This past May, The Grandscape welcomed chef Akira Back to the ever-growing shopping and dining district in The Colony. The restaurant, simply named Akira Back, after the Michelin-starred chef himself, offers a robust menu of what Back calls “Japanese cuisine with a Korean twist.” Born in Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, Back has built an impressive resume, both inside and outside of the realm of culinary arts. With his new restaurant, he encapsulates his love of food, sport, and family within one space.
As a child in Korea, Back never imagined he’d grow up to be a chef. Baseball was his first love, however, this would soon be overtaken by snowboarding when his father moved him and the family to Aspen.
“I didn’t know much English at the time,” Back said. “When we moved to Colorado, it was a culture shock. Even when the phone or doorbell would ring, we would be so nervous, and my mom would have to answer.”
Back picked up English pretty quickly, and became fascinated with the style of his Colorado peers in school. Inspired by the mohawks, the windbreaker jackets, and the carefree attitudes of his classmates, Back applied his sportsmanship to new challenges; skateboarding and snowboarding.
“I started bleaching my hair, wearing baggy pants,” Back says, “and at the time, I wanted to be a professional snowboarder.”
Back started snowboarding at the age of 15, and his career went on for seven years, before he decided to shift his focus toward cooking. International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Colorado. After culinary school, he was recruited to work at Aspen’s own Kenichi as a sushi prep cook.
Back has worked various roles within the kitchen, in cities like Aspen, Austin, Vegas, Singapore, and more. But with his eponymous restaurant, he brings touches of his own upbringing to both the dishes and the space itself.
The menu at Akira Back consists of several signature dishes, including the AB Tuna Pizza with umami aioli, micro shiso, white truffle oil; Jeju Domi with marinated masago, red sorrel, and chojang; and Toro & Yellowtail Tartare with Oscietra caviar, wasabi soy, and brioche toast. Additionally, back serves a variety of sushi rolls, traditional, and signature. One of the signature rolls is the Pop Rockin’ with spicy crab, cucumber, asparagus, and watermelon Pop Rocks.
“I never used to eat raw fish when I was little,” Back says. “My mom used to give me money for candy, and I would buy Pop Rocks. So, I decided to make a sushi roll with Pop Rocks.”
In addition to inspiring some of the dishes, Back’s mother painted all of the works of art on the restaurant’s wall. This makes for a beautiful home touch to cuisine that is comforting to both the diners and to Back himself.
Over the years, Back has called several cities home, and although the restaurant industry has faced a worker shortage and closures, Back is confident in his new Texas home. In the few weeks Akira Back has been open in The Colony, Back says the restaurant is thriving.
20 years after working as the opening chef at Kenchi in Austin, Back’s love affair with Texas is still going strong. With a place of his own over in The Colony, he is thrilled to be part of Dallas-Fort Worth’s riveting restaurant scene.
“The first time I lived in Texas, I immediately fell in love,” Back says. “I love the accents. The culture is so different, and the people are so friendly.”
Akira Back. 5765 Grandscape Blvd, The Colony. Open 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.