Plenty of vegetarian options are a draw at this popular Japanese restaurant

Akira is a very well regarded Japanese restaurant in Santa Cruz. A casual eatery, it doesn’t take reservations and the wait can get quite long. On that early Monday evening in April, we perhaps had to wait for 10 minutes, but it got very crowded soon after. They do have some chairs outside where you can sit while you wait and some patio eating, though it was perhaps too cool for anyone to want to seat outside that evening.

The restaurant itself is quite small, with some seating at the sushi bar. It’s very casual and it doesn’t have much atmosphere to speak of. While our waiter was very pleasant, the kitchen forgot to make the sushi rolls we ordered, and it was quite a while before the waiter realized that. He did ask us if we wanted some edamame ($5) while we waited, but we were charged for it. No matter, we were celebrating friend Libby’s birthday and we were in a good mood.

What annoyed me the most about Akira is the fact that they hide their menu. If you go to the menu page in their website, it refers you to a QR code, rather than just showing you the menu. In any case, you can see it here.

Libby, a vegetarian, had the Veggie Dragon roll ($18.75 – Tempura Green Beans, Tempura Yam, Spicy Nuts, Fried Garlic, Shiso topped w/ Avocado, Shoestring Yams, Unagi Sauce, Spicy Sesame Miso Aioli and Toasted Sweet Coconut). Libby liked it quite a bit, and would have it again. There are plenty of other vegetarian options, so this is a good place to come if you have vegetarians among you.

Mike ordered the Golden frieza ($23 – Tempura’d roll w/ Habanero Tuna, Skirt
Steak, Tempura Onion, Avocado, Cream Cheese, Jalapeño, Fried Garlic topped w/ Unagi Sauce, Basil Aioli, Spicy Mayo and Green Onion). He was disappointed with it. The roll tasted fine and he liked it, but he wasn’t awed by it. He was expecting something more, more flavor, more contrasting textures, just something that would surprise him. It was a large roll, and he did take home some of it.

I had the 2 item Bento Dinner with Skirt Steak Teriyaki and Chicken Katsu ($28). It also came with a miso soup, salad and rice. I loved the salad. The sweetish dressing was absolutely delicious and might have been my favorite part of the meal. The skirt steak, however, was very good. Nicely grilled and juicy. I was less fond of the chicken katsu. It came with the katsu sauce on top, and the sauce was thick and concentrated, with too sour and intense a flavor for confort. I wouldn’t order it again. This was a huge plate of food, as you can see, and I was happy to have the leftovers for the next day.

Both Mike and I had miso soup ($4.75), mine came with the meal while Mike ordered himself a bowl. It was good, very flavorful, but nothing particularly special. The soup is not vegetarian, so Libby couldn’t enjoy it.

In all, we had a pleasant dinner but not a mind blowing one. We’d go back to Akira, if the wait wasn’t too crazy.

1222 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA
(831) 600-7093
Daily 11:30am–9pm
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