Long before the hoards of all-you-can-eat sushi spots invaded Utah, there was Osaka Sushi and Izakaya restaurant in Layton, which has been serving high-quality sushi (not all-you-can-eat) since 2003. During the past 15 years, Osaka has built a very loyal following, and justifiably so.
For starters, although the types of fresh fish and seafood offered at Osaka isn’t as varied or exotic as, say, a restaurant like Takashi or Kobe Sushi, what is available is very fresh and professionally prepared. And, the menu is vast, with something like 70 different sushi rolls. They range from classics like the Eel Roll, Spider Roll and Tuna Roll to fried rolls, and Osaka’s own signature rolls. In addition, there is sushi and nigiri, bento boxes, yakitori, poke bowls, noodle dishes including ramen, grilled foods, deep-fried foods, rice bowls, salads, “tapas,” cooked entrees, desserts, and kids’ meals. There is truly something for everybody at Osaka.
Izakaya is a Japanese term for an informal pub – a casual type of place where people gather for tapas-style cuisine and beverages, usually for after-work drinking. While Osaka Sushi & Izakaya doesn’t really have a pub-like atmosphere – it tends to draw mostly large Davis County families – there is a selection of alcoholic beverages available, including beer, wine, chilled and hot sake, and soft drinks like Ramune.
I recommend enjoying an Osaka tapa or two before digging deeper into the expansive menu. Years ago when I was writing for City Weekly I gave Osaka’s Avocado Bomb ($11.95) a “Best of Utah” award and it’s one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. Imagine a tennis ball-size globe of spicy crab, soft shell crab, and spicy tuna, all wrapped in fresh avocado slices and topped with gobo root and tobiko. It really is the bomb!
Other excellent starters include the green mussel shooters ($3.95/each), sliced octopus with wasabi sauce called Tako Wasa ($4.99), and Okonomiyaki ($7.95), a Japanese pancake with calamari, shrimp, bacon and vegetables. Of course, I can never dine in a Japanese restaurant without an order of gyoza – pork-filled Japanese potstickers
One thing that sets Osaka apart from many if not most Japanese eateries in Utah is that they offer yakitori ($2.99-$3.50 per piece). The options range from classics like negima (chicken with scallions) and tebasaki (chicken wing) to pork belly (butabara), shishamo (smelt), sunagimo (chicken gizzard), gyutan (beef tongue), and hotate (scallops), plus plenty of vegetarian yakitori items as well.
By far the most popular and busiest nights at Osaka are Tuesdays when half-priced sushi draws huge crowds. It’s not unusual for folks to wait an hour or more for a prized table on Half-Off Sushi Tuesdays, so plan accordingly. However, most customers tend to arrive early and by 7:30 or 8:00, the rush has subsided and the lines have all but disappeared. It’s a very good bang-for-the-sushi-buck if you’re not in a hurry. Most remarkable to me is how friendly, patient, and outgoing the service staff is (especially the hostess who has to try to manage seating hundreds of hungry patrons), considering the huge volume of guests that flock to Osaka on Tuesdays.
Even though I really love some of the cooked menu items such as Hamachi Kama ($8.95), which is grilled yellowtail collar, and the deep-fried pork cutlets breaded with panko called tonkatsu ($13.99), when my wife and I visit Osaka restaurant it’s primarily for the sushi.
When we can, we prefer to be seated at the small sushi bar where we can chat with the sushi chefs and have them feed us omakase-style. But whether seated at the bar or at a table, we usually opt to begin with something light like sashimi and/or nigiri before plunging into some of the many signature sushi rolls. We especially enjoy the mackerel, amberjack, yellowtail, and halibut nigiri, served very simply with ginger and wasabi.
As for Osaka’s signature rolls, I tend to eschew the Americanized ones with cream cheese (and there are many), in favor of something more creative like the Margarita roll ($12) with spicy tuna, yellowtail, crab and cilantro, all topped with avocado, lime, fried crunchies and hot sauce.
Another roll we adore is a tuna-lover’s dream: a spicy tuna roll with topped with more fresh tuna called an Ultra Tuna roll ($10.50). Equally appealing is the NNY ($14.50) with real (not artificial) crab, tempura shrimp, avocado and cucumber topped with spicy tuna, seared tuna, and wasabi tobiko.
But perhaps our favorite signature Osaka roll is the Silver Lake ($9.95). This is a scrumptious maki roll made with fresh salmon, avocado and cucumber, rolled in crunch flakes and served with wasabi mayo and eel sauce. It’s divine.
Note: Yakitori menu items are not available at Osaka during Half-Off Sushi Tuesdays.
Culinary quote of the week:
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Unless he doesn’t like sushi; then you also have to teach him to cook. — Auren Hoffman
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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