Nashville Film Festival

Smile and Say “Sushi” at Aya

The Chicken Udon is an excellent take on chicken noodle soup.

The Chicken Udon is an excellent take on chicken noodle soup. (Top) Spider roll. Photos by Christy Simmons.

When the experience I had at Aya Sushi runs through my mind, few things continue to linger more than the power of subtlety. Throughout the entire time I spent at Aya the little things, the small details, the smallest flavors were the ones that left me with the greatest impression on the real character of Aya.

Aya Sushi is located in a somewhat secluded corner of the Jackson Heights shopping center at the corner of Broad Street and Medical Center Parkway, and as soon as you find yourself in the door you are hit with a wave of unexpected, upbeat jazz music that feels barely a notch above what might be considered a normal volume for a restaurant, yet when you realize the irony in this it gives you a small giggle. On the way to your table, your eyes start to wander around at the eccentric collection of decorations and photographs hung on the wall. Sitting at the table, you may find yourself asking, “Was that a picture of some Russian immigrants? And another picture with a mythological Greek god? How does this tie in with a sushi restaurant?” The answer you may never know, but it gives the place a unique feel, for sure.

The quirkiness continues with the menus. Yes, the multiple menus showcasing their drink selection, appetizers, soups, salads and sushi rolls spread across the table, feeling a little redundant, but nonetheless a funny little quirk that is more than welcome.

Once the family-run staff suggested what dishes to try, I eagerly awaited what was to come. We started with a salad of fresh lettuce, carrots, and hearty pieces of broccoli drizzled with a special dressing original to the restaurant. Imagine a sweet-tasting soy sauce with minced onions, ginger and just a touch of something you couldn’t quite wrap your taste buds around—a nice change-up from salads served at other restaurants.

Shortly after we finished our salads, a large bowl of steaming chicken udon was brought to the table. Everything about this dish was amazing. The thick and chewy udon noodles, mixed with pieces of grilled chicken that had a nice straight-off-the-grill smoky flavor, filled the bowl to the brim. It was a definite surprise that I will have to come back and get again.

Philadelphia Roll

Philadelphia roll

For a delicious dessert, Aya Sushi serves four pastries, filled with ice cream, flavored with (from top) mango, green tea, sesame and red beans.

For a delicious dessert, Aya Sushi serves four pastries, filled with ice cream, flavored with (from top) mango, green tea, sesame and red beans.

Finally the main event, a huge platter of sushi. Not once in my life have I had an opportunity to try this many different kinds of sushi, so I took a chance and went a little adventurous on things I wouldn’t normally try, like eel and various other strange fish. I started off with a standard favorite of mine, a Philadelphia roll. It was up to par with my expectation. The cream cheese and salmon worked perfectly together. Up next was the spider roll, which consisted of fried soft shell crab, fish eggs, and asparagus. I was skeptical at first with the fish eggs, but I was very surprised at the mildness of flavor and the simplicity of the few ingredients. The balance was very nice.

My favorite roll of the whole night would have to be the una chee roll. The barbecued eel was amazing, along with so many other ingredients that were new to me in a sushi setting, and yet they all contributed to make this an incredibly tasty roll that stuck out from all the others.

As we finished up the last of our meal, we struck a conversation with the staff and they explained everything behind the restaurant. It was interesting to learn how tight a family can become when running a restaurant and how much care goes into behind the scenes to prepare all the food. The perfection of the vinegar rice or the blend of tea all requires a special kind of attention. Subtle details might go unnoticed by some, but for those who really care, it can make all the difference. For Aya, I do believe they have captured that difference.

No dining experience at Aya Sushi is complete without the customary post-meal photo. Mr. Shoin has captured thousands of customers in the chairs near the exit over the years.

No dining experience at Aya Sushi is complete without the customary post-meal photo. Mr. Shoin has captured thousands of customers in the chairs near the exit over the years.

Aya Sushi by Christy Simmons (2)

Aya Sushi on Urbanspoon

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