Since he was a kid, Travis Babcock has loved sushi, so managing Akira for the past three years has been a good fit. Babcock, a 10-year restaurant industry vet, says Akira strives to make great food for the community while providing a casual and family-friendly dining experience. Akira serves “Santa Cruz” style sushi at its Aptos and Midtown locations. It’s open every day from 11:30am-9pm. Babcock spoke to GT about Akira’s innovative rolls and more.
What sets Akira apart from other sushi restaurants?
TRAVIS BABCOCK: Our rolls and especially our vegetarian menu. Our vegetarian rolls are unlike anywhere else in Santa Cruz. It’s the ingredients and different styles we use. Specifically, the shoestring yams we top our rolls with are something I haven’t seen anywhere else. Another thing that sets us apart is that all of our sauces are housemade. Many customers love our habanero sauce, which is our spiciest. And most places have a generic unagi sauce, but we make ours in-house, which creates a bolder and deeper flavor. Our Akira dressing is a ginger miso combination; we have a spicy version as well.
What are some signature menu items?
I would say our most popular fish rolls are our namesake Akira Roll and the Golden Gate. The Akira Roll is made up of tempura Ebi, avocado and spicy tuna on the inside and loaded on top with hamachi, Shiro maguro, crab salad, jalapeño and our signature sauces. The Golden Gate has tempura asparagus, spicy nut mixture, hamachi and is topped with salmon, avocado and lemon. Our most popular, and my personal favorite veggie roll, is our Silence of the Yams. It has mango, tempura green beans, spicy nuts and shiso and is topped with avocado, shoestring yams, spicy miso and habanero sauce. Our house specialty appetizer is our Macho Tuna; thinly sliced maguro laid on a plate topped with several house sauces and jalapeño, tobiko, shiso and green onion. The sauces and the garnishes with the tuna really bring the flavors to life. And for those who don’t eat raw fish, we have great cooked options ranging from cooked rolls to bento boxes with choices like steak, salmon and chicken.
1222 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-600-7093; akirasantacruz.com. 105 D Post Office Dr., Aptos, 831-708-2154; akiraaptos.com.