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Restaurants & Bars 9

Akaska, Menlo Park (sushi)

Sushi Monster | Apr 21, 200605:47 PM

Here's a question that Peninsula sushi geeks can argue (all in good fun, of course) for days, perhaps weeks on end: Which city has the greatest concentration of quality sushi per capita? Yes, Palo Alto has all the restaurants on the University Avenue corridor (of varying quality), plus Fuki Sushi. But just across San Francisquito Creek, neighboring Menlo Park has three very good, low-key establishments jammed within a half-mile stretch of El Camino Real – Koma (next to the Oasis), Akaska (just south of the Guild Theater) and Naomi (near Valparaiso Ave.)

Of these three Akaska – at 925 El Camino Real -- seems to keep the lowest profile, judging from the dearth of references online. Like Naomi and Koma, it's smallish, friendly and very easy to like. Today at noon straight up, most of the small tables in the front of the house were filled, yet I had the ten-seat bar all to myself. Service is spot on. A mug of tea and a hot towel – two of the traditional prerequisites to any proper meal – materialized immediately.

There were two itamae behind the bar, yet only the younger of the two was actively making sushi. His elder partner seemed to be keeping an eye on him and coordinating the ordering process. The younger guy was a pleasure to talk sushi with. He said that he gets the majority of his fish from an Oakland wholesaler. (The vast majority of others in the region use IMP in San Mateo.) I can't say if the wholesaler is the reason, but the one downside I noted at Akaska is a selection that's more limited than many other quality shops in the area. (Naomi, just three blocks north, has a *much* broader array of fish on any given day.) On this particular Friday, Akaska did not have ami masu (ocean trout), seki aji (Spanish mackerel), kani (crab), etc.

As for the fish they did have on hand, the farmed Alaskan sake (salmon) had excellent texture and a noticeably above-average fat content. The standard yellowfin tuna came with a nice signature marinade of sweet vinegar. The best of the day was kanpachi (best-grade young yellowtail) – so nice I had it twice. The run-of-the-mill ebi (poached shrimp) and hotate (scallop) both suffered from wasabe that was just two clicks heavier than my taste preference. Other than that, everything was seasoned very well.

The bottom line: Quality nigiri at an average $4.40 per plate, exactly on par for the region. Good value. Good service. And a very pleasant overall experience. What's not to like? Akaska bumps Ganko in San Carlos for the current No. 10 spot on the Sushi Monster master list. Onward! Let the path of piscene devastation continue ...

Sushi Monster

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