Downtown sushi restaurant closes

Published 8:44 pm Saturday, July 28, 2012

Michael Hart, chef and owner at Sushi Aka, takes a break Saturday while preparing for his last dinner rush. The restaurant is closing after nearly six years.

An award-winning downtown sushi restaurant closed its doors for good after dinner on Saturday.

Michael Hart, chef and owner at Sushi Aka, said the time was right to shut down the restaurant. The building was inadequate, he said, and he had offers he couldn’t refuse.

“In a lot of ways, it’s just time,” he said. “We had a good run.”

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Saturday’s dinner service was carry-out only, since Friday night’s storm had knocked out the air-conditioning in the building, Hart posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page. It further proved his point that the building was not able to handle the restaurant operation.

Hart said he is “95 percent sure” he will be taking an opportunity in Philadelphia, but he did not want the details to be published because he has not yet signed the contract.

The restaurant on West Washington Street opened in October 2006. Hart soon was able to wallpaper the interior with awards, including most recently wins in three different categories in the Eastern Virginia region — Asian, fusion and sushi — from Virginia Living Magazine.

Hart said the closure is not for lack of support, and it showed when he announced the news Friday on Facebook.

The outpouring of support caused him to turn his phone off for a while. Some folks even said they would starve without Sushi Aka.

“Being here six years, a lot of the guests and clients are basically family,” Hart said. “Without their support, this place would never have been what it’s become. It’s my restaurant, but it’s their place.”