Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Osaka - Japanese by way of Peru in Hollywood

Peruvian cuisine is the "it girl" of the moment in Los Angeles culinary circles.  The cuisine first gained notice here when Nobu Matsuhisa opened his eponymous restaurant in 1987, bringing Miso Black Cod into the culinary lexicon.  That restaurant showcased Japanese food with Peruvian influences reflecting the years the chef spent living in Peru.  Peruvian food did not have another moment in Los Angeles until Ricardo Zarate opened Mo-Chica in Mercado La Paloma in the Spring of 2009.

2011 has seen the opening of three significant restaurants serving different styles of Peruvian cuisine.  Zarate (now a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef) followed up Mo-Chica with Picca, an upscale cantina with gourmet takes on Peruvian food.  This summer Mario Alberto, who had previously worked at Mo-Chica and The Lazy Ox, opened up Chimu, a casual Peruvian spot adjacent to the Grand Central Market.  Now comes Osaka, a Peruvian restaurant with Asian ingredients and techniques, from Adolfo Suaya of Surly Goat and BoHo and his partners from Lima: Diego de la Puente and Diego Herrera.  This is the 5th branch of Osaka, following the original in Lima, and others in Buenos Aires, Santiago (Chile) and Mexico City.

Osaka may follow in the footsteps of the other Peruvian spots that recently opened but it is certainly its own restaurant, blending Peruvian and Japanese as well as the strong influence of its Hollywood location.  The decor is quite dramatic.  Designer Kris Keith of Spacecraft created three rooms: a front bar, an outdoor pisco garden, and the main dining room, centered on a 40 seat ceviche and sushi bar.  There are ropes hanging from the ceiling in the dining room and to enter the restaurant, diners pass by a water feature and pond, which is effective in transporting customers away from the noise of Hollywood Boulevard.

I was recently invited to visit Osaka and try some of the menu.  My visit began with a Pisco Sour made with ORO Acholado Pisco that was a delicious beginning.  The cocktail is only $9, a deal for a delicious cocktail in Hollywood.

I sampled various items including the Tiraditos and Ceviches, which were some of the menu highlights.  The halibut (below left) and the tuna (below right) were nicely seasoned and attractively presented.

The Niku Abura nigiri, made with seared beef, was another hit.  It is second from the left in the photo below.  The salmon (left) had a buttery texture, while the beef was warm and had a sweet and savory marinade that made me want second helpings.

The menu is divided into Causitas, made with Peruvian yellow potatoes, Anticuchos (skewers), Tapas, Soups, and Signature Dishes, in addition to items from the Sushi & Ceviche Bar.  Entrees range from $15 - $25 but at Osaka it is best to make your meal of many little dishes, so you can have a variety of tastes and flavors.

If you are inclined to order a Signature Dish or two for your table, the Miso Truffle American Kobe Skirt Steak is a fitting way to settle in to the heartier stage of your meal.  This dish is not shy about announcing its presence on your plate as the miso puree and truffle salt provide an aromatic accompaniment to the tender kobe beef.

It really feels like a night on the town when you step into Osaka, whether for a round of Pisco sours or a full meal of sushi, ceviche, and cooked dishes.  Osaka may be serving the "it" cuisine of the moment, but service is welcoming and there is genuine excitement about the cuisine and dishes that is apparent from the hostess to the waiters and busboys.  So stroll down the Walk of Fame, have a cocktail, munch on ceviche and tirado and enjoy the glamorous room.  It is Hollywood after all.

Osaka: 6327 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood.  Phone: (323) 785-0360.  Website: http://www.osaka.com.pe/

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