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  • Teriyaki Steak at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Tuna Sesame Salad at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Salmon Skin Roll at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Southwestern Roll at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • A sashimi and sushi samplerserved on a wooden boat at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Squid Salad at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Pan-Fried Udon with beef at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Oshinko Roll with Japanese pickles at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Aloha Roll at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The Chop-Chop Bowl at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The boring house salad at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road.

  • The dim atmosphere at Asakusa on Lima Road is a tad dated.

  • The Combi Don Buri at the original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road did not look very inviting.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am

Older sushi restaurant still holding its own

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Asakusa

***1/2

Out of a possible five

$$$

It's like an old friend that you are always comfortable with.

The original Asakusa Japanese Restaurant on Lima Road has been around longer than most sushi places in Fort Wayne and has been considered the best for most of that time.

But times have changed since sushi was a novel cuisine and the competition has risen to the same level as – and in some cases exceeded – Asakusa.

But that's not to say I still don't find myself going there quite often. There are just too many good selections that I have enjoyed for too long not to frequent it.

Take the chop-chop bowl. This appetizer of imitation crab, cooked shrimp and masago (capelin roe) in creamy Japanese mayo over rice is addictively delicious.

And the aloha roll is a go-to with imitation crab, crunchy tempura shrimp and pineapple inside and creamy avocado and a sweet-spicy sauce on top.

It has nary a flaw.

The specials board always has something enticing on it and this time it was the southwestern roll. It was a flavor explosion with salmon, tuna and red snapper inside, along with cilantro, onions, jalapeņo and avocado. On top, it had more salmon and white tuna. If that wasn't enough, it had two sauces – teriyaki and yum-yum, which is a slightly spicy, creamy orange sauce.

Even with the sauce and jalapeņos, this roll could have used more kick for me – maybe a touch of sriracha inside – but that didn't keep it from being delicious. It made me want to try more rolls incorporating cilantro because that is what made it so unique.

The best and most fun way to sample a little of everything is through the sashimi, sushi and tekka maki roll combination, which came on a funky wooden boat. The 10 pieces of sashimi consisted of tuna, salmon, white tuna, whitefish and red snapper.

All were of good quality with the latter being my favorite as it really had the essence of the sea.

The four nigiri-style pieces included eel, shrimp, crab and surf clam. The clam was easily the best piece on the entire boat, and I will ask for more of it next time, especially considering I did not finish the shrimp piece because it smelled and tasted a bit fishy.

With its white base that blends into its gorgeous floral pink tip, this shellfish was a little chewy, but its sweet clam flavor was fabulous. I think I could eat a whole boat of it.

Among the other new treats I discovered at Asakusa was the squid salad, which was made with seaweed strands that resembled noodles, tiny mild red chiles and marinated with just the right texture.

It was all dressed in a vinaigrette that had just a little spice and rounded it all out nicely.

I also enjoyed the beef fried udon noodles, which had a toasty wok-charred flavor with super-tender meat and crunchy onions, carrots and cabbage.

The teriyaki steak was also impeccably prepared with just enough sauce to flavor without overpowering. The meaty mushrooms that accompanied it were the perfect accent and I loved pairing one of them with each bite.

But there were issues that Asakusa needs to fix.

The clear soup was pretty mundane but shined compared with the abysmal complimentary salad. It had a decent ginger dressing but consisted of nothing else but iceberg lettuce that was soaking wet and diluted by that dressing into a puddle in the bottom of the bowl.

At least the tuna sesame salad was not in a puddle. This appetizer had slivers of carrots and cucumbers in addition to the iceberg and a lot of chopped tuna throughout. There was a little smelt roe that added some salt to the tasty and creamy sesame dressing.

There was way too much of that dressing, but I would ask for it on my next house salad as it was far superior to the ginger. I'd ask for it on the side, though.

I would also pass on the salmon skin roll. This mix of grilled salmon skin and boneto shavings had some crunch from the skin and was very strong in salmon flavor. You would have to love salmon to get this. I do love salmon, but the funk it put off had me questioning its quality.

The combo don buri rice bowl disappointed a bit, but there was a silver lining. This mix of chicken, beef, shrimp and onions is cooked in a gelatinous egg broth and looked pretty unappetizing. The broth is rather sweet and the onions added to that sweetness.

It was just OK, but I loved the way the pickled golden daikon radishes that came with it cut the sweetness and thought they would be great chopped up in a sushi roll.

Well, there was such a roll – the oshinko maki. This roll had only the pickles wrapped in sushi rice and nori and they were a nice palate cleanser. Next time I will try to have them added to another roll that has some fish.

Asakusa will likely fulfill that request, too, because its years of excellence showed when it came to service.

The servers were quite knowledgeable of its expansive menu and they did not miss a beat when it came to service. My tea pot never went empty and I never needed a thing.

Another thing that hasn't changed is the atmosphere, and that is not a bright spot. Actually, it needs some bright spots because its dimly lit dining room feels stodgy and out of date.

It badly needs a fresh, new look to keep up with all of the snazzy new places trying to tap into its fan base.

Restaurant: Asakusa Japanese Restaurant

Address: 6224 Lima Road

Phone: 490-6888

Hours: 11:30 to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Japanese

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Chop-chop bowl ($5.75), squid salad ($6.25), tuna sesame salad ($6.25), aloha roll ($9.50), teriyaki steak ($19.75), combo don buri ($15.75), sashimi, tuna, tekka combo ($24.95), southwestern roll ($13), salmon skin roll ($5.50), oshinko maki ($3.75), udon ($13.95),

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.