Japanese cuisine with a side of American

By Rebecca Henely

Japanese restaurants are a common sight on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, but Aji Sushi House serves dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun with an American twist.

The menu for the new dining spot, at 36-06 Ditmars Blvd., features common Japanese restaurant fare such as sushi rolls, hibachi and tempura, but also Thai restaurant staples pad thai and kalbi, which is often used in Korean barbecue. Tuna tartar can be ordered in yuzu olive sauce, yellowtail sashimi can be served with jalapenos and Aji also offers either tuna and avocado or king crab pizza.

“The quality that we use is always the best and all sauce is homemade,” said owner/chef Ivan Chen.

Hostess Amy Cheng said Aji opened in July. She said the name “Aji” comes from a fish, also known as Japanese horse mackerel, that is small but fast.

“The response is pretty good,” Chen said about the new restaurant.

Chen, who has been a sushi chef for 15 years, said the inspiration for many of his dishes came from different combinations of food he had tried over the years. He said he had previously opened a restaurant in New Jersey and found that patrons like both fresh sushi and American sauces. Many dishes feature sauces that are a mix of Japanese and American.

All of the special rolls are his own creation. He said favorites are the Ditmars oll, which combines spicy tuna, yellowtail, tempura and avocado inside and is topped off with tuna, and the Astoria roll, which is the same but swaps out the tuna with salmon.

“The Astoria roll and the Ditmars roll are so delicious and is what people like,” Chen said.

Cheng said the fish served comes from markets in New Jersey and Manhattan.

In addition to the unique menu, Aji sells 11 different types of sake and about 20 white and red wines.

Aji also boasts a unique look with lighting behind the counter that shows off the restaurant’s logo and blue lighting behind the sushi bar.

“The idea came from several Manhattan restaurants that are Asian and also from [Chen],” Cheng said of the decor.

Prices average about $10 to $15 per dish. A glass of wine costs $7 to $8, and bottles of wine cost $20, although some special wine bottles are as much as $98. The restaurant also offers party and catering. For its grand opening, all dishes are 15 percent off until Oct. 31.

Aji is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant can be reached at 718-777-8889 or ajisushihouse.com.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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