Ozumo in Oakland last Friday night
We were rather disappointed with Ozumo in Oakland. First, the atmosphere is extremely un-relaxing: The blaring dance music made it difficult to unwind and the setting was tacky in a Las Vegas circa 1990 sort of way. For starters we ordered the Tuna tartar which was completely forgettable. We ordered two items from the robata grill: Chicken skin skewers and bacon wrapped scallops. The chicken skin skewers were bland and seemed undercooked. We sent them back to be grilled longer. The scallops themselves were tasty but the dish was too rare: the bacon surrounding the scallop was very undercooked. The table next to ours ordered the same dish and the bacon on their dish looked perfectly cooked. We ordered several pieces of sushi and they were all good. Overall our impression was that the sushi was overpriced for what it was. Although the sushi was good, on the whole it was not at the level of other high end sushi places we are used to (Sushi Ran and Sushi Sho). Our server was extremely first-rate: He new we were disappointed with the robota items and went out of his way to try to please us. He even went to talk to the manager who came to talk to us but clearly was not as concerned about our displeasure with the quality of the food served to us. I am amazed that this place has such glowing reviews and was as packed with people as it was. We won’t be returning.
We had almost the same experience you had when we dined there last Thursday. The noise (music/chatter) at the bar was so loud, we couldn't hear the hostess at the reception when she spoke to us. We were seated at the robatayaki counter, so could see the frenzied pace of food preparation going on. Opting for a light meal, we ordered:
- Tempura shrimp roll;
- California roll;
- Miso soups;
- Azuki bean bread pudding, and white chocolate matcha mousse for desserts.
Our server (Japanese-American) was very friendly, but I noticed some of the staff get orders mixed up, and there were long waits between courses. The food was bleah, although we normally don't set high expectations of Cal-Japanese places. I think the food at Yoshi's (Jack London) Sq is pretty much the same standard as Ozumo, but at least they have a "view".
Maybe it's difficult to get good chefs/wait-staff to work in Oakland, the neighborhood looks quite intimidating after dark.
Huh, I was there last Friday night too, and was going to post on the really positive experience that I had. It's also funny that you mention how intimidating the neighborhood looks after dark -- that Friday night was both the first big concert at the Fox theater right down the street, and the monthly Oakland Art Murmur, and the neighborhood was hopping -- there were a ton of people on the streets, and the restaurant was packed.
On to the food: we had: the bacon wrapped scallops, the garlic soy edamame, the tuna tartar with avocado and spicy tofu and the spicy tuna roll with tobiko, salmon and hamachi. Everything was good: the scallops were perfectly cooked (both the bacon and the scallops), the edamame were unusual and a great snack, and I really loved the tuna tartar, I thought the spicy tofu combination was delicious.
Yes, it's very noisy, but that's not a surprise, you can hear the booming music when you walk in; we were sitting in the back of the restaurant near the sushi bar, so it wasn't as loud as by the bar. It was a fun atmosphere, though, and the service was very friendly. There were definitely delays with getting food, but it was pretty busy that night, so I gave the place a pass for that.
I had been once before just for drinks and a snack at the bar, and enjoyed it then, but this was my first time for dinner. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, since I've never had particularly good experiences at the Ozumo in San Francisco (the sushi was fine, nothing exciting, but the service was poor, and the waits for food were incredibly long).
My friend and I had a pretty good experience tonight at Ozumo. We were in a mostly empty dining room and didn't have to combat noise, which admittedly can ruin a meal. I suggest this place on a weeknight.
From the robata grill, we enjoyed the mushrooms, though the portion was small even for a $5 plate, and the asparagus.
The miso soup was fresh tasting.
Our maki rolls: a perfect avo/sesame roll (hard to mess up but I've had bad ones) and tempura shrimp, which was tasty.
The only disappointment was the salmon (sake) from the robata grill. It was undercooked in the middle and tasted a bit too fishy. It didn't seem to be the dyed-red farmed salmon, fortunately. They skewered it with a sweet, hot grilled pepper - a rare Japanese pepper, they told us. Next time I'll get the grilled pepper dish.
I won't be running back, but next time I'm in the mood for sushi I'll think of this place.
2251 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612