature entrée of Crab Podimas with Iddiappam ($23) sees you pour a fragrant coconut broth over string hoppers, topped with shredded Blue Swimmer crab tossed with black mustard seeds, tomatoes and ginger. It originates from Kerela in Southern India.
Vegetarian diners are given a range of options, including a substantial entrée of Palak Patta Chaat ($13). It originates in the west of India in an area called Rajasthani. Basically it's crisp spinach leaves that have been coated in a lentil batter on top of beautifully cooked chickpeas topped with yoghurt, date & tamarind and chilli & mint sauces
We then received a complimentary palate cleansing tonic before our next course - I think it was pink grapefruit and mint, but I might be remembering incorrectly. With many dishes, subtlety is the name of the game, but the Hyderabadi Murg ($25) is a very spicy chicken dish. It was made with fresh green chillies, roasted red whole chillies, garlic and cumin.
The Braised White Rabbit ($34) with coconut, fennel, cashew and poppy seeds was beautifully cooked in a stunning sauce that begged to be mopped up with a Naan ($3); and it improved overnight, justifying their unexpected offer of a doggy bag!
The weakest dish was a side of Kerrai Porial ($14) or English spinach with mustard seeds, onion & coconut. We also had a serve of Saffron Pilau Rice ($3/ person) but after all that, found ourselves too full for dessert. However I think I would like to go back to try their version of a creme caramel ($13) using palm sugar, coconut, cardamon and cashew. A good experience that I would be happy to repeat.
1/6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
Ph: (02) 9332 4600