One of the things Cindy and I do on an annual basis - no matter if we're in Chicago or home in the Quad Cities - is take in a movie on Christmas Eve. This past Christmas Eve was no exception, but we decided to go out to dinner before the movie. We both were thinking sushi, so we went to the Osaka Steak House on Utica Ridge in northeast Davenport (see map).
Osaka used to be just across the street from Southpark Mall in Moline and moved to their present location in the fall of 2008. They also maintain a sushi bar at Northpark Mall. Their Utica Ridge location was formally a local rib joint called R.J. Boar's. Actually, I thought R.J. Boar's was much better at their old location in downtown Bettendorf. And, evidently, a lot of other people felt the same way. It didn't stay in business for very long after their move to Utica Ridge.
When Osaka moved in, they substantially changed the decor to an elegant Japanese theme. There's a large bar area on the right when you move in and the dining area featured a number of grill tables where people can watch one of Osaka's hibachi chef's do their little shtick. And in the far back of the restaurant, through the bar and past the dining area, is the sushi bar. As we like to do, we sat right at the bar and were given a menu. While Osaka has a lot of different styles of Japanese/American food to offer, we were in the mood for sushi.
It didn't take long for us to figure out that we wanted a spicy tuna roll along with a California roll. And then we ordered some other pieces of sushi to go along with it - spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, red snapper, sweet shrimp, red snapper, salmon. We went to town with the order, really hoping to have a seafood overload for our pre-Christmas dinner.
In addition to all the sushi we ordered, we also got a bowl of miso soup to start out. There's not really much to miso soup - it's basically chunks of tofu, some scallions and some edible seaweed in a seasoned broth. Think chicken and noodle soup, only without the chicken and the noodles and with tofu, scallions and seaweed. But Osaka's miso soup was very good. Some of the best we'd ever tried.
When the spicy tuna roll and California roll came out, we were ready. And the spicy tuna roll was just outstanding. It certainly didn't last very long. In fact, both rolls were devoured within about two minutes of them being served to us. But the good thing is that they weren't overly busy at the sushi bar so our sushi order came up soon after we finished the rolls.
I have to say the sushi at Osaka was very, very good. It's amazing that you can get such fresh tasting fish in the middle of the country. We were wolfing the sushi back like it was the last meal for us.
Now, sushi is not appetizing to a lot of people. Actually, it took me a few times of having sushi to really appreciate the taste sensations and to get past the idea that I was eating "bait". It really can be an acquired taste.
My first trip to a sushi place was out in Las Vegas about 14 years ago. The guys in the company I was working with at the time decided they wanted sushi that evening. And as our sales manager at the time said, "Willie, we're going to go get sushi tonight. Now, you're more than welcome to come with us, but I don't think they have hamburgers on the menu, if you know what I mean."
Although I did find myself wanting to gag during my first couple of encounters with sushi, I learned to really love sushi. Later on, I took Cindy to a sushi place in Madison, WI for a snack one afternoon. She loved it immediately. And she turned her kids on to sushi, too. Her son will do stupid human tricks for sushi, he loves it so much.
One of the decadent pleasures we have in eating sushi is ordering the fatty tuna - or nigiri - from time to time. Usually, fatty tuna is pretty expensive per piece - about three to four times the price of regular sushi. But, man, is it good! We were first introduced to fatty tuna about 12 years ago at a sushi place called Sushi to Dai For in San Rafael, CA (see map). We were the only people at the sushi bar that evening and the sushi chef explained to us the different grades of tuna, cutting chunks of tuna for us to try. Fatty tuna is more marbled than regular chunk tuna and has a wonderful flavor.
It turned out that Osaka had fatty tuna that evening (some places only get it part of the time). We each got a couple pieces of the nigiri - at $7.95 a piece. Yow! But, man! Was it good.
I was still hungry after eating all that sushi, so I ordered up a Crazy Tuna Roll - basically, it's a tuna roll with spicy tuna wrapped around the outside. By the time we finished that, we'd hit the coveted seafood overload level.
But I don't know what it is about sushi. I can gorge myself on the stuff, getting to the point that I'm starting to grow gills on my neck. But an hour to 90 minutes later, I'm craving White Castle hamburgers. Yep, I don't quite know why, but for some reason I get hungry for the taste of a White Castle "slider". I think it has something to do with Cindy and me having sushi in West Lafayette, IN a number of years ago, stuffing ourselves and making our way back to our hotel. Then about two hours later, I was hungry again. It just happened that there was a White Castle near our hotel. We walked over and got a couple "sliders". It was the perfect complement to the sushi we'd had earlier in the evening.
Our sushi-fest at Osaka wasn't cheap - the bill came to over $100 bucks with tip. It was mainly sushi as I had a couple of beers and Cindy had hot tea with our food. But the fatty tuna helped push it over a "c-note". But it was worth it as a nice little Christmas present to us both.
Before we left, I ran into a good friend, Mike Weindruch, who was having a hibachi dinner with his family at Osaka. He said they had just gone to a movie and then decided to have dinner. Mike said, "A movie, then sushi. This is what Jews do on Christmas Eve."
I said, "Hey, we're not Jewish and we're doing the same thing, except we're heading to the movie right now."
We agreed that sushi is definitely a non-denominational treat. And Osaka's sushi was a definite spot-hitter.