Let’s face it. Luzerne County doesn’t exactly have the most tantalizing array of options to offer those with a taste for sushi. Super Happy Panda Family King Buffet isn’t going to cut it. Fortunately for those looking for higher quality Japanese eats at reasonable prices, a new restaurant has opened up in downtown Wilkes-Barre: Akeno Sushi, located at 72 S. Main St.
In the interest of trying as wide a range of Akeno’s offerings as possible – on a collegiate budget, no less – dinner for this outing consisted of “Sushi for 2,” a sampler platter boasting an impressive selection of nigiri, as well as a California Roll (crab, cucumber and avocado) and a Spicy Tuna Roll (plenty of tuna, surprisingly not a lot of spice).
Before that, though, soup and salad acted as an admirable appetizer. Though the Miso soup lacked the authenticity the rest of the meal would proudly present, it was also far less salty and, thankfully, less gritty than the soup-mix Miso of other budget Asian eateries.
More successful was the ginger dressing that was piled on the otherwise unremarkable salads. Setting itself apart from its competitors, Akeno presented a clearly homemade ginger dressing more robust than the watery sort found elsewhere. Almost like coleslaw more than a salad dressing, with thick chunks of ground ginger – and, in one instance, sesame – clearly visible.
Onto the main event, each piece of nigiri consisted of a single, thumb-length bed of sticky rice topped by a length of fish. The purpose was to highlight the tastes and textures of each individual piece of seafood, the simplicity allowing the inherent flavors of the fish to speak for themselves. Featured fish included tuna, salmon, Spanish mackerel, yellowtail, stray bass, red snapper, fluke and eel. Portions were generous without being indulgent.
The flavors in both the nigiri and the rolls tasted fresh and clean. The rustic, earthy flavors of the mackerel and eel packed the boldest wallop whereas the fluke, yellowtail and snapper offered a more subtle, airy experience.
Green tea-flavored mochi ice cream – essentially rice-based ice cream wrapped in a soft dough – capped the feast nicely, offering just the right mixture of chewy, chilly and subtle sweet to make a dessert ideally matched to the meal preceding it.
For the more adventurous, Akeno offers a variety of rolls both standard and unique, as well as tempura and unagi don (broiled eel over white rice). Most specialty rolls are priced in the $10 range, which puts Akeno in an admirable position of marrying affordability with delectability.
All told, “Sushi for 2” cost around $30, which, taking into account beverages, soup and salad, is pretty respectable indeed. Throw in an enthusiastic staff and a tranquil atmosphere, and Akeno Sushi proves itself another exciting addition to Wilkes-Barre’s downtown dining scene.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5