11:30 AM - 11:00 PM

11:30 AM - 11:30 PM

12:00 NOON - 11:00 PM

Dine in or Take Out
Delivery Available
Grand St. - 34th St.
Sixth Ave. - Avenue D
by Joel R. Simon
I first encountered Japanese food in the 1970's when I studied the Japanese language at what was then the "School of Continuing Education" at NYU in Manhattan (and was warned by one of my fellow students to never venture east of Broadway).  At the end of each semester the instructor would take the class to lunch or dinner at one of the fine Japanese restaurants that were beginning to appear all over the Big Apple.  I was never much of a seafood lover, but I discovered I really enjoyed sushi, raw or cooked, and beef, chicken, vegetables, etc. made Japanese style.  In the 1980's I made eight trips to Japan, and experienced the full range of Japanese cuisine, even kaiseki ryori (all right, I never tried fugu, but for example, once in Matsumoto, deep in the Japanese Alps, I was treated to a local specialty, identified after I consumed it, which turned out to be raw horsemeat).  I also enjoyed Japanese fast food, whether it was sushi that traveled on a conveyor belt around the restaurant (you paid according to how many empty plates of different colors were in front of you at the end), or delicately prepared chicken (for real) in a restaurant that had a statue of Colonel Sanders out front.  At a shop by the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, I had sushi so fresh it was almost still alive on the plate. 
In the intervening years, I continued to frequent Japanese restaurants, both to enjoy the delicious food and to keep up my speakng knowledge of Japanese.  However, as time went by, it seemed that my speaking ability was getting more and more rusty as the server would struggle to understand my Japanese and bring what I ordered.  At first I attributed this to the same problem I often encountered in Japan:  A young waiter would see my Caucasian face and panic, no matter how good my spoken Japanese was.  However, one day a waiter (in the U.S.) finally admitted that my Japanese was probably fine, but he was not Japanese.  As Japan continued to prosper, young people would continue to come to study in American schools or visit as tourists, but with no need to work to survive (One wonders if this will change in light of the shock to the Japanese economy from the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster).  Also, other Asians, especially Chinese, learned to prepare Japanese food well.  Nowadays, some Chinese will emigrate to the U.S. by way of Japan, where they learn to prepare sushi, etc., at the source, and others weill acquire the skills directly in thye U.S. as apprentices to experienced Chinese chefs.  Finally, there is a trend now towards "fusion" Asian restaurants which offer a combination of various Asian cuisines.
A few years ago, I first passed by Akina restaurant on my way from the First Avenue Subway Station (a stop on the L train which runs crosstown from Eighth Avenue and then deep into Brooklyn) on my way to another restaurant.  One day the front door was open, and I noticed the beautiful interior (and cute waitresses...) in the tiny restaurant.  I took a take-out menu from a pocket outside the storefront, and was impressed with the range of dishes, both sushi and cooked food, and the modest prices.  Shortly thereafter I became disenchanted with the restaurant I had been frequenting, and one November evening I entered and enjoyed my first of hundreds of meals at Akina Sushi.  The following week, pleased with my first experience, I brought chrysanthemums from my own garden, happy to contribute a little more beauty to the already very attractive space.
Left:  Sashimi "regular";  Center:  Joel Simon's chrysanthemums at Akina on 5 November 2011;  Right:  Typical modest Akina bill, always with a "kiss"
To read the rest of my essays about Akina Sushi restaurant, please return to the Main Page and follow the links to my other Akina pages.