Akanomi Japanese Restaurant is tucked in a strip mall at routes 146 and 20 and features a half-dozen tables in an attractive little dining area that makes good use of a small space.
We landed there on a Friday night for dinner and found a couple of tables occupied, but as small as the dining area is, you can have a private conversation over your noodles without your neighbors’ conversation bleeding into yours. (By the time we left we were the only customers in the place. They’re relatively new and need time to build their customer base.)
Akanomi Japanese Restaurant
WHERE: 2568 Western Ave., Guilderland. Telephone 357-0888
WHEN: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible.
After we scanned the menu, my dinner date, Beverly, asked our server what was good, and was told anything from the hibachi or any of the teriyaki dishes. I decided to try the Chicken-Katsu ($12), and Bev chose the Hibachi Shrimp ($17).
Both entrees came with soup or salad, and we both wanted the miso soup, a staple in Japanese cuisine whose flavor I particularly like. It’s a broth whose slightly sour, slightly yeasty taste comes from dashi stock made from fermented soy. It is enhanced with silky cubes of tofu and freshly chopped green onion. In many Asian countries, miso soup is breakfast fare. I find it somehow comforting, a bit like our chicken noodle.
The Chicken-Katsu was a large breast cutlet that had been dredged in panko bread crumbs and fried to a golden crispness. It came with tonkatsu sauce, made from plum sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and mirin and/or a little sake. It’s a delicious concoction and especially nice with the blank canvas that is Chicken-Katsu. The entree came with artfully sliced veggies including shreds of daikon, a mildly hot Asian radish, and a side dish of white rice.
The Hibachi Shrimp was a generous portion of grilled shrimp in teriyaki sauce served with two different kinds of dipping sauces — one dark, one mustardy yellow. The shrimp, which I sampled, was nicely done — not overcooked to rubber, which is sometimes a problem with grilled shrimp — and was a nice melding of sweet and savory. It also was accompanied by raw veggies and white rice.
Before our entrees arrived, our server brought us a little complimentary platter with a half-dozen of the chef’s special rolls — fish and rice and other goodies wrapped in a crisped seaweed paper and drizzled with the house special sauce. They were a treat and after our first bite they disappeared quickly.
Akanomi has a fairly extensive menu for such a small place, and there is a good selection of sushi and sashimi available, along with various rolls pairing yin and yang foods like eel and avocado, or tuna, avocado with wasabi mayo and sweet chili. (One of them sounded like Sunday brunch — the Philadelphia Roll is smoked salmon and cream cheese.)
Hibachi entrees include the usual combinations — from vegetables only to chicken, salmon and rib-eye steak all the way to filet mignon and lobster tail ($26) — all grilled with mixed vegetables and served with white rice and soup or salad. (You can get brown rice instead of white for $1 extra, though I didn’t realize that until after we’d eaten.)
They also have a number of dishes featuring udon noodles, which I like. There is Kitsune Udon ($10) which is noodles in soup with sweet bean curd and vegetables, and it comes with miso soup or salad. (That’s correct, you can have some soup before you have your soup!) Or you can order tempura udon — udon soup with chicken tempura or shrimp tempura ($11 or $12) or Seafood Yaki Udon ($14), which is sauteed udon with shrimp, scallops and vegetables.
A variety of “Japanese curry” dishes also is available — vegetables, fried tofu, chicken, beef or seafood in a mild curry with onions, carrots and potatoes.
If you favor teriyaki dishes, you might like the house’s Akanomi Teriyaki Special ($21) which features lobster tail, shrimp, scallop and salmon in teriyaki sauce with white rice, miso soup or salad.
Starters include steamed soy beans (edamame) for $3, steamed seafood dumplings (shumai) for $4 and pan-fried dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp or vegetables (gyoza) for $4.
Akanomi also offers special lunch boxes of many of the same dishes with miso or salad, rice, California roll and steamed seafood dumplings.
Our tab for two entrees, which came with rice tea or soda (we chose the tea), with tax and tip, came to $36.38.
We talked on the way home from dinner about what the final test is in grading a restaurant. We found that we had different views on Akanomi. My dining partner said the question for her is whether or not she’d return. In this case, she said, probably not because she knows better Japanese restaurants. On the other hand, I probably would because Akanomi’s prices are certainly right, and I’d like to sample their version of a favorite of mine — Pad Thai, which is stir-fried Thai rice noodles with mixed vegetables and fresh mint with chicken, beef, shrimp or veggies topped with crushed peanuts.