It can't always be a big-ticket splurge at Morimoto when I get that sushi craving, which happens all too often. But Aki proves that sushi value doesn't always come in modest surroundings, either. Owner Tom Lau added a major decor upgrade when he took over (and renamed) the old Aoi space earlier this year, transforming it with a layered stone wall, velveteen booths, and the glowing tile of a sleek fusion lounge. The big draw, though, has been Aki's sushi deals - a pair of rolls (plus soup and salad) for $8.50 at lunch, or better yet for hungry sushi slammers, an all-you-can-eat $24.95 bargain that opens up virtually the entire sushi menu (except specialty rolls). With fresh fish and competently built rolls, it's a worthy bargain that had me crying "Sensei!" after three maki, two handrolls, and four nigiri. The glutton record, though, is closer to 80 pieces.
"Some people can really eat," says Lau. "But these days, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive."
Aki Japanese Fusion Restaurant and Sake Bar, 1210 Walnut St., 215-985-1838, www.akiphilly.com.
- Craig LaBan