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Osaka (Belmont) don't repeat my mistake

  • t

I broke one of my cardinal rules this weekend: Don't go to restaurants that offer more than one ethnic cuisine.

Osaka is a new restaurant on concord ave in Belmont. Extensive rehab of a forgotten chinese place that never seemed to have a customer. Talked my wife into going to try it, then didn't have the courage to walk out when I discovered that it is actually Japenese/Chinese.

Lovely, friendly people. Very nice interior. Typical Americanized chinese menu, but great smells from the dishes going past.

Second mistake - we came for takeout sushi, so we ordered takeout sushi.

Miso soup - sweet, not enough salt - just tasted off. Into the trash.

Seaweed salad - Excellent, crispy, nice dressing.

Salad (came with sushi) - iceberg lettuce, a few shredded carrots, cucumber slice in a soy dressing. Hungry, so ate it. Uninspired and lifeless.

Sushi (sushi deluxe and sashimi deluxe - 23.95 each) - sushi deluxe was 6 pieces of maki and one crab stick roll. Fish was poorly cut, greyish. Rice was too hard and cold. Sashimi was similarly poorly cut and just didn't look fresh (and was a small serving for the price). It lacked the irridescent hue that perfect sushi always seems to have - colors were dull, tuna was orangish brick red rather than the deep maroon red that I would expect. My wife refused to eat anything. I sampled a few pieces and dumped the rest. Did not get sick, but wouldn't have been surprised if I had.

In short, I may return to try the chinese portion of the menu, but would never order sushi again. With Shangri-La only a mile away, why would I go anywhere else.

A question: Can anyone think of a restaurant that does two or more ethnic foods really well (not fusion, but two separate parts of the menu)

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  1. I enjoyed your review because like you I tend to avoid any place that tries to do multiple cuisines. The worst in my opinion are the so called Japanese/Chinese places. First of all most of them seemed to operated by Chinese people so while they may do Chinese food (even American style Chinese) fairly well they usually have no idea about Japanese food. I travel to Taiwan and China frequently and have yet to find a really good sushi bar in either country. I have been to some that are ok to good but none that even come close to Japan. So any place that advertises Chinese/Japanese, Korean/Japanese or in one case Thai/Chinese/Japanese should be avoided.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RoyRon

      There's a place called "Ital-Mex" that's been threatening to move into Casa de Pedro's old place in Watertown... lasagna burritos, anyone?

      1. re: Pia

        Actually, that place went by the boards and is now the Mango Grill. I believe it's Salvadoran food, and it's quite good.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433992

    2. The seaweed salad almost certainly came from a jar - the rest was fresh prepared by the restaurant from the sound of it - that's a bad ratio.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        I was actually most shocked by the bad miso soup - I thought it was virtually always reconstituted from freeze-dried. Seemed like somthing that was impossible to screw up.

      2. Thanks for taking the hit. I go past this location fairly often and was curious about it. Your report just killed my curiosity re: the Japanese side. As for the Chinese side, like you, I have a hard time veering from Shangri La, although Mulan is gaining in my heart (they deliver to me).

        1. "A question: Can anyone think of a restaurant that does two or more ethnic foods really well (not fusion, but two separate parts of the menu)"

          Sato was decent for lunch, back when I used to work in Waltham. If you dine in they have a Sushi bar and a full liquor license.

          http://satorestaurant.com/diningmenu....

          2 Replies
          1. re: steve999

            Fuloon has both Sichuan and Shandong foods on their menu, and both are well made.

            1. re: steve999

              Romano's Pizza in Roslindale does, well, pizza and the like but has really good burritos, tacos and tamales.

            2. I was so disappointed in Osaka, especially since it's right around the corner. Too bad that it's so terrible. The one good multi-Asian place I know of is a wacky Korean/Chinese/Sushi place between a sandwich shop and a Dunkin' Donuts (you have to enter through one or the other of those) on Cambridge St. in Boston. Excellent ba bim bop, and pretty great sushi as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jessieinbelmont

                although i havent been in a over a year, i always felt elephant walk did the side by side menu well

              2. Echo the note about the owners -- very friendly and genuinely want to make this place work. One of the owners (the chef at the moment) has family in Osaka, and learned to make sushi and Japanese food while living there.

                I mostly had Chinese food, and tried the special - salt and pepper soft shelled crab -- that was delicious. Also had a side of unagi. The unagi was better than Asai (Belmont).

                On the second trip there, I ordered sushi takeout, and found had a very different experience-- again better than Asai. Then again, to be fair while Asai is close to where I live, it isn't my favorite sushi place.

                I think Osaka has all the ingredients to make it successful. Owners who care and listen to feedback; enough Chinese-American staples for those who like it (including kids); enough nice different types of food (e.g. soft shell crab) for the more adventurous; and based on my limited sample, decent sushi.

                Shangrila is great for Taiwanese style food and dimsum. Then again, can't wait to get back to Japan and Taiwan for the real thing soon...

                1 Reply
                1. re: boschow

                  Does the chef at Osaka make Osaka style pressed sushi?

                2. Restaurants with two or more ethnic foods work in our family where one likes Chinese, and another Japanese. Our family has eaten at Osaka in Belmont twice and we all found dishes we liked. I thought the Hot and Sour Soup was excellent. My son gave good reviews to the Regular Sushi entree, and we all liked the Basil Chicken, and the General Tsao's Tofu. Wonderful atmosphere. Friendly owners?? Hope they do well.

                  1. I have been to Osaka several times since it opened, and I haven't had a bad meal there yet. Perhaps this is because I generally stay away from the sushi side of the menu (although the few rolls I've ordered a la carte have just fine). The soups are particularly good. My girls, who are usually fussy eaters, gobble up the sesame chicken. The mooshi is delightful, and the tempura pepper squid (an appetizer, but I don't remember exactly what it's called in the menu) is mouth-watering.

                    A lot of the dishes are different from what diners used to "American" Chinese and Japanese food might expect, but I appreciate the change of pace -- it actually reminds me of restaurants I remember from China much more than most of the places in Chinatown.

                    As other posters have mentioned, the staff is very friendly and professional, which for me is a big plus.