Ever been to a restaurant who's character is vastly divergent from day (lunch) to night (dinner?). Osaka Kitchen is one of those restaurants. Located in a very nondescript strip mall next to a Mexican Restaurant and around the corner from Denny's on Kearney Villa Rd, all you is the sign JAPANESE FOOD, with the little yellow sign Osaka Kitchen next to it. Blink and you've driven right past it.
Having heard some nice remarks about the City-Style Japanese Food and Izakaya Type dishes at Osaka Kitchen we decided to give it a try. The first thing you notice about the restaurant is how small the dining area really is. 6 plain tables lined up along the window area and a small eating bar area with 6-7 chairs is all it is; the place looks alot larger from the outside. We arrived at 530pm on the dot and were seated and handed an 8 page menu - one side in Japanese, the other in English. The first two pages listed 51 items from Uni-Pasta(???) to Noodle Soups to Combination Plates ranging from $6.50 - $19.00. On another page is the drink menu with a decent selection of sakes such a Otokoyama and Kikusui, Shochu, Beer, Wine, and soft drinks.The last page was the most interesting as it listed the Izakaya type items.
We ordered the Japanese Meatloaf with Demiglace ($9.00) and Ten Don ($7.50), both meals came with a salad and miso soup. The salad was just iceberg lettuce with some shredded carrots and cabbage, and worst of all, lying on top of the salad was a dressing that had the distinct taste of the "Miracle Whip" of Japanese food, Kewpie Mayo, not among my favorite things. The miso soup on the other hand was superb and probably among the best I've had served as a "side" with this type of meal. I usually will not consume the miso soup that's served as part of a lunch or dinner, it's usually watered down, or even worse that instant stuff - yuck! In many instances the miso soup will have "stuff" added, most of it to hide the terrible quality. But this miso soup was great, not too thick (believe it or not I once had miso soup so thick it was like a bisque), not watered down, with nice oceany overtones. Very simply served with a few tiny pieces of tofu and kelp, delici-yoso! The Ten-Don arrived first, again, very plain, no garnishes, just 3 pieces of shrimp over rice covered with tempura sauce. The shrimp was totally saturated, but that's the way the Missus likes it! (She even requested extra sauce). Though the batter basically fell of the shrimp, it was perfectly cooked! Soft and tender, not rubbery and overcooked as is often the case. The tempura sauce was too mild and not sweet enough for our tastes.
The "Meatloaf" arrived on a plate along with a bowl of rice, smashed potato salad.The salad was flat, lacking any real flavor. The Meatloaf was actually more of a hamburger steak lying in demiglace. The Meatloaf was cooked perfectly and had a nice taste along when mixed with the demi. This was nice and tasty, but not worth $9.00 in my mind. Still, this was interesting and worth another try. The clientele were mostly Japanese speaking and the restaurant was starting to fill up as we left.
Today I went for lunch, and thought I'd entered a different restaurant! First of all the menu was about 1 sheet of paper with 30 or so items, most of them teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, and "bowls". The clientele was totally different, most of the customers looked like they worked nearby! Looks like this little restaurant has found it's niche for lunch as well as dinner with quick bowls and teriyaki combination plates for lunch. I ordered the Chicken Katsu Curry ($6.25) and a side order of the miso soup ($.85). The Curry came with the green salad (mayo-time!) which I didn't really touch and a drink, and I chose the really good tea that they make here! The curry was simply (get the common thread) served over Chicken Katsu, with a good amount of rice! At least twice the amount of rice I had with the Meatloaf for dinner, enough to make an Ex-Pat Kama'aina happy! The Katsu was cooked and seasoned perfectly, with a nice texture, the curry was alot darker than I'm used to, even for Japanese Curry, and a little to sweet for my tastes, though I liked the "heat", there were only a few pieces of meat in the curry and nothing else - again simplicity! Happily the miso soup was every bit as good as the one I had for dinner!
I'll probably be back again, especially if I find someone brave enough to try Miso Tongue with me! Osaka Kitchen serves well prepared and cooked food, served without embellishment. Though the portions (for dinner at least) are rather small for the prices charged, and some of the flavors were not to my taste, I think this place is worth a try.
5447 Kearny Villa Rd
San Diego, CA 92123