The short review for those (like me) with ADD-
good sushi, some real character to the staff and restaurant, and an overall excellent choice for sushi in the area. Restaurant is on the smaller side so Osaka is better for smaller groups. The best way to sum up a review is to say wether or not you would go back, and I would.
The long review for those with attention spans-
I'll preface this review by saying that sushi is something I understand better than any other food. I have a friend who is a native japanese sushi chef who trained with a master sushi chef and so I at least have a fair bit of knowledge on how things should, and should not, be done even though I've never actually made a piece of sushi in my life.
I stopped by Osaka on a whim. I was driving through the area and had a craving for sushi, which is a situation that happens to me very frequently. A check of my tripadvisor mobile app brought up Osaka and with all the good reviews I decided to give it a go.
Given the all-excellent reviews I expected a slightly more upscale restaurant than what I found, which is in no way a negative. Osaka is a small sushi bar with 4, maybe 5, booths and a couple tables in addition to the bar seating. It's over-stuffed with Japanese-themed kitsch and the back of the dining area is something of an overflow storage area. It is clearly a family run establishment and, just as with some of the greatest little hideaway joints I've found over my many years have been, this is one with some serious character and was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't in the mood for a big restaurant with a dozen servers all whisking around and was very pleased to find this neighborhood establishment overflowing with personality.
Speaking of character, if you visit Osaka you will probably run into 'Jenny.' Jenny appears to be the matriarch of the restaurant as is a whirlwind of energy with a loud, thick accent. Her service was great and informal, easily striking up conversations with myself and others while still getting things done at a brisk pace. No stuffy or pretentious servers here, Jenny is real people in the finest sense of the word. When I demolished my shumai appetizer she stopped on her way to another table and said, "Oh, you were really hungry, eh, " while laughing a little. Yes I was, this being my first and only meal of the day.
The shrimp shumai were very close to some of the best I've ever had. I not only demolished them because I was starving but because they were very tasty and steamed perfectly. I highly recommend these as a lead in to your sushi 'main course.'
I ordered a fair bit of sushi. To start I had 4 pieces of mackerel and 2 of tuna nigirisushi, or a thumb-shaped mound of rice topped with, in this case, fish. The mackerel and tuna seemed quite fresh and were very tasty. The one nit (and for most people this really is nothing more than a 'nit' with no bearing on your meal) I will pick with chef, who I would guess is Jenny's son or other close relative and seemed very young, is that shaping the rice for sushi, according to my sushi chef friend, is a very specific art and requires a lot of practice and training. My friend has said it can take 2 years to learn how to properly prepare and shape this type of sushi alone. These sushi were really not shaped properly and were not even consistently shaped from one to another but this has no effect on the flavour or experience once the sushi is being chewed so I only mention this to be 100% accurate in my review. The rice itself was of very good consistency and proper vinegar content, quite tasty and well done. From a taste and enjoyment viewpoint, quite good and no complaints.
After the nigirisushi I ordered several makisushi (rolls). I'm a fan of crab in almost an situation so spider rolls (with soft shell crab) are a staple order of mine at any sushi bar. I also tried the king crab roll from the "special roll" menu and the spicy tuna roll.
All of the maki was constructed well, the ingredients were fresh, and the taste was very good. This was definitely better than average sushi and really excellent if you consider the surrounding area. The spicy tuna was presented differently than I am used to seeing but I enjoyed the variation. Really good sushi, well presented, and the lone chef was very speedy at filling order especially considering he had an equally large order for a gentleman who sat down just before me.
This was a fun visit. Osaka wasn't what I was expecting and what I did find was very enjoyable. If you're the stuffy, pretentious type that prefers a more formal feel then Osaka might not be for you. If you like meeting real people and enjoy sushi then you should definitely stop in if you're ever in Venice.
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