Aki Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi

Japanese Food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hanover PA; Aki Japanese Steakhouse is worth the trip.

I’m very particular when it comes to Japanese food and tend to shy away from chain restaurants. For more than a year I have been driving past Aki Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi restaurant, saying to myself, you need to see if they are any good. My dilemma is that they are really good, but they are also a chain restaurant. Where I normally do not review chain restaurants, Aki is worth reviewing and better yet visiting.

Aki Tempura Shrimp
Aki Tempura Shrimp

Have you ever asked yourself what is the purpose of appetizers? They say that an appetizer is supposed to whet your appetite. Appetizers can also build anticipation of the pending meal. From the first bite of Aki’s Tempura Shrimp, Every bite had me anticipating my next bite, the Tempura Shrimp was really good. The tempura batter did not overpower the shrimp. You actually got shrimp with every bite. I would recommend sharing due to the pieces are large. Needless to say; I couldn’t wait for my meal.

Aki Katsu Chicken
Aki’s Katsu Chicken

To start with, there is a lot to be said about Aki’s presentation. I’m always impressed when a restaurant takes the extra steps to set their meals apart from their competition. I have reviewed Katsu Chicken in the past. One of the differences with Aki’s Katsu Chicken vise other places I have reviewed is the size of the portion. I was not expecting two large chicken breast patties. The patties generously covered with the panko breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown. I did find the patties a little dry and I felt with such large patties, they should have been a little more generous with the Katsu Sauce. They didn’t have any problems bringing me more sauce.

Overall this was a very good meal. If anything, I was disappointed in myself for not leaving room for dessert. I saw on their menu they serve deep fried ice cream. I will definitely come back so I can try their Teriyaki Steak. if you are looking for dinner and a show, they do offer Hibachi Dinners prepared in front of you and your guest.

If I had done a little research in advance, I would have known that Aki Steakhouse and Sushi restaurant is a chain, with roots back to Japan. I don’t usually research, it defeats the purpose of discovery. I recommend Aki if you are looking for a good Japanese restaurant. Have you been to Aki or do you have a favorite Japanese restaurant’ leave your comments below.

Blue Gingko

Blue Gingko in Lafayette California, is authentic Japanese cuisine.

A trip to the San Francisco Bay Area would not be complete without eating at my favorite Japanese restaurant, the Blue Gingko. Outside of Japan, the Blue Gingko is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. It starts with the food. Blue Gingko imports food from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. It ends with tastes that will transport you to Japan.

Fried Rice Balls
Blue Gingko’s Fried Rice Balls

Something unique to Blue Gingko is fried rice balls. Picture this, you pick up your Hashi, better known in the States as chopsticks, and you slice through the outer shell of a fried rice ball to find the soft inner body. This has to be one of my favorite ways to eat rice. The fried rice balls at Blue Gingko are served with an unagi sauce (Eel Sauce.) Unagi sauce is a thickened, sweetened soy sauce. For the squeamish amongst us, this sauce is not made from eels, it is a sauce that is traditionally served with grilled eel dishes in Japan. 

Blue Gingko's Gyoza
Blue Gingko’s Gyoza

Call me crazy, I actually went to Blue Gingko twice on this trip. Knowing that it will be a while until I go back to the Bay Area. On my second trip, I ordered Gyoza. This is one of my favorite appetizers. Blue Gingko has the right touch, they are deep fried to the point of having a light crunch and the pork is tender and flavorful. To complement the Gyoza it is served with a dipping sauce that is made of soy sauce and vinegar. After the unpleasant experience I had in Rochester, it was a pleasure eating their Gyoza.

Blue Gingko Tonkatsu
Blue Gingko’s Tonkatsu

As soon as I confirmed my trip back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew I was going to dine at least one night at Blue Gingko. There was also no doubt what I was going to order, Tonkatsu. You may ask yourself what is so special about a deep-fried pork tenderloin cutlet. Blue Gingko’s pork tenderloin is cut to the right portion size. They do not cut their pork tenderloin to thin. Cutting pork tenderloin to thin has a tendency to make it too dry. Theirs is tender and juicy. The panko crust has just enough seasoning to enhance the dish. Let’s not forget the Tonkatsu Sauce. Tonkatsu Sauce is a complex sauce made from fruits and vegetables, plus soy sauce, vinegar and no less than 10 spices. If you haven’t had Tonkatsu Sauce, it has a rich flavor with a slight tanginess. The Tonkatsu Sauce is what brings the dish together. Having eaten this dish in Japan, Blue Gingko’s tastes like it was transported straight from Japan.

Teriyaki Chicken
Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken

When I want to change things up, I order Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken. Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken has a light, sweet teriyaki flavor. If you are watching your carbs, this dish may not be for you. I highly recommend this dish. The day I was eating dinner there, I heard another patron tell their dining partner, they only order Teriyaki Chicken when they eat there.

Blue Gingko  is definitely a restaurant worth the drive if you live in the San Francisco Bay area or just visiting. Whether you are looking for sushi or want to try my favorite Tonkatsu, you should make plans to visit Blue Gingko in Lafayette, California. Have you been to Blue Gingko? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sogo Japanese Steakhouse

Teriyaki Steak, Perfectly cooked, thinly sliced, medium rare.

It is said you eat with your eyes. I believe this to be true. This can also be true when your are looking for a place to eat when you are on the road. I questioned whether I should try Sogo Japanese Steak House. The exterior should have gave me clues about the quality of the food served inside. Then again, there are a lot of strip mall restaurants that are fantastic. Walking in Sogo’s, it had a modern appeal. Neon lighting setting the mood, with the classic Japanese decorations.

I was immediately seated by a friendly host. My waitress made sure I had a menu as soon as I was seated. So my initial concerns were fading.

Sogo Teryaki Steak

The menu was limited. Being advertised as a Japanese Steakhouse, I did not expect Sushi to be the predominate option. Given I don’t eat fish, I focused on their grilled options. Usually when I eat in a Japanese restaurant, I order Gyoza as an appetizer. With this comes certain expectations. When my waitress returned, I ordered hot tea, Gyoza, and Teriyaki Steak.

My first¬† surprise was when the tea was served, there was a tea bag in the cup, instead of the traditional pot of tea. I was even more surprised when the Gyoza was served. At first glance I wasn’t sure why they thought it was a good idea to serve on a tray that you could have mistaken for something out of a diner. Secondly, the pieces were over cooked. I like my Gyoza a little crispy, but… I mention certain expectations; I know what Gyoza tastes like. The flavor of their Gyoza was off. It could have been because it was over cooked or maybe the oil they used.

Back to eating with your eyes; when the main course arrived it looked good and I couldn’t wait to try the teriyaki steak. Not only was the steak good, but some of the best teriyaki steak I have ever had. Perfectly cooked, thinly sliced, medium rare. The teriyaki sauce was well balanced, not overpowering. The steak was a little on the pricey side,¬† but it was well worth the price. The steak could have saved the meal if it wasn’t for the bland fried rice. It is just wrong to have to ad soy sauce to a dish to give it flavor.

I cannot recommend Sogo Japanese Steakhouse. I know I am a picky eater, but I the side dishes are just as important as the main dish. If you are looking for better than average teriyaki steak, then Sogo Japanese Steakhouse may be what you are looking for.