Akikos, SF

Akikos Restaurant dusty exterior does not leave the best first impression.

Unfortunately, appearances do not deceive at this little Japanese joint at the edge of Chinatown.

Simple, elegant
Simple, elegant

Lunchtime on a Tuesday saw a couple of empty tables in the cozy restaurant. The ambience exuded warmth with its wooden walls and minimal but bright décor.

Also minimal was our starter: sunomono containing chunks of octopus and English cucumbers with a soy vinaigrette.

Sunomono with octopus
Sunomono with octopus

It saddens me to report that the octopus was slightly tough and the “sweet soy vinaigrette” was more soy than vinegar and was lacking in sweet – it may as well have been just plain soy sauce.

The walu (seared escolar) nigiri was not really seared, but nevertheless was delicious – so meaty and with so much give you’d think it was raw – leading me to suspect that it was not actually what we’d ordered. The saba (Norwegian mackerel) tasted fresh and was brightened by bits of spring onion.

Sushi purists may not be too please to know that the pieces of fish were significantly larger than the knob of rice and the wasabi tucked between them was noticeably lacking in zing.

Yum
Walu (left) and saba nigiri

Maybe Akikos’ forte is not in cooked food.

As it turns out, Akikos’ forte may well be in visual artistry.

Yum yum
So much yum

The Rainbow Roll, comprised of “krab” (imitation crab), avocado, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, tuna, and red snapper, was a burst of brightness in every bite. The secret to this brightness lies in the multi-colored tobiko, which sparkled with something somewhat briny, somewhat vinegary.

And what a sight to behold! The kitchen clearly understands the visual aspect of the dining experience.

Super yum
Almost too purdy to eat
Oh boy
This too fell victim to my chopsticks.

Akikos scored a touchdown with the visually-arresting Forty-Niner roll: First, the perfect shrimp tempura, which had a a light coating of panko that gave just enough crunch and seasoning without taking away from the meatiness and flavor of the shrimp. Second, the complex combination of the crispy shrimp, fatty avocado, clean salmon, slight vinegar of the masago, and refreshing citrus of the “paper lemon,” all on the solid carrier of rice. Hearty, complex, a pleasure to consume.

And then this:

WTF IS THIS?!
WTF IS THIS?!

I would not like
PLASTIC
with my sushi
plskthx!

Oooh
Rockin’? Not quite.

Too-heavy goopy brown sauce made the Rock N’Roll less than stellar. You ever get that feeling that what you’re eating is sticking all over the sides of your mouth? If you haven’t, you could get that experience here.

Nice
At least it looks good

There was so much potential here: interesting combination of ingredients and real artistic flair. Unfortunately, this diner is unable to overlook the serious missteps during the course of the meal. At least service is courteous and professional (we were comped for the Forty-Niner roll).

THE VERDICT:

The occasional bursts of brilliance were, unfortunately, not enough to make up for the otherwise unimpressive flavors and oversights in preparation.

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