AKA Bistro is a French Bistro with a Japanese sushi bar within the restaurant. The dishes are not fusion cuisine, there are two separate menus. “Aka,” pronounced “ah-kah,” means red in Japanese. We were quite excited to try AKA Bistro because we are so fond of both cuisines and both co-owners have had the pleasure of working directly with Ken Oringer. In advance, we knew we were going to try the French menu over Japanese one.
The 30 minute drive to Lincoln was scenic and peaceful. The quaint town is charming, green and was a refreshing change from Boston. There was a spacious parking lot directly in the rear and a small farmer’s market right next to the restaurant.
We really were intrigued by the sculptures in the front of the restaurant. Our favorite was the metal dandelion. It would be great to find out who the sculptor or artist is. The overall ambiance, lighting and cute paintings in the entrance of the restaurant was inviting.
The clientele in the outdoor seating were couples and mostly families enjoying the sun and comfortable weather. The alfresco outdoor seating was completely full on our visit. In the main dining are was an older, local suburban demographic.
One of the best aspects of AKA Bistro is the chic, French music. I felt as if Carla Bruni’s whispery voice was oozing sophistication. At most bistros we have been to, including Aquitaine, Gaslight, La Voile, Bouchee, Marliave and Sel de la Terre, the music is oftentimes not French, usually American Top 40s pop or strictly instrumental, so the French music was a pleasant and welcome surprise. I also liked the red fabric in the booths. It added a nice bright color to the calm interior.
From the get-go our waitress gave us full disclosure that the restaurant was out of smoothies, ginger mint lemonade and the omelette basque. The menu has quite a selection and already we eyed the chocolate mousse and creme brulee for dessert.
Because the restaurant was understaffed, another waiter, stepped in to help out. He was very friendly, pleasant and admitted he was new and coming in on his day off. It was so nice out, that most customers sat outside, while the dining room was partially full.
We were served a mini baguette, although the french bread was not toasted, it was chewy. We would have loved if the baguette was slightly warm so the already creamy soft butter would melt further. I notice the servers made sure each table had additional bread if requested.
The service was a bit slow, albeit because we had a new server, and the restaurant was exceptionally busy in the outdoor seating area. We ended up waiting 45 minutes for our appetizer of duck salad and tart.
We really liked the tartelette alsacienne $10. The puff was crispy, warm and there was a nice balance of sweet carmelized onions, cheese and bacon crumbles. The thin layer of creme fraiche was a nice touch. We would definitely get this again.
We also had the duck salad. The bountiful salad had a nice vinaigrette and little cherry tomatoes. We really enjoyed the duck gizzards, they had a nice flavor and were well executed. The duck leg itself was well seasoned and very moist meat. However, it was a bit fatty and could have been rendered more or the skin crisped up. The foie was rich and as you would imagine.
The Kro magnon burger was a bit underwhelming because of the size of the bun $18. The bun itself was so gigantic and it literally made the burger diminutive. The homemade fries filled the entire plate and were soft on the inside, perfectly seasoned, but half of them were crispy. The foie terrine, tomato confit and sweet onions were a nice touch to the burger. Although we asked for the burger to be cooked to medium rare, but we received a medium well burger. Our waiter did check in if the food was good, but we didn’t bother to speak up about the temperature because the meat was still very juicy and moist.
I had the Saint jacques Poelees, poleta et laitue braisee $26. The scallops were sauteed, well seasoned, they could have be seared longer for a better crust. My favorite part of the entree was the polenta. It was memorable and was fantastically crispy. I really liked the bell pepper creme fraiche and the vegetables and protein was sourced locally. In addition, the presentation was quite artistic. I remember exclaiming how beautiful it was. The kale although had a nice sheen from the oil, was a bit too oily. We were also served a random side of steamed green beans $6, which was intended for another table.
We requested ketchup for the fries and refill on the hot water for the teapot. Although we were brought hot water, we had to remind our server to bring the ketchup and at that point, we had gone through 1/4 of the fries already.
After devouring our appetizers and after tasting part of our entrees, we asked to take home the remainder of our mains and the waiter was very obliging. He was very quick to pack up our food. The creme brulee and chocolate mousse would have to wait for another time.
AKA Bistro has many specials that customers can take advantage of weekly, such as a Monday-Thursday 1/2 roasted chicken, a Monday 5 course dinner, Jazz Thursdays, and an upcoming farm-to-table 4 course meal featuring Blue Heron Farms. Just call ahead to make sure they are still running and make reservations however.
Overall, AKA Bistro has the potential to be an exceptional restaurant if there is more focus to attention to detail at the front of the house. The restaurant was a bit understaffed and as a result service was noticeably slower. Although we did not try the Japanese side of the restaurant or dine outside, we would return to try the other facets of AKA Bistro.
* We were asked to review AKA Bistro and received a complimentary meal.