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Cheap Eats: Asaka

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Where: Asaka, 20355 Biscayne Blvd., 33180, (305) 682-9331

What $15 Gets You: Miso soup, salad, several california rolls, chicken katsu, vanilla ice cream tempura (or wine).

Sushi is one of those foreign dishes that have become as American as apple pie (apple fish pie). It's not strange to ingest the raw fishies rapped in rice or seaweed.

To be honest, I had an aversion to fish and all things that once swam in the deep blue sea, so you can imagine how going to a Japanese sushi restaurant could have well turned out to be a nightmarish experience. But I'm glad to say that Asaka in Aventura has reconciled me with seafood, at least when it comes to sushi anyway.

To be safe, I ordered the chicken katsu, a breaded and fried chicken breast cut into strips, as part of the lunch box special figuring that just in case I couldn't stomach the sushi I would at least have the satisfaction of enjoying some chicken. The special at Asaka gives you fairly sized portions, enough for a good meal, not to mention that it comes with some well-seasoned miso soup.

I ate the chicken first, yeah still playing it safe, and while it was good, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Now, when it came to the california rolls (yes, I know what some sushi connoisseurs will say, "That's not real sushi." Well, it was crab and that's as close to fish as I was willing to get so shut it), I bit into it expecting to taste half the blessed sea, but the taste wasn't overwhelming. It was different that's for sure, but good.

In hindsight, I was glad that I had the chicken first, because I don't think I would've gone back to it after the rolls (all right, I'm lying, but the sushi was that good). The salad wasn't the best I've had but being that I was full of chicken and fish, I can't in good conscience review it appropriately.

Asaka doesn't seem that Japanese, aside from some of the decorations, and I'm glad that it doesn't try hard to look it by putting up an overwhelming, outdated Japanese decor.

I will spare you the details of my attempts at using chopsticks, let's just say that my friend Stephanie, who so kindly accompanied me on this culinary expedition (to make sure I wouldn't kill myself with the damn things), has plenty to blackmail me with for years to come.

Final Verdict: I recommend Asaka as a good place to experiment with sushi if you haven't, and to enjoy a nice meal if you have. The items on the menu aren't out of this world (squid, anyone) but they're good for when you are hungry and not up for a trial-and-error lunch. The price is good, it sure pushes close to the $15 limit if you get dessert but if you fiddle around with the different items on the menu you can probably have a nice glass of wine with your meal and still leave full.

-- Elvis Ramirez

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