Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Otani Japanese Steak & Seafood

Sweet, tangy, delicious and inexpensive are four adjectives that come to mind when I think of the Japanese steak house Otani.828restaurantspotlight.jpg

Located in Fairfax, just off of Braddock and Ox Roads in the University Mall shopping center, this pleasant and peaceful enclave is relatively well priced and has sumptuous food ranging from calamari to chocolate chip cookie ice cream.

The interior of Otani is spacious and decorated with an understated Asian theme: large, demure paintings of landscapes hang on the walls, and even though each of the tables seats about ten, they all have enough room between them to feel open and relaxed.

Asian-inspired floral arrangements and a combination of red, gray and black walls and carpet, along with muted yellow lighting and modern light fixtures, give the restaurant an ambiance of edgy flair and refinement. The restaurant is less busy during the day, but arriving at 4 p.m. through till six, my party and I noticed that the tables filled up rapidly in the evening.

The service from a team of wait staff is amazing, and a drink never goes unfilled or a request forgotten. All of the servers are polite and attentive, and the chefs that cook for each party are fun, engaging the audience with their cooking tricks and style. They prepare the main courses on the huge flattop stoves that span each tabletop.

We first ordered drinks, and a sushi appetizer – I ordered the California roll, which was extremely tasty, made with crab and avocado, and a friend of mine ordered sea urchin. We then proceeded to pick from calamari, chicken, shrimp, steak, scallops, salmon, filet mignon or vegetables for the dinner course.

The meal began with light chicken noodle soup that was followed by a small salad of greens with ginger dressing. The chef flipped cooking hardware, eggs and shrimp into the air for guests’ entertainment as the main courses were prepared. Fire from the cooking food simmers above guests’ heads as the chef cooked meat and vegetables on the stove. The dinner courses come with carrots, mushrooms, onions and zucchini, with a choice of steamed or fried rice. The fried rice is superb, and the vegetables are cooked well and lightly sweetened. Guests are also given thick and red “special sauce” to dress their meat or vegetables; it’s slightly fruity in taste with the consistency of applesauce.

I chose the calamari for my dinner course, and my friends chose the vegetables, chicken and shrimp. The calamari was bland but cooked to just the right firmness and paired excellently with the vegetables. The chicken dish was by far the best out of the dinner courses, and along with the shrimp, it had more kick and spice than the calamari.

At just over $15 for a full meal, including soup, salad, main course and dessert, and about $7 for sushi (prices range from about $6 – $15 per roll), the large portions and expertly cooked cuisine were worth the price.

The surprise at the end came in the chocolate chip ice cream. Served after all of the plates were carried away, this small portion of dessert was a fitting end to a flavorful, enjoyable meal. Two thumbs up for Otani for outstanding service, entertaining cooking, subtly elegant d├ęcor and great food at a great price.