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Shimizu Akira is the Executive Chef of AKIRA restaurant at Japan House London and European Director of the Salt restaurant group.

Akira’s career as a chef began at the age of 15, inspired by a charcoal-grilled local chicken dish he tried in Miyazaki Prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Kyūshū. Self-study and side-along learning with famous chefs allowed him to hone his cooking skills, which still have a strong emphasis on chicken across many of his restaurants.

In 2002 Akira joined the Salt Consortium, opening a series of successful restaurants in Japan and the UK. His restaurant at Japan House is his most recent and primary restaurant venture, where he spends most days cooking as the Executive Chef. The restaurant received a plate award in the Michelin Guide (UK) in 2019.

Akira's restaurants in Japan

The primary ingredient across Akira’s restaurants, and the ingredient with which he most enjoys cooking is chicken. At Yakitori Akira in Marunouchi and Nakameguro, Tokyo, every part of the chicken is saved and savoured, offering a menu which promotes a no-waste food culture.

At Oden Kashimin and Mizutaki Shimizu, also in Tokyo, Akira serves slow-simmered chicken broth hot pots inside buildings reminiscent of old townhouses in Kyoto. In Nagoya, Akira’s Torishimizu restaurant focuses on the most popular dish from Mizutaki Shimizu – oyakodon (or in English, 'parent and child rice bowl') – a dish of chicken and egg set over rice. Each restaurant under Akira’s care showcases the skill and versatility of the chef.  

AKIRA restaurant at Japan House London

Akira’s namesake London restaurant is found on the first floor of Japan House in Kensington. The concept behind this restaurant is a Japanese izakaya (dining pub) with a menu designed to appeal to London-based guests. The restaurant is divided into a bar area, main dining room and open-ktichen with counter seats to watch the chefs at work. For private events and special occasions, a secluded tatami room welcomes guests into a cove of tranquillity. Reminiscent of Japan in every aspect; from the tokonoma (an alcove in a Japanese-style room for displaying objects) showcasing a seasonal piece of art, through to the tatami mat floor and slippers for wearing outside the room, this slice of Japan is an extra special spot within the restaurant. 

Trinity of cooking principles

Across his restaurants, Akira closely follows his ‘trinity of cooking’ principles: food, tableware and presentation. It’s only after stepping inside one of his restaurants that the level of care and precision given to each of these elements becomes clear. Exquisite bento boxes see each bite topped with a different sauce, ingredient or embellishment so that a myriad of colours and flavour combinations are perfectly matched in both presentation and taste. Each dish is served with different shaped ceramics, boxes or stoneware specially sourced from Japan, creating a sensory feast on every dining table.

Distinctive tableware

The ceramics on which each of Akira’s dishes are served have been sourced and handpicked by the chef himself. These objects, brought from Japan, are an integral part of Akira’s trinity of cooking principles. His collection at AKIRA restaurant includes simple and elegant Imari porcelain dishes from Saga Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu; Shigaraki ceramics with contemporary decorative features such as silver glaze, sourced from one of the six oldest kilns in Japan; and Yachiyo Kiriko glassware from Toyo Sasaki Glass Company which fuses ancient Japanese motifs with modern glassmaking techniques. An inventive list of cocktails are served in glasses which best match the theme or ingredients. One of the most iconic glasses in Akira’s collection is the Crumple Wine Glass, designed by Makoto Komatsu for Kimura Glass Company.

Interior design and furniture

All three floors of Japan House London, including AKIRA, are designed by Masamichi Katayama, Founder and Principal of Wonderwall. The modern style of AKIRA includes an open kitchen and counter – a set up selected to allow the chef’s voices to carry into the restaurant. Shouting ‘irrashaimase’ (welcome) upon guests’ arrival, reminiscent of restaurants in Japan, AKIRA’s aim is not only to showcase the chef’s skills but to entertain guests as they dine. 

The restaurant’s chairs are designed by George Nakashima, a woodworker, architect, and furniture maker and a designated National Treasure in Japan. His chair designs are made of black walnut wood by Sakura Seisakusho, a studio surrounded by woodland in Shikoku, Japan.  

AKIRA restaurant menu and popular dishes

Each dish at AKIRA, complete with its own complementary tableware and toppings, is the result of hours of thought and hands-on work in the kitchen.

The most popular item on the menu at AKIRA is the omakase three course menu, which offers a wide array of Japanese tastes and flavours, including fresh sashimi, grilled skewers and sushi. Wagyu beef croquettes prove popular among regular AKIRA patrons, along with the matcha green tea mille crepe for dessert.

The restaurant also produces special, limited-edition dishes reflecting the themes of exhibitions running in the Japan House Gallery. Take a look at the restaurant webpage for menus and more information. To learn more about AKIRA, watch the interview with Shimizu Akira.