The Michelin Guide has taken Miami by storm, but we’re fortunate to have a chef right in our own backyard who has also achieved that star-studded accomplishment. Chef Akira Back’s Seoul restaurant DOSA earned a Michelin star a few years ago, and now he’s showcasing his talented take on Japanese cuisine at his namesake restaurant inside The Ray Hotel.
An imposing door leads into a contemporary dining room that’s punctuated with pops of vivid colors. While the décor is minimalist, Back breathes life into it by incorporating his mother’s artwork into the mural that adorns the sushi counter, the plush banquettes and even the dishware. Massive windows flood the room with natural light while greenery suspends from the ceiling, giving the space a warm, lush feeling.
Born in Korea and reared in Colorado, Back blends his heritage with Japanese flavors and techniques to deliver dishes that are unique to him.
The restaurant’s ambience is laid-back, and while the menu’s price points lean toward upscale, there are options on both sides of the spectrum.
The menu is divided into cold and hot starters followed by rolls, nigiri/sashimi, robata grill, mains and fried rice. Dishes are made to be shared (even the entrées), and our waiter suggested about four to six plates per couple. We started with the AB Tuna Pizza ($28) and Yellowtail Serrano ($28). While the former is a chef specialty—a crunchy, slim tortilla topped with tuna and white truffle oil—it was the yellowtail that won us over. Floating in citrus soy, the paper-thin slices topped with serrano salsa and a petite slice of the pepper delivered a delicate bite that was not overpowered by one ingredient.
For the mains, we opted for the Hot Mess roll ($25), Seared Halibut ($42) and Wagyu Short Rib Fried Rice ($31). The roll hit the table, and I was immediately struck by the tuna’s gorgeous spectrum of pinks as it overflowed from the crab tempura wrapped in rice paper. It’s topped with a spicy ponzu aioli, but the heat doesn’t linger; it simply awakens the palate. The halibut—pearly white, tender and cut into a perfect square—sits in a soy beurre blanc that I could have easily eaten by the spoonful. We enjoyed that with a side of the fried rice, which was garlicky and perfectly cooked with the right amount of seared grains; I had just hoped for a bit more meat.
We finished the meal with a Chocolate in a Cup ($14), which is exactly what it is. Layered Nutella and vanilla ice cream in a small cup, it’s a great choice if what you’re looking for is a hint of sweetness to end your dinner. For a hotel restaurant that had quite the hype surrounding its arrival, I must say the meticulous service and rich flavors elevated our evening and made us excited to return.
IF YOU GO
233 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach; 561/739-1708; akirabackdelray.com
PARKING: Hotel valet, street and garage parking
HOURS: Tues.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.