Contemporary Japanese Cuisine with a Korean Soul: Akira Back Lures South Florida Gourmands

The newly opened hotel The Ray, a modern luxury property in the heart of Delray Beach, enlisted the talents of chef Akira Back—whose Dosa restaurant in Seoul has received a Michelin star—to add élan to its food and beverage offerings. Raised in Aspen but born in Seoul, Back was inspired by his heritage and global travels to create menus that marry contemporary Japanese cuisine with a Korean soul. His 18th restaurant, Akira Back at The Ray, which attracts gourmands from neighboring Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, is one of the finest in the area. A recent visit left me impressed.

Sushi bar / Photo: Courtesy of Akira Back

For a starter, his must-have AB tuna pizza—a crisp pizza/cracker topped with a spread of umami aioli (a blend he created), thin-sliced tuna, micro shiso and white truffle oil—may not be the most original dish, since many other chefs have been serving similar versions, but it’s one of the best I have had. The toro/yellowtail tartare, an indulgence of fatty tuna with osetra caviar, though overwhelmingly rich, was enjoyable. Fun and engaging was the unique Cow-Wow Roll, filled with braised short rib and topped with a refreshingly cold and crisp Asian slaw. Another memorable roll, the Perfect Storm, traps crispy shrimp and spicy tuna inside well-tempered sushi rice wrapped with a blanket of lightly torched salmon belly. But the Pop with crab salad, chilled cucumber and asparagus, slightly tingles with childish watermelon Pop Rocks.

A former professional snowboarder who appeared in extreme-sport movies, Back applied his need for speed and desire for adventure to his culinary creations. He says, “I want guests to feel like they are a part of my life through my cuisine by creating traditional dishes with a twist, incorporating menu items from my childhood.” Back brings to Delray Beach a sleek dining experience Rockin’, that feels just right.

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