Japanese food is so much more than just sushi and ramen. Boulder’s got a new Japanese restaurant with a menu that you probably haven’t tried before — unless you’ve spent some time in the city of Osaka. In fact, Osaka’s is the name of the restaurant, and it serves up authentic comfort food from Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region.
The owner is sure it’s going to take off.
Within the first month of opening at 2460 Canyon Blvd. in Boulder, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, says Koji Tamura, the owner, who moved to Boulder from Japan, along with the restaurant’s chefs.
“I now have strong confidence we can introduce this new food not only in Boulder, but throughout the United States,” Tamura says.
The specialty: a unique burger (Okonomiyaki-style). Replace the buns with savory cakes made with either cabbage or kale.
These Okonomiyaki cakes are popular in the area of Osaka and often referred to as “Japanese-style pizza.”
But at Osaka’s, they’re used as buns and then filled with various meats (chicken, beef or pork), veggies, noodles and fish. For example, the Ume Chicken burger is stuffed with shredded chicken, a fried egg and a shiso leaf, and then topped with Japanese plum mayo sauce. Or the Shio Modern burger is filled with sliced pork, noodles and lettuce, seasoned with garlic sauce and topped with mayo.
Osaka’s claims to be the first-ever restaurant to bring this type of burger to the U.S.
While the Okonomiyaki burgers are common in Japan, Tamura says the first time he made them for U.S. friends, “they were so astonished.”
The buns are made fresh every day, unlike frozen or pre-made buns you commonly get with a burger. Obviously, they’re gluten-free and low-carb. They’re an extra, tasty way to pack in more veggies. Depending on how you order your burger, it can be ultra healthy — or a little indulgent.
The healthy, low-carb angle is one reason Charlie Curtis, general manager, says Boulder’s eating the Osaka Burgers right up.
“It’s healthier for you. People are watching their carbs because carbs can turn into sugar,” he says. “We have a much healthier alternative.”
In addition, the flavor is a big selling point, he says.
“When they bite into it, they get a combination of flavors from the protein, the sauces and the cabbage bun. When they all mix together, it’s a really nice taste,” Curtis says.
Curtis was also born in Osaka. His father was a Marine who met his Japanese mother there. Curtis connected with the restaurant while doing genealogy research for his family. The name of the restaurant popped up and the concept intrigued him.
“Koji always says, and so do I, that it was one of those things; it was meant to be,” Curtis says.
So far, he says the customer reviews have been all positive, except one diner who criticized it for not being authentic. Curtis chuckles at this and says maybe someday he will write a response.
“I’ve been eating this for 50 years myself,” he says. “It’s Japanese food made by Japanese people and it’s about as authentic as you can get.”
Osaka’s menu includes other healthy and traditional options, too. Some may look familiar (edamame, various version of teriyaki chicken) but many offer Boulderites new tastes (like Yakimono, or Japanese-style BBQ, from the Teppan grill). If you’d rather eat your Okonomiyaki patty open-faced, order it like a pancake and top it with seafood, pork belly or beef ribeye.
Regardless of what you order, it’s made fresh that day, he says.
“What we make today is what we’re going to sell today, and that kind of approach is refreshing. People appreciate it, and they can taste it when they try our food,” he says.
Osaka’s also offers a full bar, a long sake list, Japanese tea and other specialty drinks.
The atmosphere is simple and clean. There’s no clutter on the table, no table tents pitching dessert.
Osaka aims to have quick service around lunchtime (if you’re in a rush, although staff insists you can stay and dine slowly if you prefer), with plates available as quickly as five to seven minutes. But dinnertime is designed to be more intimate, with Japanese-style hospitality.
“When you have guests, they should never need or want for anything because you are already a step ahead of them,” Curtis says. “You have to be available and you have to be observant. Instead of going and saying, ‘Is everything OK?’ and asking if they need a glass of water, you just slide in like a ninja and you make that happen because you have observed their glass is low and you understand they probably would like some water.”
Available but not intrusive is the goal, he adds.
- The Original Okonomiyaki Osaka Burger, made the way Japanese people have been making it for thousands of years. Pick your favorite filling: teriyaki chicken, fish fillet, Ume chicken, Sukiyaki beef or one of the three pork options: Sauce Modern, Shio Modern, Buttobi Modern.
- Miso soup made the old-fashioned way with white miso paste. Add in tofu, seaweed and scallions.
If you go
Osaka’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for lunch and from 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Happy hour is 5 to 6 p.m.