Akira Catering steps into the restaurant business
Ever since I saw the sandwich board on the Soquel Avenue sidewalk, I have anxiously awaited the arrival of sushi to the Seabright neighborhood. Akira began first as a catering company founded by Dustin Murata and Greyson Leek who met while working at Sushi Garden in Capitola.
Entering through the back door of the made-over restaurant, home most recently to Kickback Cafe, it offers a comfortable and modern atmosphere. A flock of origami cranes are painted on the soft grey wall, the ceiling is coarsely textured with roughly troweled plaster, and a 10-person sushi bar extends out from the kitchen.
Small red-streaked orange glass shades, which match the wall sconces, are supported by serpentine cylinders. At the tables on the clean, brown cement floor, sturdy rosewood-colored chairs are upholstered in black.
At lunchtime, pick one, two, or three items from the selection of entrées ($8/$10/$12). Traditional light-colored miso soup was served in a heavy porcelain bowl with slices of green onions and plenty of tofu.
The rest of the meal was presented on a large, square, white plate. The enticing flavor of sesame oil was prevalent in the delicious, creamy dressing which topped the mixed green salad.
Chicken Katsu, a large thin piece of breast, was breaded and fried to achieve a crackling surface, and drizzled with katsu sauce, a tart and salty condiment with a fruit base. Next time, I'll order a little extra on the side.
Two pieces of still-soft salmon, its skin charred, was coated with a light teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds. The extra sauce drizzled onto its fresh, pale green cabbage bed, making it a tasty part of the meal.
Large shaved slices of pickled ginger were piquant and sweet, paired with the six-piece spicy tuna roll. White rice on the exterior of the nori seaweed wrap was dotted with black and whole white sesame seeds. Inside, was soft, minced tuna with red chilies and crisp matchsticks of cucumber.
The Sushi Lunch ($12) includes an eight-piece sushi roll and three-piece nigiri sushi, both chef's choice.
Sashimi choices include tuna, salmon, yellowtail and albacore as eight-piece starters or 12-piece entrées $11 to $21).
Zen Fusion ($11) is one of the Special Rolls. In this eight-piece delight, sweet, ripe mango, creamy avocado, and minced macadamia nuts were rolled in nori and rice, topped with tuna, and then broiled and finished with a crown of bright roe.
Vegetarian rolls are listed separately, and range from simple cucumber or avocado rolls ($3), to more creative specialties such as Clockwork Orange and the Shrine ($8).
Happy hours include weekdays (3:30 to 5:30 p.m.), as well as daily (9:30 to 10:30 p.m., making Akira an increasingly popular late-night venue. Drink specials include three beers ($2.50 to $5), and Sake Bombs ($5). Appetizer bargains include gyoza ($4), Akira jalapeño poppers ($5), Chiba Salad ($5), and Shrimp Sticks ($3), in which four long, whole, sweet shrimp are skewered and deep-fried.
Take-out is available until 9:30 p.m.
Akira Sushi, 1222 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7093. Beer and wine. Open Wednesday through Monday 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.