By Marie Gilmore

When Xuetan “Joe” Zoe moved to America, he was 22-years-old, spoke no English and was looking for a job. A famous Japanese restaurant called Mt. Fuji Japanese Steakhouse in New York hired him and told him to keep smiling. There, he learned everything he needed to know about Japanese restaurants and now, a husband and father of two children, Joe and wife Winnie are still smiling as they open the renovated Akira Hibachi & Sushi Bar at the corner of FishHawk Boulevard and Bell Shoals Road where Tokyo Japanese was formerly.

Just before Christmas, the couple and a team of family friends from New York redesigned the restaurant. It took the four craftsman six weeks to renovate the restaurant from the ground up and to completely revamp the atmosphere.

Gone are the carpets, dishes and cookware and in came a new kitchen, welcoming bar area, custom wood accents, lighted sushi bar, and hibachi.

Joe is a trained Hibachi chef and puts on quite a family-friendly show.

“We use very special vendors including a Japanese supplier to make sure we have the freshest ingredients,” described Joe.

“We like this neighborhood and feel there is a good opportunity to make a good business here,” added Joe. “We are glad to be here and to get to know so many nice, new friends.”

The restaurant offers an excellent menu including appetizers, soup, salad, hibachi, sushi, Udon, Katsu and dessert including Mochi-Japanese Ice Cream and more. At the Sushi bar, try the Flying Dragon Roll which includes shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado topped with eel and eel sauce. Neighbor and Fitness Worx 24/7 Owner Jim English loves the new restaurant.

“We have eaten here at least twice a week since they opened,” he said. “Joe and his team did an incredible job renovating the restaurant and we are happy to send our customers here, plus to bring our family here. It is fresh ingredients and family-owned, and we are very happy with our new neighbor here in the plaza.”

Akira is open Monday through Friday 11:30-2:30 p.m. for lunch and then 4:30-10 p.m. for dinner. Sunday it is open 2:30-9:30 p.m. Visit to view the menu or call 689-5544 for reservations.

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Marie Gilmore
Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!