GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in Grand Rapids. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots in the area and are documenting our journey with a series called 13 Eats.
13 Eats is all about highlighting the best restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. This week, we’re trying sushi with a twist at Jaku Sushi and Grill.
About Jaku Sushi and Grill
Jaku Sushi is a quaint eatery that serves Japanese and Korean classics with a modern flare. Located in an unassuming East Beltline strip mall, the restaurant has a humble black exterior with striped awnings. But through the glass doors lies a lively place with old world charm, modern décor and so much delicious food. The menu is full of mouthwatering delicacies, all prepared fresh right in front of the bar seating. From an army of sushi roll options, to noodles and bento, there is something here for everyone to enjoy. And, of course, we can’t forget the true star of the show: Jaku’s incredible sushi burrito.
Although it was a chilly, sleeting Michigan Monday, we chose to begin our Jaku trip with an iced Korean Sweet Coffee ($4.00). As ladies who need multiple cups each morning to even think about starting our day, we’ve deemed ourselves quite the coffee connoisseurs. Still, we were in shock over this little cup of heaven.
The drink arrived in a mason jar with a handle and looked concerningly light in color to us black coffee enthusiasts. We'll admit it, we were proven wrong. The rich grounds were still wonderfully strong while the cream added a touch of lightness and the delectable taste of sweetness in each sip.
Next, we dove into our starter, Tuna Poke ($12.00), which is tuna cubes coated with spicy house-made dressing served with wonton chips. The fish tasted so fresh and summery atop the delicately fried chips, we nearly forgot we were in a Michigan January and there was a winter weather advisory outside. This starter is a little slice of warm weather heaven on a plate.
It was finally time to test our theories: we ordered the Crunch Munch Burrito ($18.00), which is cooked shrimp, shrimp tempura, spicy crab salad, sushi rice, avocado, masago, tempura flakes, eel sauce and crunch II sauce all wrapped up in seaweed with a side of spicy mayo for dipping.
The dish arrived in two halves covered in parchment paper, like it was a burrito from your local chain Mexican restaurant – but let us tell you, this thing is anything but ordinary. We pulled our halves apart, revealing the various fresh ingredients pilled between the rice. We dunked it in the spicy mayo and took our first bites, looking at each other in incredulous amazement that we found such an amazing dish in this modest strip mall location.
The inside of the burrito is the perfect mixture of soft and crunchy textures, combining the rice, fish and avocado with the tempura flakes and seaweed. It has just the right amount of spice when dipped in the spicy mayo. We weren’t sure the allure of a sushi burrito would hold up, but boy, were we proven wrong. This led us to wonder… will we ever look at normal sushi rolls in the same light when such a delicious and convenient alternative exists?
Jaku: The Food
Jaku is classy but cozy. When we walked into the eatery, we were met with warm lighting, light walls and dark accents, all wrapped up with bold, floral wallpaper. The best part of the building, however, is its incredible sushi bar. A glass display case runs along the bar and showcases the most beautiful and vibrant-colored slices of fish.
The display is not only visually stunning, but also provides a sense of transparency. We could see and trust the freshness of the fish, which made the eating experience even better. Behind the bar, a group of chefs can be seen perfectly executing their craft. We love seeing this kind of straightforwardness, eliminating the wall between the kitchen and the customers, and we especially appreciated seeing how much love really goes into the food.
Overall, we really enjoyed the vibe of Jaku. It isn’t flashy or trendy, but classic and tasteful. The understated décor is perfect for a restaurant that is focused wholeheartedly on the quality of its food, and we can truly say that the food speaks for itself.
Jaku: The Vibe
One of our favorite things about Jaku is how versatile the space is. It’s the perfect restaurant for a first date, but also for a girls night out or a work lunch. While the décor is modern, it is also cozy and made us feel welcome and ready to enjoy all the food the place has to offer.
If we’re being completely honest, we weren’t sold on the whole sushi burrito thing at first. I mean, seriously, it sounds like it could go very wrong. But HOLY COW. We are so glad we gave it a chance. The moment we took the first bite of that Crunch Munch Burrito, we were both so shocked and overwhelmed by how flavorful it was that we were pretty much speechless. We have tried a lot of food around Grand Rapids, but not many meals have garnered that kind of response. It was perfectly balanced in flavor and texture. Add the spicy mayo dipping sauce into play, and it was literally out of this world.
We've decided this place doesn't need the glamor of a downtown location. It will attract customers from all over for a taste of their fresh cuisine.
All in all, we loved Jaku. We haven’t stopped talking about, or thinking about it, either. We are excited to go back again and again. And hey, maybe we’ll see you there!
► Jaku Sushi and Grill is located on 2289 E Beltline Ave NE Suite B, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
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