Uzen Review (with pictures)
After watching some appetizing-enhancing Japanese shows, my friends and I were looking for a good place to satisfy our Japanese craving when I thought of Uzen in Rockridge that I've always wanted to try (I've heard that they have very fresh fish).
When we got there around 8:00pm tonight, there was only 3 people at the bar and two other tables so we were seated very promptly. Since there was 3 people in our party, they easily accomodated us by offering us an option to order three pieces of nigiri. We ordered tamago (egg - $2.95 for two pieces), sake (salmon), hotate (scallop), uni (sea urchin - $6.75 for two) as well as amaebi (sweet shrimp - $5.95 for two), and we ordered two of the "Uzen Specialties" which were Hiryuzu ($6.95), a kind of tofu and vegetable cake and green beans in a dashi broth, and the other which was an assortment of sashimi, seafood and vegetables with white miso paste over it but I forgot the name ($6.95).
The two appetizer specials didn't come out until after the nigiri, but I guess they took longer to cook and prepare. All the fish for the nigiri were extraordinarily fresh... I usually order the tamago as one of the things to compare between sushi stores, it's a simple dish that requires diligence to make well, and it was quite good here at Uzen. The uni was fresh and very sweet, but I just wish there was more! The amaebi was sweet as well, and they fried the heads to perfection. I think nigiri is definitely the star here.
After these, we weren't really full yet, so we asked them what kinds of rolls they had because they only listed four simple rolls on the menu (btw, they have a regular Dinner Menu, but they also have a hand-written specials menu with fresh fish, appetizers and entrees, and they had a separate nigiri sushi and rolls menu). The waitress basically said that they can make any roll we want, so we went for the Spider roll and the spicy scallop roll to round out our dinner. The spicy scallop roll had just the right amount of spiciness, such a simple roll, but delicious. Next, the spider roll was just perfect, I think their fried things are really outstanding, so crisp, yet not dried, and filled with flavor.
All in all, the dinner came out to $24 per person with tax and tip... very enjoyable dinner. The only downside to this restaurant would be the bathroom which is completely different from the elegant, simplistic style of the dining area, it is out in the back and sort of in the alley. However, I would definitely recommend Uzen for simple and great sushi.
5415 College Ave
(between Hudson St & Kales Ave)
Oakland, CA 94618
(pictures: 1. Tamago, Sake and Hotate
4. Fried Amaebi Head)
I ate at Uzen recently and I would have to say that it did not live up to my memory of eating there a couple of years ago. Fish was served to us torn and bruised (unacceptable) and several pieces just did not taste fresh. The sushi chef was having a beer when we came in and it did not appear to have been his first. Recent experiences at Kirala have been much better!
I too live only 10 minutes from Uzen, but sometimes you still need to go wash your hands or perhaps friends who go with you need to use the restroom, so I still think it can be improved upon. Those of you who have been will understand the stark contrast between the restroom area and the restaurant itself. That said, I'm definitely going back to Uzen, just disappointed that I found it so late!