With the recent arrival of a Japanese Restaurant called , Richmond has yet another good source of sushi outside the walls of the ubiquitous Ukrop's. Not that there's anything wrong with Ukrop's, but part of the sushi experience is in the feel of a restaurant, and in that department, Akida scores high. It's a small, comfortable place with around 30 seats and an attractive, coarsely carved wooden bar behind which two sushi chefs busily ply their trade. Blond wood paneling and colorful Japanese prints give a clean new look to this typical Fan-style building. The staff is friendly and attentive, despite stealing the occasional glance at a television mounted prominently in the restaurant's corner. It feels like a place that might attract regulars.
Akida's menu seems designed to entice you into ordering a "sushi combo." The menu boasts no fewer than 10 combos prominently displayed and pictured with an additional four party platters. Some have only cooked sushi, some include sashimi and sushi, and a few come with miso soup. They range from around $6 to $22, and undoubtedly if you find a combo that appeals, you'll realize a savings. But half the fun of eating sushi is designing the meal, so I say forget about the combos, settle in with your a la carte menu and exercise a little free will. Akida offers 10 a la carte nigiri sushi items ($1.75 to $3 each) and 21 varieties of rolls ranging from $1.50 for the modest cucumber roll to $7.95 for the more complex Eel Dragon or Rainbow Roll.
All the seafood we sampled was sparklingly fresh, as it must be for sushi, and appeared to be lovingly cared for and well presented. In the nigiri sushi department we tried a deep-red tuna that was good and meaty, a strikingly beautiful red clam which tasted something like chewy seawater, a pleasantly mild yellowtail, a wasabi-spiked salmon, and a slightly disappointing eel, which sort of fell apart on its mound of rice and lacked a certain strength of flavor I have come to expect.
In the sushi roll department, we tried the Spider Roll ($4.50) which is the accepted, if slightly too biologically correct name for the softshell crab roll. Akido's Spider Roll seemed smaller with less crab than those I've had elsewhere, but it was also a good bit less expensive. For those who fancy vegetarian sushi but are tired of cucumber and avocado rolls, Akida offers a seaweed salad roll ($2) which I had never encountered before. It features the same delicious crunchy seaweed salad usually served by itself as an appetizer.
But Akida isn't just a sushi bar, it has a full range of appetizers and entrees including donburi, which is a traditional dish consisting of meat, vegetables and egg over rice; udon and ramen, which are noodle soups; and basic teriyaki dishes.
If miso soup is the litmus test of Japanese kitchen then Akido's kitchen gets a high score. They serve a light-colored miso soup with a wonderful mild nutty flavor that arrives piping hot in attractive oddly shaped Japanese bowls. After the soup, we sampled a tofu teriyaki ($7.95) presented steaming on a metal platter with a thick sweet teriyaki glaze, steamed broccoli and white rice a simple but not unappealing dish. Our other entrée, shrimp tempura udon ($7.95), was prettier than it was tasty. A tall bowl of broth was filled with thick udon noodles and creatively adorned with five large shrimp tempura, two slices of daikon, chopped nappa cabbage and those gelatinous discs that taste like nothing but seem to be an essential part of udon (a processed fish product, I imagine). Unfortunately, after feasting on the crispy and delicious shrimp, the remainder of the soup with its mild broth and soft noodles, was pretty mediocre.
I was eager to try some exotic Asian desserts, and here, Akida gratified my every expectation. Try the strange seaweed soft flour cake, which is a cross between green Rice Krispy treats and compressed funnel cake. Good, but one order is enough for three or four people, trust me on this one. For something really remarkable, try Akida's rice cakes, which are something of a hybrid candy-dessert. These green, red and white chewy gelatinous balls (presumably a rice product) conceal inner cores of a strawberry-flavored marshmallow product, muskmelon, or red-bean paste. In my humble opinion one order is enough for a lifetime, but no life is complete without the experience.
Every time another restaurant that broadens the cultural horizons of this city opens its doors, we have cause to celebrate. As we incessantly defend our city against unwarranted accusations of provincialism, Akida adds one more arrow to our
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