Sushi Katsu
Both the Chef & the Sushi are Authentic
From the Akron Beacon Journal
By Van McCulloch

There are at least two categories of foodies who want to experience authentic Sushi while visiting in Akron. The first is the serious devotee who, on home turf, has developed a fondness for Sushi’s unique flavors and textures. The other is the adventurous soul who would like an introduction to the culinary specialty, but only if the provider is meticulously trained and the fish is ocean-fresh.

Sushi Katsu, a tiny gem of a place snuggled in the Merriman Valley, is just the ticket for members of both of these groups.

It’s immediately apparent that the proprietor concentrates on food, not fanciful furnishings. While the setting is comfortable and spotless, there’s no attempt to dazzle the visitor with exotic décor or elegant table settings. Instead, guests sit at small, uncluttered tables or cozy up to the Sushi Bar to observe the artist at work.

The term artist is correctly applied to Tony Kawaguchi, reputedly the only authentic Sushi Chef in Akron. The Japanese training regimen, he explains, takes five years and is very rigorous. “They emphasize how critical it is that fish is fresh, fresh, fresh,” he underlines. Taking that caveat to heart, Tony makes daily trips to the airport to secure fresh orders from suppliers he has come to know since he moved to the States.

At his Sushi Bar, Tony is a marvel to watch. Spreading out a large section of seaweed, he spreads on a layer of rice and then the other ingredients in the roll. These might include eel, shrimp, cucumber and sesame seeds for his Akron Roll or yellowtail, smelt eggs, cucumber, green onions and sesame seeds for the Canton Roll. The Arnold Roll, a one-of-a-kind exclusive, is his tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger who became one of Tony’s most ardent fans when Tony was in business in Los Angeles.

To complete the Maki (roll), Tony rolls up the layers in the vivid green kelp – then takes a sharp knife in hand to slice the creation into thin servings.

When it’s time to order, neophytes are welcome to ask the server for help.

On a recent visit, our party consisted of a veteran Sushi eater and some rank amateurs. The server seemed happy to explain the nuances of the method and the menu and to offer suggestions. He also noted that Sushi consists of fish on rice, Sashimi is without rice, and that the fish is not necessarily served uncooked.

We were introduced to Miso – an unusual soup made of soy bean sauce and seaweed. We also sampled such appetizers as steamed snails, fried soft shell crabs, and Sunomono – sliced cucumber, seaweed, scallions, and vinegar soy sauce served with a choice of Octopus, Crab, Shrimp or Whitefish.

Sharing platters of the special house rolls, we experienced such new taste sensations of Salmon Roe, Sweet Shrimp, Red Clam, Sea Urchin and Abalone.

Not surprisingly, a generous supply of tea is available as are hot and cold Sake, Plum Wine and a variety of imported and domestic beers. Desserts are a nice finishing touch. Mochi, a chewy, rice dough filled with sweetened red Aduzki beans, is a fitting end to a memorable dining experience.

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