Halibut Nikkei Tiradito, Aji Amarillo Ceviche, Tuna Nitai Tiradito
I think it’s safe to say that Peruvian cuisine is having a moment in LA. First with Mo-Chica, then Picca & Chimu, and now Hollywood just saw the opening of Peruvian-Japanese fusion spot Osaka. If you are perplexed about the combination of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, you are not alone.
When discussing Osaka, I’ve been on the receiving end of quite a few confused looks. However, there is a rich history of Japanese in Peru. During the Sino-Japanese war in the 1890s, many Japanese farmers moved to Peru for economic opportunity. Skilled Japanese farmers were initially welcomed because of their strong work ethic. Peruvian Japanese started opening successful businesses, although according to some reports, did not make great efforts to assimilate into Peruvian society. In 1936, the Peruvian government made concentrated efforts to restrict immigration from Japan, and in 1940, riots against Japanese businesses and homes occurred in Lima and Callao.
Following the riots, the Peruvian government started revoking the citizenship of native-born Peruvian Japanese. At the start of WWII, the US and Peru coordinated to send Japanese Peruvians to American internment camps. I better wrap up this story because no one wants to get depressed reading a food blog, but I will say that there is an estimated 90,000 people of Japanese descent currently residing in Peru.
Kan Itan, Evil Scallops, Crab Causita, Tori Anticucho
Back to Osaka. Restaurateur Adolfo Suaya’s (BoHo) newest venture is the fourth outpost for Osaka. The other locations are in Lima, Buenos Aires, and Santiago de Chile. The first thing you’ll notice is the beautiful space courtesy of designer Kristopher Keith of Spacecraft. When I arrived for my media dinner and stepped across rocks on a pond to find the hostess stand, I was immediately transported back to a sake bar that I fell in love with this summer in Kyoto.
The tasting menu started with what may have been the best course of the evening: a pair of tiraditos. Tiradito’s are a great introduction to Peruvian-Japanese cuisine. This raw fish dish is similar to sashimi and ceviche, but is cut differently and is dressed, not marinated, with a sauce. I’m going to have to order both the halibut and tuna next time I go.
Up next was a sampling of other Osaka specialties. My favorite of the bunch was the Tori Anticucho, skewered chicken with sweet shogayaki cream cheese. Other anticuchos on the menu include Tako (grilled octopus with Japanese chimichurri) and Korkoro American Kobe heart with anticucho panca sauce). Also on the menu is a selection of causitas, which are a yellow potato terrine with topping such as tuna tartar, or crab in this case.
One of many tasty cocktails I tried
Osaka makes a damn good pisco sour. Next time I see a show at the Pantages, I plan to get to there early so I can walk over and enjoy a pisco sour in the bar area.
Niku Abura Sushi, Carpassion Salmon Sushi, Spicy Crunchy & TNT Rolls
In addition to an open hot kitchen, there is a cold bar in the center of the dining room. You can order your traditional tuna rolls, or try something with a Latin vibe such as a ceviche roll with Quinoa coated shrimp, avocado, thin sliced white fish, ceviche sauce, sweet potato threads.
Pulpo Panka Miso, Shiromi Wrap, Miso Truffle Kobe Skirt Steak
The pre-opening dinner was a quiet, refined meal in an elegant setting that could just have easily been in Beverly Hills. When I stopped by on opening night for more drinks and appetizers, it was quite the scene. Bouncers, men and women who spent a long time choosing their outfits, even wristbands – it was quite the Hollywood scene. I talked to a couple servers and even they weren’t sure which vibe Osaka was going for: fine dining destination or another Hollywood scene.
Banana Spring Rolls
I’m always hesitant to judge a restaurant right when they open, especially when it is an organized media dinner and not just on my own. My first impressions are that it’s a gorgeous space, lots of care was put into the menu, and I see it succeeding no matter what identity it chooses. Several of the dishes were hits, most were respectable, and a couple were misses (a cream cheese sushi roll being the biggest offender). It’s not going to dethrone Picca anytime soon as the Peruvian dining destination, but it’s a step up from most offerings on Hollywood Blvd.
Osaka Interior (photo courtesy of the restaurant)
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Note: Meal was hosted