Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Episode #30: Osaka Sushi

Burnaby North, $ (Budget)

As a way to combat the heat, I did a third "Sushi-a-thon" at Osaka Sushi, a small, Chinese-owned Japanese restaurant situated on Hastings a little to the west of all the busy action around Anton's Pasta. Before my sushi adventures took me all around town, I would come here frequently after my classes to grab a bite before heading home. Osaka Sushi did a decent job of satisfying my craze for special rolls back then when I needed an escape from having the Double Dragon Roll and the Awesome Roll at Sushi Town over and over again. For a small restaurant, they have an impressive number of items on the menu, most of which are very affordable.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., they have a Lunch Special which allows you to choose any 3 items (from a list of 36 items) plus miso soup for $8.95. What I like about this Lunch Special is that there is sufficient variety among the choices and the lunch special represents significant savings compared to ordering the items individually. Interestingly, I also noticed on the menu that they have written the word "imitation" in front of every instance of the words "Shark Fin" on the menu (this was a response to criticism on both Yelp and Urbanspoon). I guess the prices alone were not enough of a hint to some that the shark fin was fake.

1st visit:

On the first day of my Sushi-a-thon, I constructed my own Lunch Special with the Small Chicken Teriyaki Don, the Tai Nigiri and the Appetizer Tempura.

Miso Soup - B-

The Miso Soup had finely chopped green onions and small pieces of tofu. It was served at a steaming hot temperature (be careful!). It was a bit on the watery side and could use a little less salt.

Small Chicken Teriyaki Don - B+

The Small Chicken Teriyaki Don was pretty standard fare. It contained 4 pieces of pan-fried chicken with the characteristic crispy skin on top. I enjoyed the crispy skin, but I would have liked more of the chicken (the balance was a little off). The rice also needed more sauce, though I suppose if you flipped the chicken over and smothered the sauce, you would get a partially satisfying result.

Tai Nigiri - A-

The Tai Nigiri came with 3 pieces and the tai actually had a mild, sweet, fish-like taste to it (in so many other places, the tai is very bland). It was fresh and had a smooth texture while being a bit chewy. The sushi rice had a hint of vinegar (which was just right in my opinion) and was packed correctly, not too tight or too loose.

Appetizer Tempura - C+

The Appetizer Tempura came with 2 prawns and 1 piece each of sweet potato, kabocha and zucchini. It was quite greasy and the amount of batter wasn't even in the right ballpark. Instead of me using a thousand words to describe how much batter there was, here is a picture of one of the tempura prawns:

I mean, seriously?! I award this the gold medal for "Most Batter Used for a Single Piece of Prawn." Fortunately, most of the tempura batter was detachable, though in the end, I had peeled off enough batter to make a separate, totally legitimate appetizer consisting of just the extra batter.

The sweet potato tempura was the only piece to have the right amount of batter, but unfortunately, one side of it was burnt. The prawns were tasty and sufficiently meaty. If it weren't for the batter issues, the prawns would have been an A in my books. The kabocha (pumpkin) was thin but sweet, though it tasted a bit mashed. The zucchini was nice and juicy and was the best of the lot.

Dynamite Dragon Roll - B

The Dynamite Dragon Roll consisted of 2 pieces of shrimp tempura with avocado and eel on top. They were quite generous with the eel, which was smooth and garnished with ample sweet teriyaki sauce. To give it more of a punch, they could have grilled the eel a little more to bring out a more smoky flavour. The interior of the roll was quite crunchy due to the copious amount of batter used.

2nd visit:

On the second day of my Sushi-a-thon, I ordered the Bacon Scallop Skewers (erroneously listed as "Scallop Skewers" on the dine-in menu) and the Deluxe Combo ($11.95). Surprisingly, the Bacon Scallop Skewers came before anything else.

Bacon Scallop Skewers - A-

The Bacon Scallop Skewers came with 6 pieces of scallop, each having a bacon strip rolled around it. The bacon was slightly crispy and was savoury, and could have just a bit more of a smoky flavour to bring it closer to perfection. The scallop, though meaty, didn't contribute much in terms of taste. The teriyaki sauce was excessively diluted with oil, but there was lots of it and it harmonized well with the bacon.

The Deluxe Combo came a few minutes after the Bacon Scallop Skewers and the presentation was neat and very colourful. Banzai!

Masago Nigiri - A-
Toro Nigiri - A
Tako Nigiri - B
Unagi Nigiri - B+

With the Masago Nigiri, I could feel the individual fish roe which made a nice popping sound. It had a distinct, slightly salty flavour to it. The Toro Nigiri was soft, smooth, and had a welcoming burst of flavour with neither a fishy nor metallic taste. The Tako Nigiri was sliced rather thick so I spent an entire minute trying to disassemble it with my teeth. The Unagi Nigiri was unfortunately split into two pieces held together by the seaweed, but it had a mild, sweet taste with a soft texture that matched well with the sushi rice. 

Salmon Nigiri - B+
Tuna Nigiri - B
Ebi Nigiri - A-

The Salmon Nigiri was very soft and had a bit of a shrimp-like snap to it. The Tuna Nigiri had a nice, smooth texture and was melt-in-your-mouth but the rice had more taste than the tuna. The Ebi Nigiri had the right amount of rice under it and tasted just like a fresh, well-prepared shrimp from a shrimp ring.

California Roll - B-

The California Roll came with 6 pieces consisting of crab meat, avocado and cucumber. I liked the sesame seeds on top which provided another dimension of flavour to the roll. The crab meat was sweet but was a bit high on the mayonnaise. The sushi chef used a little too much force when rolling the sushi together. 

The nigiri at Sushi Osaka is commendable, and it's been a while since I've had this many different kinds of nigiri at a single restaurant without having to give a below-average grade. Service was very attentive and my tea was refilled in a very timely manner. The servers were friendly for the duration of my visit, but I wish they said the names of the dishes as they were brought out to me. The most memorable part of this Sushi-a-thon was the Toro Nigiri, and I can still taste the toro as I'm writing this post 11 hours after having it. Darn, I hate being hungry past midnight ...

Osaka Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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