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Jonathan Gold Raves About Osawa, the Newly Improved Japanese Spot in Pasadena

He describes the enormous menu as an “izakaya plus”


This week, Jonathan Gold reviews Osawa, the four-year-old Pasadena restaurant from Sayuri Tachibe and husband Shigefumi Tachibe, who served as the corporate chef for the U.S. Chaya restaurants for 31 years. While Japanese restaurants often specialize in one specific dish, the Goldster describes Osawa as “close to a one-stop shop as I’ve ever seen.” That’s because the “izakaya-plus” offers everything from udon to sukiyaki to sushi rolls to pork chop rice.

While the Times critic admits he was “reluctant to write about Osawa as almost any restaurant I’ve ever visited,” Tachibe’s new full-time attention to the restaurant after leaving Chaya group brought drastic improvements to the fare, with J. Gold going so far as to exclaim that “the chilled monkfish liver, the toasted salmon-skin hand roll and the phallic, brittle-skinned chicken meatballs called tsukune were among the best I’d ever had.”

The star of the show, however, seems to be the battera sushi, “vinegared sushi rice pressed into a mold over lightly pickled mackerel and a transparent slip of seaweed.” Although the “ train-station sushi” is more of a working-class dish that “won’t show up in your next $300 omakase meal,” the critic thinks the dish makes a statement about Osawa:

Battera sushi is not quite the specialty of Osawa [...]. It’s not even on the menu anymore, although you can always get it if you ask. But I think it says something about the restaurant, which is probably best known for shabu shabu and elaborate bento boxes, that its version is so consistently first-rate, firm yet melting, singing with complex aroma, and formed with a fragrant shiso leaf or two at its core. [LAT]

Overall, it’s a rather effusive review of the improved restaurant, with Gold concluding “Osawa is an easy place to be a secret connoisseur.”