Restaurant Review #30: Akwa, Santa Monica (now closed)

I went to Akwa late on a weeknight. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and the kitchen was about to close when we hadn't even ordered yet. I almost wished they hadn't let us in--having worked at many jobs where my freedom was contingent on a customer leaving, I really don't like being that customer. I tell myself that I've karmically earned it, but I still don't like it. It was a little odd that the restaurant was so empty--it just looks like a place that would be full of well-dressed early thirtysomethings every night--though honestly, it may have too much in common with Sushi Roku to be of much value to the Downtown Santa Monica dining scene. It does set itself apart with its spacious interior layout, live music, and rooftop area, however. Maybe it could even outdo Roku--but do people know this? Are they eating there? I'm not sure.

My friend and I ordered a shrimp tempura roll for him, and for me, a yellowtail roll and yellowtail sushi. The food wasn't presented very well--it all came on a large butcher block, and wasn't laid out very precisely. Was that a message from the chef to go home, or just plain carelessness? It did taste good--good enough that my non-sushi-eating, non-seafood-eating friend got hooked on sushi and started insisting on frequent trips to Whole Foods to fulfill his cravings. The hostess and our waitress were very friendly and didn't make us feel like we were intruding on their otherwise empty restaurant--that was largely my own self-inflicted pain.

I don't feel like I really got a sense of what the restaurant was like from this visit. I felt rushed, didn't order a lot of food, and since there were no other patrons, I didn't get a sense of what the clientele is like (though I imagine it's white, well-dressed, and affluent). There are a lot of things on the menu that looked interesting, and I liked the decor and the spacious layout--even if the restaurant gets noisy, my guess is that since there is plenty of space between tables, you can still hear the people you're eating with. That's especially nice when so many places in LA seem to want to cram as many tables into as few square feet as possible. I realize rents are expensive, but still. There is also a wide variety of seating options--sushi bar, first floor, second floor, or rooftop.

I'd like to go back and see what Akwa is really about, especially since they have live Latin and Brazilian jazz music on the rooftop on Friday and Saturday nights. They also offer eight different kinds of maki for $4 each during happy hour. That's not a huge discount, but it's rare for a sushi happy hour to have that much selection.

1413 5th St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 656-9688

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