Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Otaki: Where People Make the Place; Food Is OK, but Staff Is 'Refreshing Change of Pace'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Otaki: Where People Make the Place; Food Is OK, but Staff Is 'Refreshing Change of Pace'

Article excerpt

Byline: ERICA BURKS

A few weeks ago in this space I noted the boom in very good local neighborhood restaurants that specialize in upscale Asian food. Unfortunately, there has also been a boom in very mediocre Japanese steakhouse places.

Otaki is the latest addition to this genre, and while it is perfectly fine, it doesn't do much to advance the hibachi/sushi/flying shrimp-into-the-hat establishment.

It is on Gate Parkway, just off 9A in a new strip mall with several other food offerings. I found the interior and exterior both lacking, with the outside especially garish. The one no-no about strip mall restaurants should be the fluorescent paint all over the windows advertising happy hour or good pricing.

Inside is a bit better, with the sushi area and bar separated from the hot tables. The walls are a deep salmon color, and there is a small water feature up front. Overall, the furnishings are a bit on the cheap side. I would swear that the walls have inexpensive stained plywood nailed up on the bottom half.

Service, however, was very good. Both the young lady at the bar and our server were on time, friendly and helpful all night. The kitchen lagged, but the waiters never did.

We started with the usual clear soup and salad with ginger dressing. The soup was overly salty, but the salad was a lovely treat.

Our appetizers arrived at our table in stages, each one five minutes after the first. My son loved his Gyoza ($5). The little dumplings were fragrant and tender, with a nice ginger kick.

After many years of a sushi sabbatical, I've decided to slowly wade back in. The server recommended the Dynamite Roll ($7), which he said was very popular.

It is fried, so it hardly qualifies as sushi, but I can see why people love it. It was enormous, with fresh salmon, flying fish eggs and a mild shrimp sauce.

We were finished with our appetizers when the chef arrived to do the honors at the hibachi table. Since our son is well past the "smoking volcano" stage, the chef thankfully dropped the theatrics.

The New York Strip Steak ($18.95) was served as ordered, medium rare, and was the full 8 ounces advertised. …

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