A Union-News reprint
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2002
Osaka Restaurant offers incredible array
Staff photo by MIEKE ZUIDERWEG
|Name: Osaka Japanese Restaurant
Address: 7 Old South St., Northampton
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 12:30 to 11 p.m.
Entree prices: $8.95 - $24.95
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Handicapped access: Accessible, with rest rooms equipped for wheel-chair use
Non-smoking section: Smoke-free restaurant
Osaka Japanese Restaurant on Old South Street in Northampton takes its menu to a new choice level.
By FRAN BELLAMY
|Driven by the dining-out public's obvious predilection for Oriental food, the number of Japanese restaurants continues to grow. One of the newest - it opened a little over six months back - is Osaka Japanese Restaurant.
Located in a downtown Northampton space that last served as quarters for a Tex-Mex eatery, Osaka inhabits a space that pays homage to the traditional Japanese aesthetic.
Interior decoration is understated, with neutral tones and bare wood the dominant motifs; a small sushi bar and several Japanese-style dining alcoves are part of the layout.
Oriental restaurants of any sort favor encyclopedic menus; Osaka, however, takes "comprehensive" to a new level.
It offers a sushi list that includes more than 80 sushi, sashimi, and maki options; these are available on a "by the piece" basis or as part of assortments.
These "dinners" include a Sushi Deluxe ($15.95), a Maki Combination Dinner ($11.95), and a Sushi-Sashimi Combination ($19.95); there are also "single-selection" sushi plates like a California Roll Dinner ($11.95) and Tekka Don (sliced tuna and seaweed over rice - $13.95).
A homemade sauce is the cornerstone of Osaka's teriyaki dinners, which include Ginger Pork ($12.95), Duck ($12.95), Shrimp ($13.95), and Lobster Tail ($21.95).
Udon noodle bowls, katsu-style deep-fried dishes, and eight different tempura options are also part of the restaurant's entree collection.
That which gives Osaka an edge over the competition is, however, the "hibachi" dinner.
Equipped with two of the tempanyaki grills that Bennihana made famous, Osaka offers pre-pared-with-flash-and-flair presentations of Vegetables ($10.95) Chicken ($13.95), or Sirloin Steak ($18.95) as well as combinations like Hibachi Chicken & Salmon ($17.95) or Steak & Lobster Tail ($24.95).
Complementing the multitude of main course choices is an array of appetizer options like Edamame (steamed fresh soybeans - $3.50), Nasu Shigi (baked eggplant - $4.50), and Poek Shumai ($4.50) as well as soups and sushi starters.
We began our evening at Osaka with a Sushi Appetizer ($6.50), a five-piece assortment.
The sushi at Osaka is, we discovered, skillfully prepared. The rice is nicely seasoned and properly formed while the fish is impeccably fresh. Our second starter, Beef Asparagus ($6.95) is from the restaurant's portfolio of teriyaki dishes.
Grilled steak is wrapped around fresh asparagus spears, then sauced with teriyaki; a judicious sprinkle of sesame seeds completes the composition. A plate of Gyoza (fried vegetable
| dumplings - $4.50) made for equally delicious eating, as did a bowl of Hamaguri Soup ($2.75).
The latter, which incorporated sliced mushrooms, precisely-cubed silken tofu, and lightly cooked greens in a transparent seafood broth, was delightful to look at as well as being delectably subtle in flavor.
Of course, Japanese ideas about food mandate that it looks as good as it tastes. At Osaka, this mindset is reflected in the dramatic way menu items are presented; the restaurant has a seemingly endless array of attractive serviceware, and most every dish is put together in a way that maximizes its visual impact.
This was certainly the case with the Shrimp Tempura ($15.95), which was garnished with an oversized "fan" fashioned from deep-fried noodles. Tempura's a hallmark dish when it comes to evaluating a Japanese kitchen, and the version at Osaka is decidedly superior - each deep-fried morsel is sweet and grease-free, thanks to a pale ivory, shatteringly crisp breadcrumb coating.
A bowl of Yoso Nabe ($14.95), a seafood "stew," was a winning meal-in-a-bowl, thanks to a savory broth packed full of goodies - shrimp, calamari, Chinese cabbage, carrots, and lots of tender, faintly earthy yam noodles.
The Katsu Don ($8.95) we were served was actually a mistake - we'd asked for tonkatsu, the traditional fried pork cutlet. A rice bowl topped with veggies, fried onion, yam matchsticks, and strips of pork fried with egg, the katsu don turned out to be hearty and soul-satisfying.
A chefs special of Avocado Shrimp ($16.95) failed, however, to excite us; we found it an uninspired combination.
As is the custom, most entrees at Osaka come with rice, miso soup, and an iceberg "salad" topped with a ginger based dressing. All were, in our estimation, worthwhile accompaniments.
Osaka is the first Oriental restaurant we've ever encountered that presents a dessert menu after dinner. The list is basic, offering ice cream in exotic flavors like green tea and ginger as well as a couple of fruit suggestions. Nonetheless, we found dessert worth having. A plate of Seasonal Fresh Fruit ($3.50) was perfectly ripe, while a dish of Mango Ice Cream ($2.50) was well received.
Even the Fried Banana ($3.95) - it was presented in a tempura batter with a drizzle of caramel sauce - got good marks.
For a Japanese eatery Osaka maintains a particularly ambitious beverage list of wines, beers, and sake.
During the lunch hour the restaurant serves attractively priced specials, including multi-course "lunch box" combinations priced at $7.50.
© 2002 The Republican Company
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