When you enter Osaka, the first thing you might notice is the sea of white spherical lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The crisp white of the lanterns contrasts with the dark wood of the tables and chairs, making for a warm but sophisticated feel.
On the far end of the restaurant, a dark-wood platform lines the wall and supports several tatami tables, where you can sit on the floor while your legs fit into an area under the table that is cut out of the platform. Everyone eating at the tatami tables removes their shoes for an authentic Japanese dining experience.
There is also a bar where you can watch sushi chefs deftly wield their knives as they prepare your meal.
In addition to an inviting atmosphere, Osaka offers a broader variety of options than I've ever encountered at a sushi restaurant. The menu features more than 50 different sushi rolls, as well as ramen, bento boxes, a teriyaki plate, poke bowls (Hawaiian salads with marinated sashimi — thinly sliced raw fish — tossed and served over white rice) and yakitori, which can be best described as Japanese shish kabobs, usually made of chicken. Yakitori is a good cooked option for those averse to raw fish.
For those new to sushi and Japanese food, the owner of the restaurant, Yong Suk Cho, recommended starting with a bento box, which offers a sampler of different things to try. The teriyaki plate is also a safe bet for newcomers.
Some of Osaka's most popular sushi rolls are the Golden Treasure, Mexican Crunch, Sunset Boulevard, Vegas and Hot Summer. On an average weekday, the restaurant sells 350 rolls. On weekend days, they sell about 500. On Tuesdays, when many rolls are half price all day, they sell 1,000.
While I generally like raw fish in sushi rolls where it's combined with many other flavors, I haven't liked raw fish on its own (called sashimi and nigiri) at other sushi restaurants I've visited. This time I decided to give it another go, and tested a piece of salmon nigiri, which was a slice of salmon over a ball of white rice. To my surprise, the fish did not taste "fishy," and I enjoyed the creamy texture laced with lemon.
The thoughtful aesthetic of the restaurant is also reflected in the food's presentation. The sushi was especially colorful, and the avocado bomb, one of the restaurant's tapas options, was covered in a pattern of thinly sliced avocados that looked like a woven basket.
The diners in the restaurant also appeared to be regulars. Several members of a group who looked like they were from Hill Air Force base called out "Ooooh" when a member of their party deviated from his regular order. He told the waiter he was just keeping her on her toes. A toddler across the room devoured his food while exclaiming "Sushay! Sushay!"
Cho, the restaurant's owner, has lived in Utah for 15 years and owned Osaka for 14 years. He moved to Utah from California and is originally from South Korea. He's also dedicated to his craft. Before reliable fish delivery was available in Utah, for 10 years Cho drove to the airport to pick it up. Now Osaka receives two deliveries a week.
The quality of the fish is the main selling point of the restaurant, from Cho's perspective.
"Although it's been 15 years with Osaka Sushi being here, there are still a lot of people who don't know about us," Cho said, through interpretation by the restaurant's manager, Jasmine Ray. "For those sushi lovers, they know that one of the most important parts of sushi is the fish, and the fish needs to be fresh for it to be tasty. We get two shipments in a week, so our fish is one of the freshest around here."
Cho also values his staff, according to Elizabeth Anderton, a server at the restaurant. The waiters pool their tips, and the restaurant serves a "family dinner" each day at the end of the shift.
"It's nice working in a place where you genuinely think the food is delicious," Anderton said. "They should be recognized not only for their food but for the family atmosphere they give their servers."