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MJ’s Greatest Bites

On June 25th, to commemorate the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing, Akasha Restaurant featured several of the pop-star’s favorite dishes for one night only. As a big fan of Jackson’s music (and an even bigger fan of Akasha Richmond’s cooking), Peter and I cancelled other plans and headed to Culver City to celebrate “MJ’s Greatest Bites” with the pop star’s former chef.

Michael Jackson's Greatest BitesFrom the restaurant invite on FaceBook:
Mani Niall, the founder of Mani’s Bakery & now Executive Chef for Just Desserts in San Francisco, joins Akasha Richmond in the AKASHA restaurant kitchen to cook up some of Michael Jackson’s favorite dishes.

Michael Jackson discovered Akasha and Mani at the Golden Temple restaurant in Los Angeles while recording THRILLER and became a daily customer. Michael hired Mani as his first private chef for the Victory Tour and Akasha followed suit, touring the world on the Bad and History Tours and working for Michael from coast to coast. Cooking and traveling for the King of Pop shaped and inspired both Mani’s and Akasha’s culinary palette.

MJ’S GREATEST HITS WILL PLAY ALL NIGHT LONG

AKASHA: “Cooking for Michael was one of the greatest times of my life, and since Mani and I wanted to be together on the anniversary of his passing, we felt there was no better way to remember him than to cook up some of his favorite dishes.”

MANI: “I can truly say that working with Akasha was the first inspirational experience I had in the kitchen-and then Michael? He believed in me, treated me with respect and was really a fun person. When I went to work for him I was a cook and by the time I finished I was a chef.”

Like so many, Michael Jackson’s music was a huge part of my childhood. When I lived at the Masonic Home for Children (more info below), the Shriners (who were benefactors) would invite us every year to attend the Grammy Awards when they were held at the Shrine Auditorium. We would arrive in our old, beat-up UGLY brown and white bus, passing the stretch limos until we were dropped off around back. Our seats were way up high in the nose-bleed section, but we didn’t care… we were at the Grammy Awards! Music was such a huge part of my life personally (at seven I began writing songs on piano), and I would secretly act like I wasn’t with the group of “home kids”. That bubble always popped when we boarded the ugly bus back to reality of course.

After sneaking into the 1984 GrammysFor a few years after I left the home (at 18), I would grab a couple of friends and SNEAK into the Grammys! From all my previous visits to the Shrine, I knew exactly which back doors would lead up to the top balcony.

In 1984, while waiting in the alley to see which doors looked most promising, a white Rolls-Royce with tinted windows drove slowly passed us. The passenger window on my side was down, and as the car briefly stopped I got a glimpse of the King of Pop himself! Of course I was stunned, and I ran up to the window asking for a photo (his date was Brooke Shields!). Michael was very polite and said “please no photos”, but as he pulled away, I snapped a photo of his white glove waving at us, just before the car drove off towards the entrance. I have that photo somewhere in my archives, but haven’t been able to find it just yet. I did, however, find a photo of my friends and I posing proudly after we successfully navigated our way through the back corridors of the grand Shrine. Oh, to be that daring again!!

MJ’s Greatest Bites at Akasha Restaurant:

Akasha's Spicy Cajun Shrimp
Spicy Cajun Shrimp, Skillet Cornbread Toast

Golden Temple Wild Mushroom & Tofu Salad
Golden Temple Wild Mushroom & Tofu Salad: Napa Cabbage, Carrots, Snow Peas, Toasted Cashews, Ginger-Miso Dressing

Akasha's Cheese Enchilada
New Mexican Red Chile and Cheese Enchiladas, Rice, Black Beans and Guacamole

No room for dessert because we had to have two of our favorite Akasha bites:

Akasha's Mac n Cheese
Skillet Macaroni and Cheese: Gruyere & Cheddar, Toasted Bread Crumbs

Akasha's Onion Rings
House Made Onion Rings: Rice Flour Crusted, Smoked Paprika aioli

Akasha brought out these awesome chicken wings she was testing in the kitchen!

Akasha's Curry Chicken Wings
Marinated, Curry-Dusted, Flash-Fried with Peach Chutney and Spicy Mint Chutney. PLEASE PUT ON THE MENU!!

Akasha Restaurant
9543 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Website

Dinner shared with: Jeffrey & Rina

More about the my years at the Masonic Home

The Shrine Auditorium

1984 Grammy Awards

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Akasha means “enlightening one’s tongue with joy”

Okay, so I made that up… but after two recent visits to Akasha Restaurant in Culver City, it certainly could be the definition!

Tillamook Cheese’s “Loaf Love Tour” 4/1/10

The kind folks at Bread & Butter PR invited me (along with other food-lovers including @EStarLA & @DianaTakesABite) to attend a cheddar cheese event at Akasha Restaurant. FREE CHEESE + AKASHA? I wasn’t going to miss this, so I invited my good friend Charles Thompson to join me. Since Peter’s studio is near the restaurant, he met up with us after work and we spent the next couple of hours eating Akasha’s fromage-filled comfort food.

The Tillamook Press Release stated:
Tillamook Cheese @ Akasha

The Loaf Love Tour consists of a trio of mini-buses that are retrofitted from 1966 Standard VW Microbuses to resemble Baby Loafs of Tillamook cheddar. The Tour will stop at various grocery stores, farmers markets, local retailers and special events to teach consumers about Tillamook’s famous cheddar cheese. The Loaf Love Tour will visit 100 cities in 9 different states throughout the Western U.S. as well as Illinois and Texas.

Personally, I was so excited to see the cheesy mini-buses in real life. They had been spotted driving around Los Angeles of late, but I hadn’t seen one myself. So cute, they reminded me of delivery trucks in Japan.

What we ate:

Tillamook Cheese @ Akasha
Of course we started off the evening with some tasty Tillamook cheeses and Akasha’s fresh preserves, including kumquat.

Tillamook Cheese @ Akasha
Since it was Happy Hour, I figured I may as well buy myself a cocktail! Loved this RED VELVET MARGARITA: Copas organic tequila, lime juice, blood orange juice, agave nectar. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, so this was perfect.

Akasha's Mac N Cheese, Fried Chicken
Is there anything BETTER than classic Mac & Cheese with perfectly Fried Chicken? I’d had Akasha’s Mac before but this was my first taste of her chicken. Both fantastic. I put some salad on the plate “for color” in the background, but after one bite I went back for seconds. The cheesy croutons Akasha made were also AWESOME!

Tillamook Cheese @ Akasha
I thought we were finished eating, but then Akasha’s husband Alan asked if we’d tried the Pulled-Pork on BISCUITS… Of course I found room for a few of these!

After the Tillamook folks packed up and hit the road (I waved as they sped around the corner!), we sat with Akasha and Alan over drinks with Sergio (who works with Akasha) and BBPR’s Dyan.

It was such a treat to meet Akasha’s daughter Amrit, who was responsible for getting her mom on Twitter (and you know how much I love Twitter!)… I’ve said it many times before, she’s one of my favorite Chefs Who Tweet! You can follow her at @AkashaRichmond

A special thank you to Dyan Dolfi. (More links below)

LudoBites Fried Chicken Night at Akasha 3/22/10

Jonathan Gold (my favorite food critic) describes Ludo Fried Chicken (aka LFC) as, “a golf ball of brined dark meat fried to a sandy crunch, intensely flavored with fresh rosemary, spurting juice nearly a foot when you breached it with your teeth.”

Ludo’s Chicken Balls are hard to come by, and when news of their “special appearance” hits the internet (by way of Twitter), there’s always a bit of panic in the air. The LudoBites Fried Chicken Night at Akasha Restaurant sold out as quickly as the first, which was held at The Foundry on Melrose back on March 2nd.

What We Ate:

Onion Rings @ Akasha
We started the evening with Akasha’s House Made Onion Rings, which are soy marinated (so vegans can enjoy too), rice flour crusted (dipped twice for crunch), then fried and served with smoked paprika aioli. THE BEST ONION RINGS EVER. I didn’t want to share mine, and I didn’t! (Look for them on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” CRUNCHY episode.)

Ludo's Chicken Night @ Akasha
We each got THREE pieces of Ludo’s Big, Juicy, Fried Chicken Balls (at the Foundry, it was only two) and choice of sides. Besides the extra onion rings, we shared sweet potato fries and coleslaw.

Mac & Cheese @ Akasha
Our table (which included Peter, Charles and Robert) also ordered Akasha’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Organic Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Bread Crumbs
Pulled Pork Sliders @ Akasha
PLUS Pulled Smoked Pork Sliders. Yup. It was a Ludo/Akasha Food Fest! (A very special thank you to the Delicious one.)

In Hinduism Akasha means “the basis and essence of all things.” In my mind that’s sort of the definition of good, old-fashioned comfort food, and that’s exactly what an evening at Akasha’s feels like, especially after a stop at the fantastic bar. See you there soon!

Akasha Restaurant
WebSite
9543 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2618
(310) 845-1700

Follow Akasha Restaurant on Twitter @AkashaCC

Follow Chef Akasha on Twitter @AkashaRichmond

Ludo Bites Follow @ChefLudo

Bread & Butter Public Relations@BBPR

Jonthan Gold on L.A. Weekly Follow @TheJGold

Follow @CharlesGT, @EStarLA and @DianaTakesABite

Best Thing I Ever Ate: Crunchy

My first visit to Akasha

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Filed under Eating Out, Hot Chefs

Akasha

I thought Akasha Restaurant was a vegan restaurant. Looking back in my 2008 calendar, I actually made several dinner reservations, then postponed going because I thought the meal would consist of only organic veggies.

It’s not that I don’t like my vegetables because I do. It’s just that I simply HATE the idea of going to a place that only serves things like portobello mushroom burgers and quinoa pudding.

To be perfectly frank, I think I got confused because I kept reading that Akasha was a “green” restaurant. Some of the amazing “green facts” listed on their website include:

FOOD
Sources: Farms, ranches and fisheries that are guided by the principles of sustainability, local produce whenever possible.

Standards: Natural and organic ingredients with no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, trans fats, nitrates, hormones or antibiotics.

BEVERAGE
Water: In-house water purified and bottled with the Natura system.

Spirits, Wine & Beer: Many organic, sustainable and bio-dynamic selections on list.

BUILDING AND DÉCOR
Materials: American Clay, no VOC paint, sustainable insulation recycled ceiling material, reclaimed finishes, recycled glass tile, reclaimed barn wood recycled fiberglass insulation, beeswax finishes, local limestone.

Furniture: Organic leather, hemp fabric, sustainable wood.

Bathrooms: Reclaimed wood stalls, waterless urinals, auto shut off sinks, biodegradable soap, high post-consumer toilet paper / paper towels.

UNIFORMS
Jeans: Levis Eco 100% organic cotton jeans

Shirts & Tee Shirts: 100% organic cotton

PAPER GOODS
To-Go Cutlery: Wheatware™, biodegradable, made from wheat (link to complete list below).

Yes, Akasha Restaurant is “green”, and downright beautiful as well. But Akasha restaurant is NOT, and has never been a vegan restaurant. 

They serve BEEF (hell, yes!): The best short-ribs I’ve ever had, cooked “asian-style” with star anise and ginger.

They also serve lamb: Decadent little Niman Ranch lamb sliders topped with feta and tomato chutney. And fyi… I’m not a big lamb fan, but I would order Akasha’s mini lamb burgers again and again.

The two seafood dishes I tried were fantastic. Perfectly seared albacore and wild pepper scallops with forbidden black rice risotto.

Quinoa? Yep, it’s on the menu, but I didn’t order it on my first visit. Maybe next time, but only if I’m having a big, comforting plate of juicy, pork chops as well!

Akasha Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
Awesome Cocktails: 
“Slumdog Passion” (left), tru lemon organic vodka, passion fruit puree, pineapple juice, blood orange & agave. “The Akasha”, made with crop organic cucumber vodka, pineapple & cucumber juice, martini style.

Akasha Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
Deep-fried Chickpeas (very similar to Animal!)

Akasha Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
In photos clockwise from bottom left: La Quercia Prosciutto Pizza (oregonzola, fig, caramelized onions, wild arugula), Asian Style Braised Shortribs (star anise, ginger & pink peppercorns, parsnip-potato puree, baby spinach, scallions), Organic Macaroni and Cheese with toasted bread crumbs, Niman Ranch Lamb Sliders with sheep’s feta, local arugula, tomato chutney . (We were so hungry, I was rushing the camera. I will get BETTER photos on my next visit I promise! ) 

Akasha Restaurant, MyLastBite.com
In photos clockwise from bottom left: Escalavida on a mushroom puree with truffle salt, Togarashi Seared Albacore (bibb lettuce, daikon, carrots, avocado, coconut cashews, spicy sweet chili sauce), House-made Onion Rings (rice flour crusted, smoked paprika dipping sauce), Decadent Chocolate Dessert.

And Finally… Why do my pups love Akasha?

Because she sent home a bag of home-made, delicious doggie biscuits!
Dog Cookies from Akasha! MyLastBite.com
Top left: Harrison (white), Miss Martini (black) and the baby… little (blonde) Maxwell!

Akasha! MyLastBite.comAkasha Restaurant
9543 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 845-1700 

Website (with menu)

OpenTable (free reservations)

Dining Date: 4/19/09 (Dinner with Julian, Wendy and of course, Peter)

Cmplete list of Akasha “Green Facts” here

Akasha on Urbanspoon

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