From Suffolk to the World: Sushi Aka to the Globe

Published 7:16 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

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Originally first opened in 2006, Sushi Aka is in its second iteration, located at 116 W. Washington St., serving sushi and Japanese cuisine to residents of Suffolk. 

The restaurant is also noted for having fresh ingredients sourced from around the world. Prior to its return, Chef Michael Hart reflected on how he was given the chance to work at a high profile restaurant to hone his cooking skills.

“After six years, I was presented with an opportunity to hone my craft working in Philadelphia at Iron Chef (from Food Network), Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant. Always wanting to improve, I took the chance and left Suffolk for about five years,” Hart said. “In coming back to Suffolk, it was quite literally an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

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He said he loves the people of Suffolk, noting that they have always been loyal to him.

“I wanted to show them how much that meant to me by bringing ‘big city’ sushi to our downtown,” he said.

“Global Harvest. Local Freshness.” is the key phrase featured on Sushi Aka’s official website. Hart explained the phrase and how food is sourced to give Suffolk citizens a taste of the world outside of the city.

“By global harvest, we are expressing that we are in a unique position to be able to source many of our sushi grade fish from around the globe while also utilizing locally grown produce,” he said. “We were able to connect with a local farmer who only grew for us. I would go out weekly to pick from the farm.”

Hart said cucumbers, soy beans, berries, peppers, root vegetables and many other items were grown right here in Suffolk, pairing them with fish and shellfish from the states, Japan, South America, and Europe.

“The distribution process from the world mainly involves our sourcing of fresh fish. This changes throughout the course of the year due to seasonality,” he said. “We get salmon anywhere from Chile to the Faroe Islands. Hamachi comes from Japan. The tuna can come from anywhere from Mexico to the Outer Banks.”

He said they are currently featuring local Chesapeake Bay oysters on the half shell and soon will have firefly squid, a hyper seasonal product that comes from Japan.

Despite studying at Iron Chef and the success of having his own restaurant, being a sushi chef wasn’t originally in the cards for Hart’s future.

“I was actually looking to get out of the restaurant business due to the fact that I was a single father and the hours required were not ideal for my situation,” he said. “I took an apprenticeship at a local sushi restaurant in Virginia Beach to at least get out of the kitchen. I really enjoyed being at the sushi bar and meeting the guests, many of which have become great friends over the years.”

Likewise, Hart said being exposed to different ingredients helped him see a new path before him.

“My previous experience as a chef coupled with all of the new ingredients I was being exposed to through sushi was captivating and I saw a future where I could couple the cuisines to produce dishes maybe no one else had created before,” he said. “And math. I love math and the typical sushi diner may be surprised at just how much math and perfection in numbers are involved in sushi production.”

When asked about his biggest hope for the restaurant’s impact on the city, Hart reflected on kind words said to him after the first iteration of the restaurant.

“One of the most endearing things was said to me when I closed the first sushi aka location,” he said.“A guest reached out to me and thanked me for ‘changing the way an entire city thinks about food.’ I took that to heart and work every day to be able to say the same thing about this location.”