Osaka, you rock-a

Dependable Japanese dining in Beavercreek

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Steak and Shrimp Combination at Osaka Japanese Steakhouse in Beavercreek

There’s a saying that people from Tokyo are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, while people from Osaka are ruined by spending on food. The Japanese city of Osaka is so well known for its cuisine that a few food critics have even suggested Osaka is the food capital of the world. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Beavercreek restaurant which bears its name deserves to be called the food capital of Dayton, but there are a few things they did pretty well.

Party on

PIP (Palate In Progress) and I arrived at Osaka Japanese Steakhouse a little after six on a recent Friday evening to find a brief wait for one of the non-communal hibachi tables. (Technically, they’re known as “teppanyaki,” meaning iron plate. “Hibachi” means open grate, but it’s the term most people are familiar with). Even if you’re a party of two, it can be fun and lively to join fellow diners to watch the culinary acrobatics of the chefs as they slice morsels in mid-air and set things aflame. It’s obvious from the prominent photo wall featuring patrons wearing giant hats that Osaka is a big-time birthday party spot. But it was a long workweek, and PIP and I were in the mood for a slightly more sedate dining experience, which didn’t include the Japanese version of “Happy Birthday.”

We were seated after about 10 minutes at the first available table in the sushi bar, a tiny two top. (The hostess did offer us the opportunity to wait longer for a booth, but my grumbling stomach overruled the desire for comfort.) It’s always fun to sit at the sushi bar, or at a table where you can see the chefs preparing everything. It’s a show as well, albeit with a little less fanfare than what was happening in the other dining rooms. Throughout the meal, Osaka’s serving staff did a great job of being aware of the table’s small size, clearing promptly and really trying to make us comfortable.

Feeling crabby?

Osaka has a long list of exotic house specialty rolls, and I considered one that claimed it was made with crab meat. I always check to see if it’s the real thing and not imitation. Just what is that stuff anyway? Processed white fish (usually North Atlantic pollock) is shaped and cured to look like snow crab leg meat. This is done using things like wheat, egg whites, a chemical called transglutaminase, artificial crab flavoring and red food dye. Salivating yet? Me neither. It’s the antithesis of sushi, which is about fresh, unadulterated, carefully sliced fish. Restaurants use it because it’s economical, so if the price seems reasonable, it’s good to ask if, like me, you want to avoid it. I passed on the roll, but it made an appearance on the Sushi Dinner I ordered instead in some small Maki rolls, which I skipped.

On the rocks

We began with two appetizers: Rock Shrimp ($7.95) and Yellowtail Jalapeno ($9.95). Both presentations were lovely: The Rock Shrimp in a tall cocktail glass topped off with a cherry, and the slices of yellowtail arranged like flower petals on the plate. The yellowtail was particularly good, with a pleasant soft texture. A bright citrusy ponzu and the shaved jalapeno made this our favorite dish of the evening. A little less successful was the shrimp. The glaze of spicy sweet sauce was right on the money, but the tempura batter was under-fried and a little gummy and raw-tasting. A few more seconds in the fryer and this dish would have been a winner too.

If you aren’t sitting at a hibachi table, you can still order a hibachi meal. PIP chose the Steak and Shrimp Combination ($22.95) and was rewarded with the standard version: Miso soup, salad with ginger dressing, grilled vegetables, fried rice, steak and shrimp and two dipping sauces. There’s virtually no variation at any Japanese steakhouse in this line up, and that’s not a bad thing. Grilled meat and veggies is a dependably tasty choice.

I chose the Sushi Dinner ($17.95) but started first with Gyoza Soup ($4.25). Savory miso broth was used with the addition of pork dumplings to make up the soup. Topped liberally with salt and pepper, it was steamy and satisfying. My sushi (tuna, salmon and yellowtail) was fine, the fish soft and tender and pleasant. It inspired me to plan to sit at the sushi bar and order something other than these basic pieces the next time I go out for Japanese.

Small plates rates

In the end, ordering a few small plates from the appetizer menu is the way to go. Add on soup and a Japanese seaweed salad, along with sushi by the piece and one of Osaka’s rolls. It’s a much more interesting option than the standard hibachi-style dinner. Ordering this way will allow you to try foods that use traditional ingredients and preparations—and have a more varied experience. You can still see a show, but the volume won’t be going to 11.

Osaka Japanese Steakhouse is located at 2476 Commons Blvd. in Beavercreek. For more information, please visit osakasteakhouseoh.com or call 937.320.1188.
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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