Sacramento, CA 95834
If you’re tolerant of ticky-tacky tilt up and streets named after astronauts, some pleasurable dining experiences can be found in Natomas, such as Oshima Sushi Sports Bar & Restaurant. That’s how Oshima blipped itself onto the radar screen: “Sushi” and “sports bar” are words that go together about as well as jumbo shrimp, gourmet corn dog and Assembly Democratic leadership.
Tucked into a small strip mall at the corner of Natomas Crossing Drive and Truxel Road, Oshima has loads of space—tall ceilings, lots of glass—and the potential for lots of stuff to happen in it. Live band Friday. Sake tasting on the patio. There’s a dance floor.
Oshima’s Fugu Lounge also sounds intriguing and exotic but, alas, there is no trace of blowfish on the menu, other than as an antecedent to descriptions of froufrou drinks.
The chef, Ernie Rodriguez, is accommodating. To wit: Oshima’s creative poke salad goes where no poke has gone before. The traditional tuna, wakame and cucumber Hawaiian classic is jazzed up with salmon, hamachi and, most impressively, tako. One bite cures the initially off-putting sight of little octopus suckers winking back from the generous and colorful mound of fish chunks. More delight is diced into the dish by Ernie, who happily mixes in a requested serrano whose collective presence raises the temperature moderately but, by individual mouthful, provides pleasant, intermittent pinpricks to the palate. All this for a lousy $12.50.
Fresh from discovering the joys of yakisoba in Tokyo, I’m drawn to Oshima’s $11.50 version with shrimp. Fatal error; this alleged yakisoba not only lacks delicacy, it also tastes like chow mein and is further degraded with mini corncobs, zucchini, broccoli, carrot slabs, fat fingers of celery and water chestnuts. Hustle this back to the test kitchen and start anew. Lesson learned: Stick with the raw fish bits.
To his credit, the sushi maestro doesn’t like smothering rolls in sauces, although Oshima’s sauces come into play often. The F&M, for example, is a $15.95 barricade of soy-wrapped lobster, hamachi and salmon topped with spicy tuna, black tobiko and serrano slices. The roll is fronted on its rectangular plate by a moat of special sauce, spicy mayo and hot sauce, which fuse neatly with the heat of the tuna and peppers.
More to Ernie’s less-sauce-the-better philosophy is the $13.95 Golden Bear—spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, lobster, hamachi, kaiware (daikon sprouts)—encased by yellowish soy wrap. Ernie acknowledges some find the combination dry, so he runs a river of sauces along the roll’s flank in case that assessment is shared. The roll, dominated by the lobster, is pretty darn swell as is. The taste founders in the sauce.
There’s a backroom at Oshima reminiscent of the private room at The Park downtown—except bigger—with 7-foot-tall red-trimmed glass cabinets full of high-end sake, cigars and liquor. Across from the spacious dining room is the aforementioned Fugu with a line of high-backed, cozy-looking booths facing the lengthy, well-provisioned bar.
Despite a reasonably priced $8.95 luncheon special of tilapia in mango sauce, it’s best to stay at the large U-shaped sushi bar—or at least stick to its exhaustive list of offerings. By exhaustive: 60 different rolls not counting the four on the 10-item vegetarian menu. Given Oshima’s location, there are several basketball-inspired rolls led by the regal $13.95 “Kings” with snow crab, shrimp tempura, cucumber and kaiware on the inside and, perched aloft, soft-shell crab, avocado, unagi, green onion and tobiko (teensy fish eggs). Oshima’s thick, sweetish special sauce and spicy mayo accompany.
A diner can reach mandatory PERS retirement age combing Oshima’s multipage menu. And suggesting an injunction on the myriad non-sushi stuff based on one yucky yakisoba is akin to visiting New York and judging it representative of America. However, following a solamente sushi philosophy is, at a minimum, a safe bet and, in reality, wildly sapid.