Osaka: Cocina Nikkei

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with my crazy job. I’m essentially the Editor in Chief of my own business, and that business provides proofreading services for second-language graduate students in particular. In short, my clients’ deadlines are my deadlines, so life can get exhausting fast. By the end of this April, I hit the floor: Why were we so busy?? March, April, and May are supposed to be slow months! Whelp, I finally got some time to add up our data and… we’d grown massively in terms of order number. True to who we are, Ivo and I decided to go blow a chunk of my “bonus” on delicious food.

Osaka is a Nikkei (Peruvian and Japanese fusion food) restaurant in San Isidro. In San Isidro, the palm trees are straight and equidistant. There’s no chipped paint to be found. The parks are pristine and the buildings are new. Even the sky looked uncharacteristically blue for Lima when we drove through it. This place is where you go if you’ve got money, connections, and/or kids. It sort of strikes me as the suburbs of Lima.

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When we pulled up to Osaka, as far as I could tell there was no signage. I guess you either know where it is or you don’t. But everybody, it seems, knows where Osaka is. In a city that lives off only the best seafood, Osaka has still managed to carve out a slice of fame. The inside of the restaurant was a great contrast to all the little lunch joints we’ve been visiting in Barranco. As expected of an upscale restaurant in San Isidro, the architecture was stunning, modern, intentional. The wood beam ceiling was arguably a work of art, and I know this may seem weird to friends in the States, but expats might understand the significance of the fact that Osaka also had gorgeous bathrooms (toilet seats are not always a given in Lima).

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Look at that sink!

Osaka is, to begin with, an Instagrammer’s dream. The place has some of the most photogenic food and especially drinks I’ve ever seen. It was our own small tragedy that we’d neglected to make a reservation and were seated in a more dimly lit booth to the side of the main seating area. Definitely, definitely make a reservation. The reservation desk when you first walk in creates a hell of an impression: The room is startling. You suddenly find yourself in a tall sand-colored cavernous space completely bare except for wooden stairs leading down to the restaurant and a stunning reception desk that is, literally, a giant smooth-topped boulder. Having to tell the painfully well-dressed receptionist that we didn’t have a reservation felt like having to sheepishly report to the league of wizards that I’d accidentally turned my dog into a yeti.

Fortunately, the receptionist had mercy and found us a spot. We had the random misfortune of getting seated right next to families with little ones (chopsticks rapidly became drumsticks), but as soon as the drinks started coming those kids could’ve been drumming on my head and I wouldn’t have cared. Osaka’s care for drink presentation was everything. And the drinks deserved it, because the fruity drinks tasted like sunshine and Ivo (who is really discerning about booze) even gave their gin concoctions a thumbs up.

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Since this was a celebration, and we’d arrived starving, AND each dish kept impressing, we really went for broke. They started us off with an adorable tantalizer, a tiny fried pork spring roll. Understandably, perhaps, Osaka only gives you one per person as a teaser. But if there’s ever a way for me to obtain a bowl full of these suckers to eat like popcorn, I’m in. We went for a ceviche sampler first, and even though it was the first dish, it proved to be my favorite. To satiate my carnivorous husband, we also ordered a duck dish and a plate of beautiful pork medallions. I had no idea pork could be cooked that way: You could slice through it with just your fork. We rounded it all off with a set of sushi. Despite the quality of the meat dishes, if I get to visit Osaka again, I’m ordering all fish everything. Yes, my years as a pescatarian are probably at play, but really, Osaka’s ceviche managed to be unique and excel even in this incredibly competitive ceviche city.
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IMG_1223 IMG_1224IMG_1221 IMG_1225After hitting Osaka’s gorgeous cocktails hard, it was time to mellow out before the short drive home. We briefly decided to sip green tea and chat for a while. Then we got the dessert menu and said “screw it” and ordered the dessert sampler too. Oh my word, it was such a good decision. If you like mochi, Osaka’s lucuma mochi was stellar. As a big fan of desserts that go “THUNK” when you set them down on the table, the pistachio ice cream with a mini lava cake was my personal favorite. I’d like that in full size. And I’m American, so by “full size”, I mean the cake alone should be too big to pick up with one hand. Runner up for me was probably the peach halves over something crumbly and delicious and topped with vanilla ice cream. Man, I’ll be honest: I don’t even remember what the other two things on the tray were. I was too busy hammering the lava cake and mochi. But in short, Osaka was a hit for me. Yes, of course, taste of the food is always the number one criterion for judging a food-selling establishment. But for me, presentation and atmosphere are really, really close runner ups. It was fabulous to spend a leisurely 3 or 4 hours enjoying a restaurant that’s got taste AND presentation nailed.

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3 thoughts on “Osaka: Cocina Nikkei

  1. God, that looked amazing. Those cocktails…I don’t even have words. Every time I get an email with your blog in it, I know I am about to be super jealous of some amazing meal you had and instantly consider moving to Lima immediately!

    • Uf, oh man, the cocktails were knockout. Thanks for reading! And hey, Lima apparently hosts “gastro-tours”: People come to the country JUST to eat!

      • That tour sounds like it is right up my alley. Based on all the great restaurants you have been reviewing, maybe you should start your own tour and give them a little competition!

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