Ten-year-old Jocelyn and her 7-year-old sister, Michelle, are regulars at the sushi bar of Osaka's Japanese Restaurant in Greenbelt. They each have a list of favorite dishes: Jocelyn likes the shrimp tempura and unagi nigiri sushi (fresh water eel) and agrees with Michelle, who raves about the California roll. Jacqui and Michael, their parents, have tried other sushi restaurants in the area, but maintain that none can compare with Osaka's.
And it's hard to disagree.
We started our meal with the miso soup ($1.50), a delicious broth with hunks of tofu, and we followed it with a ginger salad. The iceberg lettuce was crisp and fresh, topped with a textured, subtly spiced, pungent ginger dressing. My boyfriend tried to find out the recipe, but the waitress told us it's a closely guarded secret.
Our next course was yakitori (skewered chicken broiled in teriyaki sauce, $4.95). Half the plate held two piping hot skewers of chicken and grilled vegetables and the other half displayed cold pickled bean sprouts and fresh broccoli. The contrast tantalized the senses.
Next we moved on to the vast sushi choices. Ordering an assortment of sushi ($14.95 or $19.95) or sashimi ($17.95 or $22.95) or a combination of the two ($18.95 or $23.95) are options. But we chose our sushi a la carte and I'm glad we did, as it allowed us to experience a wide range of Osaka's nigiri sushi (slivers of raw fish served over a brick of rice) and special maki (bite-sized rolls of sushi rice and seafood wrapped in nori seaweed) and the sushi chef's exquisite presentation skills.
Our favorite was the Spider Roll ($9.95), soft-shell crab fried and wrapped in sushi rice and nori seaweed. The Stop & Light ($4.75) was true art--rice, shad roe (red), wasabi masago (green) and, rolled in the middle, a quail egg (yellow). The nigiri sushi was delicious as well: we tried the hamachi (yellow tail), the sake (salmon), saba (mackerel) and maguro (tuna).
For early diners, all four of those wonderful selections are available during Osaka's happy hour for $1 each.
We also tried the tempura udon ($11.95), a delicious soup served in a large old-fashioned cast-iron pot. The brown broth was filled with large udon (wheat noodles), fish cakes, thinly sliced wood ear mushrooms and scallions and shrimp tempura. It was the perfect adjunct to the sushi.
At Osaka's, each exquisite dish first pleases the eye then the taste buds.
Osaka's Japanese Restaurant, 8855 Greenbelt Rd., Greenbelt, Md.; call 301-552-1442. Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday, noon-10:30 p.m. Closed Sundays. Happy hour with discount sushi prices: Monday-Thursday, 4 to 6 p.m. Daily lunch specials.
CAPTION: An assortment of sushi at Osaka's Japanese Restaurant in Greenbelt.