If it’s an unforgettable experience in dining that you desire, we invite you and your family to come join us and see for yourself why Akasaka’s maintains its reputation for delivering the highest quality Japanese cuisine around! However, it is our belief that fine Japanese food does not have to come at the expense of your wallet. The price range is extremely modest and affordable as compared to other high class sushi restaurants of equal quality. Akasaka is both an exceptional sushi bar as well as an outstanding restaurant which features a wide range of traditional and modern Japanese sushi, sashimi, salads, appetizers, entrees, beverages and desserts.
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San Gabriel Valley Tribune – January 14, 2005
Akasaka is not expected. Zipping along on Grand Avenue in Walnut, halfway between the San Bernardino (10) and the Pomona (60) freeways, nothing is expected. The landscape is one of rolling hills, almost rural but not quite, a planned community that’s busy growing into a bustling suburb. It’s not where you expect to find a Japanese restaurant, good or otherwise. But then, as I’ve learned about things culinary in the San Gabriel Valley, one must always expect the unexpected.
Akasaka sits in a shopping center that’s notable for its newness, but is otherwise like a lot of other upscale malls in the region — an odd mix of this and that, with the occasional non-chain operation to give it a feel of uniqueness. And in this case, the non-chain of choice is Akasaka, a grandly proportioned Japanese eatery, with high ceilings and chefs who greet every customer with a hearty … well, I’m not exactly sure what they’re yelling. But they sure do yell a lot of it.
The first choice you need to make is whether to sit at the sushi bar or at one of the tables. Though most Japanese restaurants aren’t especially fussy about it, there is a rule that you only eat sushi at the sushi bar, while you can have both sushi and non-sushi (mostly cooked) dishes at the tables. There’s a further contention that the sushi is better at the sushi bar than at the tables — that the interpersonal communication between chef and customer makes for a better product.
Normally, I would have grabbed a seat at the bar. But there was a lot on the menu worth tasting. Like the appetizer of beef tataki, which is essentially very thin slices of seared beef, a bit like lightly cooked carpaccio. The meat is well-cooked on the edges, but totally raw within. It’s a fine experience, in terms of both flavor and texture. I wanted the appetizers of Chilean seabass marinated in sake (a lovely dish, and a deal at $7), and the grilled yellowtail neck (which most restaurants refer to as “collar,” not “neck”). I see baked cod in miso, a dish that tastes more like butter than fish on a menu, I order it. I’m like that.
I see salmon skin salad on a menu, I order that as well. It’s one of those bellwether dishes, a concoction that varies wildly from restaurant to restaurant. In this case, it passes muster — a generous heap of greens, topped with enough crispy salmon skin to keep me very well occupied. I was in the mood as well for una-jya, a very simple dish of grilled eel served over rice, that I’ve been mad for forever. It’s just one of those dishes that soothes a tormented soul.
But I also don’t go to a sushi bar to not eat sushi. The selection here is encyclopedic, far longer than most. It’s not often that you find a sushi bar offering striped bass (suzuki), or yellowtail belly (which is not to be confused with toro, the luxurious belly cut of tuna), both very fresh, very flavorful, very good. And though the special rolls are not wholly madcap, they are a bit on the edge.
Though purists gasp at it, I like the current trend toward crunchy rolls — rolls made with tempura crispies, which they do very well at Akasaka. Try the yellowtail and scallion roll as well, another exercise in textural contrast. And the albacore and garlic roll, which tastes more Korean than Japanese — garlic and sushi is an interesting notion, but not a subtle one. And if the cooking at Akasaka is anything, it’s subtle. Even if it is in a mall.