If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably have noticed that the typically Italian-dominated Collingswood restaurant scene has been getting a little Eastern flair.
In the past year, Asian fusion concept Fusion Bay and Indian comfort spot Indiya have taken up residence on Haddon Ave. Both restaurants have been received well, offering their own unique spins on classic Eastern flavors.
Akira, the third incarnation of Ming Zheng’s popular South Jersey sushi-hibachi restaurant, recently joined their ranks, rounding out a thriving year for Collingswood restaurants that saw only two closings (Raymond's Pizzeria and Green House) against numerous, high-profile openings.
It’s somewhat surprising that it took this long for hibachi to find its way to Collingswood. Hibachi, for the unfamiliar, is a concept of cooking in which Western-influenced Asian food is prepared directly at the customer’s table. Entrées are typically a choice of protein—chicken, filet mignon, lobster—served with mixed vegetables, fried rice, noodles, shrimp, clear soup and salad.
The highlight of the experience is the inclusion of the antics of a flamboyant chef, who prepares entrees while igniting onion volcanoes, spinning eggs on spatulas, and flipping vegetables into the open mouths of seated patrons.
Akira is a fine representation of hibachi, hitting all the right notes while serving up excellent food, and should thrive beautifully amongst the weekend whirlpool of Collingswood dining. Although a tad more expensive than the area’s similar offerings, the food was marginally tastier, heavy with the garlic (while stopping short of excessive) and generously portioned to boot.
The only misstep in my experience was the hibachi lobster, which was overcooked and tough, and easily lost in the heavy sauces from the grill. That sums up my complaints about Akira, and it’s admittedly a petty one.
Everything else was top-notch. The service was exquisite, and a flagon of complimentary sake is always a gracious gesture. The show itself was a delight, as well. It was the routine script, but the execution was perfect.
As much as I liked the hibachi, it’s the rest of Akira’s menu that will be bringing me back. Akira boasts one of the deepest and most ambitious sushi menus in the area, featuring special rolls filled with lobster salad, Chilean sea bass, New York strip steak and deep-fried sweet potato. The little bit of sushi I had the opportunity to try was among the tastiest I’ve had in South Jersey.
Akira of Collingswood, the most anticipated local restaurant opening since Zeppoli late last year, is already doing a fine job living up to its billing. Haddon Avenue is moving ahead at full steam right now, and it’s exciting to anticipate what’s next.
- I hope everybody enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. I’m looking forward to a new year and new indulgences, so don’t hesitate to let me know about what’s up and coming in the Collingswood/Haddon Township/Haddonfield area.
- Follow me on twitter, @davevaliante.