First Look: Fresh tastes at new sushi restaurant, Akebono 515

First Look: Fresh tastes at new sushi restaurant, Akebono 515

Sushi is having its moment around downtown Des Moines. Once, there was just Miyabi 9, over in the East Village. Then, Wasabi Tao moved into the Kirkwood building in early spring. Now, Akebono 515 quietly opened its sushi spot in Western Gateway.

The restaurant, at the corner of 10th and Mulberry Streets, first started serving when RAGBRAI riders were in town. On the Thursday lunchtime we visited, they hadn’t had a grand opening. But they’ve been unlocking their doors for lunch and dinner, and we found the restaurant nearly half full at 12:30 p.m. I wasn’t surprised — it’s in a convenient location for the lunch crowds and downtown dwellers.

We opted to sit inside, though the outside tables and chairs looked appealing. The restaurant is minimalistic without being cold, thanks in part to the abundant natural light, and features a sushi bar backed by a fish tank. Booths separate the dining area and bar with a solid selection of brews on tap, including Iowa newcomer Deschutes Chainbreaker, Kirin, Shiner Bock, Woodchuck Amber cider, Peacetree Blonde Fatale, and Blue Moon. I also spotted a sake machine. Another time.

We were seated promptly and given waters. After perusing the menu, which included a section for starters, grilled skewers, and a separate page for items from the sushi bar. I was hungrier than usual, so we decided to order cold edemame (also available warm) for $4. The sushi menu included a section labeled ‘fresh from Hawaii,’ but we decided on two specialty rolls. I ordered the Akebono roll (a popular choice, the server said), $14, and my dining partner got the Trifecta, $12.

To our (pleasant) surprise, the specialty rolls come with a small salad and miso soup, though that’s not indicated on the menu. I was even more pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the miso soup — savory without being overly salty. My co-worker commented that the gingery viniagrette on the salad complemented the flavor of the soup. As we were finishing our salads, the sushi arrived.

My akebono roll included spicy tuna and shrimp tempura topped with yellowtail, runa, scallions and ponzu sauce. The slight crunch of the tempura added just a bit extra to the roll. But the ponzu sauce really shined. It was accurately described as a citrusy sauce. It’s not tart. It’s a light, subtle flavor that complements rather than overpowers the fresh fish.

My dining partner’s trifecta roll included tuna, yellowtail, salmon, scallions and lightly battered panko. He complimented the crunchy exterior, and recommended dipping into the spicy drizzle of sauces on the side when I tried a piece of his plate. The server also said the bowl of sauce on the side my co-worker enjoyed most was also the ponzu sauce.

The bottom line: the atmosphere and menu is distinct enough to differentiate itself, much like Miyabi 9 and Wasabi Tao. I anticipate I’ll be back for more ponzu sauce soon.

Akebono 515

Where: 215 10th St. Suite 120

Hours: 11 a.m.- close Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. to close Saturday-Sunday

Info: 515-244-5972


About the Author

Sarah is Editor of Juice Magazine. E-mail her at or follow her updates on Twitter @SarahDayOwen.

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