I called at 4:30 to see about reservations tonight. I was informed that reservations are highly suggested but they had times open all evening. I chose 7pm and we headed over there at about ten till.
I had been doing some preliminary research about Osaka and according to the Pioneer Press, “it instantly became Apple Valley’s most elegant dining location.” I had also read numerous comments that Osaka serves the best sushi in all of Minnesota and especially outside of the downtown area. Now Kim and I are far from Asian food experts but I have eaten sushi numerous times including at the famous Fuji Ya in Minneapolis. Reading all this buzz made me fairly excited to see what Osaka Seafood and Steakhouse had hidden behind its extremely humble (and fairly lame) strip mall exterior in what I consider to be one of the most dilapidated and “cheap” strip malls in town.
We arrived at about 10 to 7 and walked inside. The Pioneer Press was right about the decor. It is *very* nice. The hardwoods and deep rich colors are a nice touch. It seems that Osaka either wasn’t approved for the wine and beer license that they were looking to get on the February 8th agenda or they haven’t responded after getting the go-ahead as the bar is there but not stocked with anything.
We were quickly seated and our drink orders taken while we took a look at the menu. I had already given the menu a once over online at home and while I would have preferred the hibachi dinner, I didn’t think it would be good for two people and I’m certain Kim would not be comfy eating with a group of people she didn’t know. Soon after receiving our drinks our food order was in.
Both Kim and I went with their $19.99 “Completed Dinner Box” which comes with tempura, shrimp shumai and a California roll (I asked the server if it would be all right if I substituted their tuna roll for the California and after explaining to her that they were both the same price on the ala carte menu, she said she’d check with the chef and whatever appeared would be what was ok with him). The meal also included an order of Miso soup and a salad.
The Miso soup and salad came out quickly and while I’m not a huge fan of Miso it was decent. I have never had a salad at an Asian restaurant so I’m not sure if the watery ginger dressing is a staple of the Asian diet but that’s what was offered and even though it was swimming it was still decent to eat as it was very similar to Thousand Island.
While we were eating our first course we noticed that they were playing American elevator music at a fairly unreasonable volume. It sorta reminded me of the volume that a sports bar would keep their jukebox at before 9pm while people were eating wings. It was a bit uncomfortable to speak over and you were treated to everyone else’s conversations as well.
While all of that was a bit annoying and certainly detracted from the Pioneer Press’ statement about Osaka being “elegant”, nothing and I mean absolutely fucking nothing prepared us for what happened next. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of dimming lights in the hibachi area and as I turned my head I was blasted with randomly floating colors of lights descending from one of four disco balls hanging from the ceiling. Just as I registered this, my ears were filled with even louder music than the previously mentioned elevator music which was nearly screaming “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY…..”
It’s obvious to me that the Pioneer Press writer didn’t get to experience this event even once during his visit. Lucky for Kim and I, we were treated to this yet again 5 minutes later. Now, when it was happening the first time I was in such a confused state of awe that I wasn’t able to look around and see the reactions of the other patrons. The second time, however, I was able to observe many others staring in disbelief that this was actually occurring (Kim later said it was perfectly stereotypical American media portrayal of the Japanese — elegant and cheesy all at the same time) while several others (apparently sitting through at least their third rendition) were smiling strangely and bouncing up and down to the sickening music as if they were at Chucky Cheese celebrating a six year old’s birthday with $5 in game tokens in their pockets.
Let me tell you… If you know someone having a birthday and you want to either scare the shit out of them as well as the rest of the people in the restaurant or if you feel like getting wasted and having a huge laugh — make sure you have the staff pull out the birthday song. It’s quite the spectacle (even though that word doesn’t even come close to conveying the absolute fucking craziness that these light and sound shows brought with them).
Kim and I spent the next 20 minutes or so while waiting for our food to arrive talking about and making fun of the HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout. I was actually thinking about how I could write about this particular tidbit without having people think I’m just making the shit up. I just can’t imagine that occurring anywhere else. Even the World Buffet in Apple Valley has more class!
Our food came out and was fairly impressive in size. Mine did come with the tuna roll which was nice and it gave Kim and I some opportunity to share the different items. She had ordered her box with the beef teriyaki and mine came with salmon and shrimp teriyaki (there is also a sashimi option). I thoroughly enjoyed mine but Kim, not being a big sushi fan, stuck to the tempura and beef. I took her California roll and gave her some more of my tempura.
The food was good but it’s no where even close to what Fuji Ya offers. Granted, for a fairly similar meal at Fuji Ya, you’re going to pay close to $100 (we paid $44.62 before tax) but for people to claim that this is the best sushi in Minnesota is just plain bullshit. In fact, the tuna rolls we had at both Enjoy! and Houlihan’s beat out what they had at Osaka tonight.
Overall I enjoyed our time at Osaka but I won’t be back unless we go with a larger group and eat hibachi. I would also make certain we don’t have any birthdays in our group that the staff knows of and I would cross my fingers that no one else in the restaurant did either. I don’t want to find out if I have Epilepsy the hard way.