Osaka Japanese Cuisine
3670 S Houston Levee Rd
Collierville, TN 38017
My (roller derby) coach, Whorecules, shares my love of sushi and asks me about once a month, “Have you been to Osaka yet?” Considering I’m in Collierville at least twice a week for practice, this isn’t a crazy question. However, the answer until recently, was no. We almost always go to Sekisui Pacific Rim after practice seeing how they stay open late and have a special roll named after the Z-Girls.
A couple of weeks ago there was a special try-out for Lizzie Floored ‘Em on a Thursday evening. Warren and the monkeys (Satchel, 5, and Jiro, 3) accompanied me. When it was over, we made a quick run to Johnson Park for a little sprayground action. When everyone was nice and hungry, I suggested we try Osaka. (Getting the monkeys to vote for Japanese food is always very easy, so off we went.)
We arrived close to 8:00pm and I was immediately impressed by the sparkly-ness of the restaurant. I gave our crew a once over and wondered if we were horribly underdressed, but figured we were safe for a Thursday night. Osaka is in an upscale strip mall and has a very nice bar in front with a few tables and a sushi bar and hibachi tables in back along with some booths.
We were seated in the back in a booth and had a nice view of both the sushi chef and one of the hibachi chefs (and a flat screen TV showing Larry King Live featuring my boyfriend, Al Gore). These were welcome distractions as the monkeys were very hungry at this point. It took our server longer-than-I-was-happy-with to get our drink (and soup and edamame) order, but once it was in, the beverages and appetizers came out very quickly.
Jiro immediately spilled a little of his soup on the table which would not have been a big deal had we have had a napkin anywhere in sight! (It was also at this time that I noticed that Satchel’s ceramic soup spoon was chipped. Warren pointed out that of the four sets of chop sticks on the table three were the super cheap splintery ones and only one was “the good kind.”)
Despite these minor set backs, I was very excited by the sushi menu. It had a lot of yummy sounding rolls and much to my delight, they were all available as a half order. This allowed me to sample several rolls rather than just a few. I went with the Spicy Eel Tempura, Spicy Tuna, Mango Dragon, Miami and Hawaiian. Satchel and Jiro both said they wanted sushi so I scanned the menu trying to find something they might like. There wasn’t our standard crunchy shrimp or its equivalent as far as I could tell, so I went with the fried tofu roll minus the cucumber. Warren ordered curry—a favorite of his growing up—and his standard porkatsu. We were both impressed to see Japanese curry on the menu—a first for Memphis. We ordered a chicken katsu with rice for the monkeys to share.
I looked around the restaurant to check out the clientele—lots of families, some of them Japanese, and a hibachi table full of young high school or college aged people. Two women were seated next to us and after awhile I could tell they wished they were somewhere else far, far away even though the monkeys were actually pretty well behaved. We had some initial screaming over stealing each other's toys (Satchel had his Tamagotchi and Jiro had a Power Ranger), but once the edamame and soup arrived they were fine…until the edamame and soup were gone. Then we had a looooooooooong wait for our food.
Every few minutes Satchel announced, “I’m starving!” He also seemed a bit tired because when he wasn’t starving he was begging me to rub him. He kept putting his foot in my lap and shaking his leg—the international signal for “rub me.” (He actually said at one point, “Rub my leg, it’s hungry!”) I dug through my purse for something to entertain the monkeys with. I had Jiro’s little notebook and a pen and he went right to work drawing a picture. When Satchel wanted to steal it away from him, I gave him my notebook to draw in. Then Warren took the Tamagotchi and started playing games with it. For a few minutes everyone was so absorbed in what they were doing, I actually felt a little lonely!
Thankfully our food arrived and everyone began interacting again. The monkeys are all about rice and soy sauce these days so they dug right in. The chicken katsu didn’t seem to appeal to either one of them. It was pounded down a bit thin, but seemed to taste okay to me. Unfortunately the fried tofu roll I ordered them came with “Osaka sauce,” which was really spicy. I must have just glazed over that in the menu description. The five rolls I ordered all looked delicious, but a quick tasting revealed that they were all spicy too. So, no sushi for the monkeys. Warren said his curry was also very spicy, which again was bad for the monkeys, but good for Warren. Each of their plates came garnished with pickled vegetables—carrots, cucumbers, and daikons. They each tried a bite or two of each, but inevitably spit them out. I also tried a few and did not find them to be particularly tasty. Warren, however, liked them very much. Probably because he grew up eating things like that.
Back to my sushi…oh my goodness it was good. The Miami roll had spicy crunchy crawfish, eel, shrimp tempura, avocado, and smelt roe wrapped in fish cake. The Mango Dragon was deep fried with eel and avocado inside, mango on top. The Hawaiian was spicy crunchy tuna with smelt roe inside and avocado and mango on top. The spicy tuna and spicy eel tempura were both super yummy. I had a hard time deciding which one was my favorite.
The best thing about our meal was the one Osaka employee—a short, squat, middle aged Japanese woman—who was walking around in a black t-shirt with a giant alien head on it. The alien had a bullet hole in his head and was bleeding neon green. I don’t know why, but this just cracked me up. The kids also found this t-shirt delightful.
Once we were all pretty much done eating, Satchel started telling us how cold he was. This is the new international code for “I’m going to need to poop in about 3 minutes.” (In the Peace Corps, we referred to this phenomenon as the “Shit Chills.”) Since I had been sharing one side of the booth with both Satchel and Jiro for the entire meal, I made Warren take Satchel to the restroom while I paid the tab.
Upon their return, I asked Warren to describe the bathroom to me, but he just shrugged and said it was fine. He was more interested in telling me about Satchel pointing out a picture made of shells and asking him if they were bivalve or univalve shells. (To which I replied, “Huh?”) So on our way out we took a moment to appreciate the “cheap Chinese art” made of shells and sand and other interesting items. Once we were out the door Warren turned to me and said, “There weren’t any candy machines!”
Another first for Memphis!
Later Whorecules told me I should have ordered the Cordova roll! Damn! I saw it, but passed. I was confused as to why a Collierville restaurant would have a roll named after an opposing suburb. However, when I googled the address today, I found that there is another Osaka in Cordova. Doh.