Osaka Modern Asian: North Charleston restaurant brings the bling to Ashley Phosphate dining scene
Deidre Schipani – Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Osaka Modern Asian
Cuisine: Pan Asian
Category: Neighborhood Favorite; Night Out
Address: 2611 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston
Bar: Full-service bar, specialty cocktail menu, sake menu, separate lounge area
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner, 3-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
Service: 2 1/2
Atmosphere: 3 1/2
Costs: Sushi bar appetizers both hot and cold $8-$12; appetizers $4-$8; soups $2-$8.50; salads $3-$8; sushi and sashimi $4-$8; hand rolls $4-$10; sushi bar entrees $16-$48; Pan-Asian entrees $11-$23; hibachi entrees (all-inclusive) $13-$29.50; sushi roll special menu $6-$14; desserts $4-$7; children’s menu $9.50-$10; lunch $7.50-$14
Vegetarian Options: Yes
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Other: Facebook, www.osakajapanese.us; Early Bird Specials until 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and until 5 p.m., Sunday. Lunch specials 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. $8 “kitchen lunch,” daily sushi specials. Hibachi room, sushi bar, lounge, dining room, private event rooms.
Osaka in South Windermere got a little sister this winter. A little sister with lots of bling.
Osaka North Charleston is in the former Kobe Steakhouse on Ashley Phosphate Road. The interior sports a decorative wall of wine and a light show to make you think you are in Las Vegas. Off to the right sits a comfortable lounge with low-slung seating that feels very tatami-like.
The rear dining room is dedicated to hibachi service with teppanyaki surfaces awaiting the cacophony of fork and spatula riffs delivered by showmen-chefs.
The use of color and LED lighting has made Osaka a visually arresting space.
It offers a yin and yang of dining choices where food as a prop is sliced, diced and twirled on one side, and paper-thin slices of snapper and white tuna are draped on altars of vinegared rice on the other side.
Take a turn to the left and a quiet calm presents: The sushi bar is staffed with diligent samurai warriors, hachimakis in place, perfecting the rolling, slicing and presenting of sashimi and futomaki rolls. The landscape of this room features an LED light show, stone walls and modern sculpture hangings that bring a contemporary, sophisticated ambience to the space. The sushi bar has ample seating and the room itself has a community table and rows of comfortable, private booths.
Sentinels of bonsai “planted” between the cold cases of yellowtail, toro, salmon and fluke reinforce the deliberate eating that takes place on this side of the restaurant.
For families and celebratory groups, the hibachi room awaits: a disco-ball dining experience, where comedy and culinary meet in the middle of juggling salt and pepper shakers, onion volcanoes and pyrotechnics on the grill.
All entrees include soup, salad, a shrimp appetizer and grill-cooked vegetables and rice along with your choice of a dinner protein: shrimp, rib-eye, salmon, scallops, chicken, vegetables or any combination of the above. Portions are generous and fairly priced, especially when you consider it is dinner and a show.
The menu is expansive. It’s daunting almost in its sushi and sashimi offerings, hibachi selections, sushi bar entrees along with a Pan-Asian repertoire of noodle dishes and stir fries, and chef’s specialties that travel to Thailand, Hunan, Szechuan, Tokyo and Osaka. It will help if you know what experience you want before dining at Osaka.
The servers are friendly and engaging, and the manager on duty at the time of our visit took his job seriously and visited all the tables and assisted his serving staff.
Our meal began with tuna tataki ($10) that was quite nice. It was seared long enough to pick up smoky grill flavors but not so long as to mar the ruddy color and pliant texture of the fish. Dappled with scallions and sauced with bright ponzu sauce, the tuna got us off to a good start.
The house spring roll ($5) did not fare as well. Its wrapper was uneven, and its shrimp and pork flavors paled in comparison to the tuna.
Miso soup ($2) accompanied an entree, and it also was lackluster in flavor. The tofu bits were artfully sliced and the scallion cut on the bias, but these garnishes did little to lift this flat-tasting broth.
On the other hand, a light curry soup ($4.50, $8.50) with its coconut milk broth, crisp bean sprouts, tender shrimp and basil leaves was piquant and balanced with just the right spice.
Salads, which range from simple leafy greens, sliced cucumbers or seaweed ($3-$6), are fresh and crisp palate cleansers.
Osaka has created a special sushi roll menu. They all have a local connection or reflect an occasion or place; such as a colorful sunset roll ($9) or sunrise roll ($9). We tried the Charleston roll ($9.50) with tempura salmon, cucumber, tuna and a spiced sauce. Eight generous pieces married taste and textures for a pleasant maki.
We were hoping to find ramen on the menu but no such luck. The thick udon noodle dish as well as lo mein and fun noodles can be topped with chicken, beef or shrimp.
Vegetarians will be pleased with a vegetable sushi menu ($4) and toppings that can be added to noodles or rice.
The children’s hibachi menu seems on the high side at $9.50 and $10, and there is a $2 share charge for children 12 and under.
Lunch features a series of options called Box A to Box H. Priced between $13 and $14 and including a soup or salad, they offer a nice way to explore the menu at Osaka.
Desserts are ice creams of red bean and green tea and a selection of mochi ($4-$7). The latest Japanese craze of “moffle,” a cross between a mochi cake and waffle, has yet to hit our shores.
It was interesting to note large groups of Japanese/Japanese-American diners at Osaka.
That speaks well for what the kitchen is producing: a kitchen comfortable with fat stippled toro as well as tomato salsa and micro-greens, and a dining room where one chef carves with the precision of a surgeon and another juggles with the eye-hand coordination of a circus star.