Osaka a memorable dining experience

The art of refining festive floats
February 7, 2013
Jeremiah Wright decision delayed until Feb. 13
February 7, 2013

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last visit to Osaka Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, and my guests are still talking about the Houma restaurant.

That’s a sure sign of success.

Step inside Osaka and you’re immediately transported from the hustle and bustle of Martin Luther King Boulevard to a warm, open dining room. A combination of tables, booths and – in the back corner – hibachi grills, the room is nicely accented with Japanese décor, including etched glass separating the dining area from behind-the-scenes activity.

We were quickly seated, and our waiter Brian was Johnny-on-the-spot to take our drink order.

Moments after we began perusing the menu, Osaka owner Wendy Chen sidled up to our table to help us navigate the menu. It can be an overwhelming experience for first-timers; the menu is 18 pages. Her help was invaluable, and it’s always nice to see owners that vested in making sure you have an enjoyable dining experience.

At Mrs. Wendy’s suggestion, we started the meal with a selection of appetizers: Beef Nagi Maki, Crab Don and Ebi Temp, all of which proved delightful.

Beef Nagi Maki ($8.25) is comprised of six grilled, very thin layers of steak rolled with scallions and asparagus slices and topped with teriyaki sauce. The steak was so tender and the scallions and asparagus so fresh, it’s understandable that Nagi Maki is a meat lover’s favorite appetizer, just as Mrs. Wendy said. And the sauce added just the right amount of flavor without overpowering the steak and veggies.

The Crab Don ($6.99) – tempura crabmeat, cream cheese and some of the biggest jalapenos we’d ever seen – was well complimented by the spicy mayo/eel/honey sauce. The jalapenos, which were seedless, lent the right amount of heat to the dish but in no way overpowered the crabmeat.

And the Ebi Temp ($6.25), a combination of two large shrimp and three vegetables coated in panko bread crumbs and tempura fried. The appetizer was light and filling … a great way to start a meal.

To our surpise, Brian also delivered three spring rolls. I was again surprised at how light Osaka’s fried dishes are. The lightly seasoned vegetables, crispy fried spring roll wrapper and sweet dipping sauce – who can resist?

Our dining experience could have ended there, as the appetizers were more than filling. Next visit, we’ve decided to order strictly appetizers.

Next up were the entrees. My Chicken & Steak Teriyaki ($19.95) picked up where the Nagi Maki left off. The dish included a stir-fried vegetable medley, salad, fried rice and the most flavorful bowl of clear chicken soup I’ve ever tasted. Back, also, was the teriyaki sauce. I loved this dish. After the appetizer and soup, I had plenty left for a go-box and can assure you it was every bit as good the next day for lunch.

My guests opted for a Shrimp Tempura Roll ($5.75) and Combination Yaki Udon ($12.99), both of which received high marks.

The rice roll included shrimp tempura and avocado covered with lightly sweetened panko bread crumbs and was served with eel sauce. The presentation included two standing fried shrimp tails, resembling a colorful animal. I’m told it was a very flavorful entrée.

And the chicken, steak and shrimp mixed with vegetables and udon noodles earned two thumbs up. There were leftovers the next day, too, the delicious scent of which attracted co-workers throughout the building.

After skipping dessert last month, we agreed the meal couldn’t end without giving Osaka’s sweets a try. A banana shortage that night nixed our first choice – Banana Foster. At Brian’s suggestion, we settled for Tempura Fried Ice Cream ($5.99).

Fried ice cream is one of those treats that has always defied logic. Frying ice cream? I’d tried a bite or two previously at a couple of Mexican restaurants and found the oily aftertaste less than appealing. Osaka’s take has completely changed my mind. The tempura coating along with the vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce drizzled across the dish left me and my guests happy we still had room to enjoy dessert. An added bonus, Brian included a side of Osaka’s strawberry sauce for added flavor.

The service was impeccable; the food second to none and the night was very relaxing making Osaka an instant favorite.

It’s worth noting that Osaka’s hibachi chefs were busy all night entertaining guests. And a mini-drum parade made the rounds to tables celebrating birthdays, making for fun moments throughout the evening. The restaurant was understandably busy for a Friday night, but the wait time was virtually nil. And our meal progressed in a timely fashion – not rushed, so we were able to enjoy each other’s company.

Whether you’re enjoying an evening reconnecting, a business affair or celebrating a special occasion, Osaka easily fits the bill.

Osaka Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar offers regular dining, entertaining hibachi grills and a full-service sushi bar.