Treat Yo Self to Nikkei at Osaka
For the love of baby Jesus and all that is holy, please don’t be wearing sweat pants, I frantically whatsapped my lunch buddy Freddie. To be fair, he looks fly in his workout gear but as I stood outside our chosen lunch destination, drooling over the menu and spying in on the kind of meticulously decorated interior space that only exists between Av. Santa Fe and Cordoba, I was worried my (new)(ok, thrift store finds but new to me) tennis shoes and his workout outfit were going to elicit some stares. Bad news, he was wearing sweat pants. Good news, he brought a change of clothes.
If we had been going to something a little more normal for us – i.e. burgers and smoothies – I wouldn’t have cared what we were wearing. But this wasn’t any normal gathering, this was a despedida for the ages. I love the despedida concept. Leaving for a quick vacation for a few weeks? Let’s get together and pig out on delicious food to say your temporary goodbyes. This particular despedida was of the treat yo self variety, and Osaka was the chosen space to eat all the ceviche.
If you’ve looked for good nikkei in Buenos Aires (and you should), you’ve probably heard three places mentioned over and over again: Olaya, Sipan and Osaka. What do they all have in common besides whipping up ace Peruvian Japanese fusion? They were all founded by the same guy, Peruvian chef José Castro Mendívil, whose ability to fuse Japanese and Peruvian cuisine with cooking techniques from around the world have created scrumptious flavor combos that go beyond a little bit of maracuya and palta in your sushi roll.
You know you’re in a nice place when they bring you warm moist towels to wash your hands. And if you so choose to powder your face with said towel, do so with zero shame.
You should also meander over to the open sushi bar and ask [bother] the cooks with every single one of your questions. Again, no shame.
To start we both ordered passion fruit licuados, and rice paper balls filled with avocado, salmon and philadelphia cheese and topped with maracuya salsa. This went against my cardinal no philly and fish rule, but I was pleasantly surprised by the slight sourness it gave to the other ingredients and the way the crunchy rice paper mixed with the soft fillings.
Salmon nigiri and crispy rice cakes quickly followed. The two foods made a wonderful pairing. The salmon nigiri had a wonderful soft texture and a pinch of salt and lemon zest gave the salmon extra depth of flavor. The fried rice cakes were topped with more salmon and just the right hints of spicy garlic and orange sauce.
I asked the sushi chef to choose a non-traditional sushi roll. He brought us out a fried shrimp and green onion roll that was topped with katsu, truffle oil and a spritz of something citrus-y.
Because days are infinitely better when ceviche is involved, we split the ceviche sampler. Three different ceviches (which we were instructed to eat from left to right) was hands down our favorite dish of the afternoon. We started with the ceviche clásico, a traditional slightly tangy ceviche that had crunchy hominy corn to add texture. We followed up with the ceviche de wasabi, which was similar to the clásico but with spicy notes that hit the back of the palate. Our favorite was the salmon rosado, the dessert ceviche, which was prepared with passion fruit. The salmon was super tender and broke apart on my tongue.
And of course, dessert. The waiter recommended that we try the suspiro de limeña, a creamy dessert with a Peruvian dulce de leche and merengue topping. Delicious? Duh, it’s cream and dulce de leche. But we couldn’t pass up a chocolate volcano with fresh berries. Just look at the way that chocolate oozes out. And that ice cream in the back, it had carrot, curry and hazelnut. I’ll let you marinate on that.
So if you’re looking for an excuse for something fancy, stop by Osaka and eat all the ceviche.
Osaka has two locations in Buenos Aires. Soler 5608 in Palermo Hollywood, and Juana Manso 1164 in Puerto Madero. They are both open for lunch service everyday from 12:30 to 4pm, and dinner service from 8-midnight.