My husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this past weekend and went to Maison Akira in Pasadena. I had never been, and had heard some negative reports about it going downhill, but we had a lovely time.
Atmosphere: The decor is not modern. If you're looking for Philippe Starck, this isn't it. There are heavy drapes, floral prints, booths. The upside of all this is that 1) the chairs are comfortable 2) all the drapery muffles noise, so even though the restaurant was full (I wouldn't say "lively" but far from tomblike) you could have an intimate conversation. A nice change from most places. And while not modern, the decor doesn't look tired, either.
Food: I very much enjoyed the food. Japanese French Fusion feels a bit 80's to me, but I do like it. I opted for the prix-fixe menu with wine pairings and my husband decided to order separately. We were brought an amuse bouche of albacore with a soba cake on the side -- soba noodles encased in gelatin and then sliced -- served with seaweed and a piquillo pepper paste. Definitely creative and good. My first course was a shrimp in kataifi with a saffron cream sauce. This was delicious - the kataifi giving a lovely crunch to the shrimp, which was large and sweet, and the sauce was excellent. My husband ordered leek and potato soup, which was good, but was nondairy leek and potato soup. I told him not to order it, but some people are stubborn. My second course was oyster flan with salmon roe, caponata and beurre blanc. This was fabulous if you like cooked oysters -- the flan wasn't as smooth and sweet as I expected -- it had a bit of that oyster graininess, but the flavor was spot on, and the combination was very nice. It also paired beautifully with the wine I had for the first two courses -- a Pouilly Fume. Main course was for me the miso grilled chilean seabass with provencal vegetables, and husband ordered salmon. I enjoyed the sea bass, which is the signature dish. It's very light and was perfectly prepared. Chilean sea bass just isn't my favorite fish, and the dish was somewhat austere. The salmon was fantastic though -- perfectly buttery and moist, with fantastic mushrooms. Mine was paired with a French Chardonnay -- husband also ordered two glasses -- a California chardonnay and a French Bordeaux.
For dessert, with the prix fixe you can order anything from the menu. I ordered chocolate creme brulee, which was everything a dessert should be -- perfect brulee, intense chocolate custard, shallow dish so the brulee to custard ratio is perfect.
The service was friendly and efficient. Our anniversary wasn't recognized at all, but that's a small thing, and I don't expect a ton of special treatment for a special occasion restaurant. I'd definitely recommend and definitely go back. Cutting edge cuisine it's not, but solid and tasty.