Asian restaurant Musume is located across the street from the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Winspear Opera House. "People ask all the time, 'What should we do after dinner?'" says Musume's co-operator Josh Babb.
Instead of sending customers to Uptown, Victory Park or Deep Ellum, they can now send hopeful drinkers to a hidden bar in the back.
It's a winding journey to this new speakeasy: Customers will be led through the restaurant, then hook a left, walk through the kitchen, and breeze past a storage area. It's a right at the white cinder-block wall and a final left into a dark, red tomb called Akai.
Anyone who spots the side door, off of Crockett Street in the Dallas Arts District, can enter there, too. They'll know it by the Japanese symbol above the door and the bouncer nearby.
But doesn't the other way sound like more fun?
Akai is the latest bar project from Babb and Sean Clavir, who operate an eclectic mix of Dallas-area spots including a live music venue called ChopShop Live in Roanoke and Carrollton and a restaurant, Prohibition Chicken, in Lewisville. (Prohibition Chicken also has a hidden back bar, come to think of it.) Akai was done in collaboration with SBBC Hospitium, which operates The Tipsy Alchemist, Felix Culpa, Truth & Alibi and others.
Akai is the sexiest spot in Babb and Clavir's portfolio so far, and it's meant to feel like a secluded lounge.
The bar is designed with a dragon popping out from the ceiling, backlit with a flush of red, made by Oak Cliff shop Stash Design. A painting on the back wall is by Jerod "Dtox" Davies, a muralist and body painter from Dallas. The painting perches over a big, three-sided booth, the kind of place where a group could congregate and celebrate.
Take a virtual tour inside Akai:
The cocktail menu, made by Stephen "Scuba" Underhill, includes "fun, refreshing drinks," Babb notes. "And if people care" — and they do — "many will be light on calories." Signature drinks will include a green-tea-infused whisky drink called Tokyo Smoke and a cucumber sake and vodka cocktail called Precious Jade.
The Last Samurai is Underhill's favorite, one that might bite back a little: It's a soju cocktail made with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, green chartreuse, wasabi, lime juice and a Luxardo cherry.
The bar will also have a Japanese highball machine, a fancy bar tool that's starting to become available at bars in Texas. At Akai, bartenders plan to use Japanese whisky in the machine, which mixes super-carbonated water in cocktails.
Akai is named for the Japanese word aka or akai, which means red. Babb was concerned bargoers would pronounce aka as letters, like "A.K.A.," so he went with akai. The bar name is pronounced "ah-KAI," though the pronunciation for the Japanese word for red is "AH-kah."
Akai is located at 1740 Crockett St., Dallas.