10246953096?profile=RESIZE_710xKorean-born chef Akira Back’s passion is to provide an experience that connects diners with aspects of his food, personality and life. Photos provided

By Jan Norris

Celeb chef Akira Back has debuted his first namesake Florida restaurant at The Ray, Delray Beach’s new luxury hotel in Pineapple Grove.
Back, a Korean-born chef who was raised in Aspen, Colorado, brings modern Japanese cuisine with a variety of signature dishes to Akira Back, the third restaurant in the hotel. This marks the Michelin-starred chef’s 18th restaurant in his critically acclaimed portfolio. Many American food enthusiasts know him from Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant and Lounge in The Bellagio Resort and Casino, Las Vegas.
He draws inspiration from his worldwide travels as a professional extreme snowboarder, leaning on his Korean heritage and culinary school’s professional techniques.
An eclectic cooking style, along with a lively, innovative dining experience at each venue, earned Back a Michelin star.
Top ingredients are key to many of Back’s dishes, and he’s widely known for sourcing pure A5 wagyu beef for his interpretation of tacos, and high-end fish for sushi and sashimi that fill the menu.
He will incorporate specialty items for this menu specific to Delray Beach to blend with the tropical climate, while also bringing signature items from other Akira Back menus.
In a statement for the news media, Back said, “The South Florida dining scene has exploded over the last few years and continues to attract more diverse tastes and options in the culinary market. This restaurant blends my cultural roots and sophisticated culinary training resulting in an imaginative and unforgettable dining experience.”

10246985299?profile=RESIZE_710xOne of Back's signature dishes is Angry Yellowtail.

Noted dishes from the menu include AB tuna pizza with umami aioli, micro shiso and white truffle oil; a “New Carpaccio” of octopus, salmon, or flounder served with hot oil, yuzu soy, hoisin garlic, ginger and Szechuan salt; and a 48-hour wagyu short rib with root veggies, quail egg and braising jus.
Robata, or food cooked fireside, is served, and includes lamb chops with smoked jalapeño anticucho, and king crab legs with dynamite sauce and pickled shimeji. The A5 wagyu (top Japanese wagyu) includes toban-yaki with Japanese mushroom, umami sauce and truffle, or tataki with garlic, spicy daikon and ponzu.
Diners also can choose the Nazo 9 — the chef’s mystery box, unveiled tableside. A minimum of two diners must order.
There is an extensive wine list as well as a sake menu, and a cocktail program featuring several Japanese whiskys from Suntory’s three distilleries as well as American and international offerings.
Akira Back joins the Ember Grill, a steakhouse, and Rosewater, a rooftop bar and grill serving breakfast, lunch and late night, at The Ray.
Akira Back’s first-floor space was designed by Celano Design Studio. Teak panels wrap the facade. The bar is a backdrop for the open dining room that features round banquettes upholstered in a fabric patterned on a painting done by Young-Hee Back, the chef’s mother. Counters for sushi and the charcoal robata grill overlook the semi-open kitchen.
“We are thrilled to welcome chef Akira Back to The Ray Hotel and believe that his creativity, technique and attention to detail will elevate and bring international attention to the growing dining scene in Delray Beach,” said Craig Menin, founder of Menin Development, The Ray developer.
The chef expected to be at the Delray restaurant for its opening, then to appear periodically. Daily operations will be supervised by executive chef Eric Berlin, under the direction of Back.
Akira Back in The Ray, 233 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner, starting at 5 p.m. Phone 561-739-1708; akirabackdelray.com. Reservations through OpenTable.com. Valet parking at The Ray.

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10246951881?profile=RESIZE_710xBoca Bacchanal, which has drawn thousands of wine and food lovers since it began in 2003, missed last year because of the pandemic but is returning May 6-7.

Boca Bacchanal, which shut down last year because of the pandemic, is returning this year for two nights’ celebration May 6-7.
The festival, which has drawn thousands of oenophiles and food lovers since it began in 2003, will bring together noted chefs from around the country, and pair them with notable vintners for five-course dinners staged at private homes, historical sites and other locations on May 6.
Vintners are Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, DAOU Vineyards, Masi Agricola, Château la Nerthe, and St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. As of mid-March, the chefs and homes to be matched with them had not been announced. Tickets are $350 per person.
The weekend culminates 7-10 p.m. May 7, with the Grand Tasting at newly renovated The Boca Raton. Numerous vintners will have tastings of their wines and champagnes. Area chefs will offer samples of their signature dishes. Also featured are a silent auction of wines, and dining, travel and lifestyle packages. Tickets to this are $200 per person.
Tickets to the chef-vintner dinners and the Grand Tasting benefit special programs and exhibits hosted by the Boca Raton Historical Society.
Mary Csar, executive director of the historical society and chairwoman of Boca Bacchanal, said the events offer the community “a delightful opportunity to support the heritage education programs of the Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum and the Boca Raton Historical Society.”
The Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum is open to the public in old Town Hall at 71 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Call 561-395-6766 for more information.
For Boca Bacchanal schedule of events and to buy tickets, go to www.BocaHistory.org.

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An update on the changes coming to Mizner Park dining starting this summer:
Kapow Noodle Bar will move to a larger space across from its current location around mid-June.
It will have an indoor-outdoor bar, an eight-seat omakase bar, and three private karaoke rooms with full restaurant service, along with a large outdoor seating area.
Penelope’s, a New Orleans-themed brasserie, will take over Kapow’s old digs. It’s scheduled to open sometime this fall.
Principals in the Subculture Group behind these restaurants also announced their newest concept — an Italian trattoria dubbed Shaker & Pie. At the same time, they brought the news that longtime Irish favorite the Dubliner is closing to make room for it. St. Patrick’s Day was its last big shindig. Work on Shaker & Pie is now the focus, with a target opening of spring 2023.
Vaughan Dugan, a Subculture partner, said, “We started developing the Shaker & Pie concept in 2015 and for one reason or another, it just wasn’t the right time or location. It was a tough decision to close the Dubliner, but the silver lining is that it is a great opportunity to bring Shaker & Pie to life.
“I ran a multi-location pizza concept earlier in my career so it’s rewarding to see things come full circle as we work on the menu for our wood-fired pizzas and small plates.”
Finally, Subculture Coffee, the third of these coffee shops in the county, should be open as you read this — late March was the goal. It will roast its own coffee beans in-house and offer prepared breakfast, lunch and snacks. Plans are to open another in Delray Beach and in Palm Beach Gardens later in 2022.

In brief
Burt Rapoport, a South County restaurateur for more than 30 years, has opened a Chinese restaurant, Pagoda Kitchen, reminiscent of his classic favorite, Betelnut in San Francisco. We love the Peking duck among a menu of approachable favorites — bao buns, pork fried rice, dumplings and egg rolls, along with wagyu beef potstickers and giant spicy prawns.
Pagoda Kitchen is in the Delray Marketplace on West Atlantic Avenue. Expect to wait — and the food is served family style, by the way.

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The Gringo Empanadas replaced the old Surf Shack in Delray Beach on Southeast Fifth Avenue. It has a simple menu of seven empanadas (plus one for breakfast), along with a few açai bowls and a couple of wraps. It is closed Mondays.

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The newest hot pizza place in the area is Mister 01, in Boca Raton, noted as the best in Florida by Food and Wine magazine. The Miami franchise’s star-shaped, thin crust sets the pies apart, along with creative toppings (classics, too). Check them out at 555 N. Federal Highway.

Jan Norris is a food writer who can be reached at nativefla@gmail.com

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