Restaurant review: Uzen Japanese Cuisine

Uzen Japanese Cuisine
5415 College Ave
(between Hudson St & Kales Ave)
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 654-7753
Open Weekdays for Lunch and Dinner
Open Saturdays for Dinner
Closed Sundays

Sparrow and I went to sushi after yoga. It was her idea. She asked

Plate of sushi

Uzen's sushi dinner

me if I wanted to go before class, and I kept going back to it in my mind during practice. Practice itself was a little frustrating. This teacher, whom I like very much, has recently been introducing poses that I can’t begin to get into in her classes. I can’t get my leg onto my shoulder, for example, and then raise myself up onto my hands, while doing the splits (in her tradition, they call this position scissors). So it’s frustrating to try, and to be so far out of the pose as to not even feel a challenging stretch. I feel like I’m just on the sidelines, watching. That’s not fun for me. I want to at least have something to try.

There was also a girl wearing the most “look at me” outfit I’d seen in a long time in the class. She wore it in off the street: bright blue coochie-cutter shorts, with these ties on the side to make them even shorter than they were, and a really heavy-duty sports bra, like for beach volleyball, though she couldn’t have been over an A cup. Look, are you here to work out? There really aren’t any boys here. There was one, but he seems to be more interested in competing with everyone else for form and doing upward dog all the way till the end than he does at looking at anyone’s butt. I don’t know his name, but he ain’t friendly. No Smiles McChuckers, he.

So we went across the street from the studio to Uzen. We’d tried to go before, but they’re not open for lunch on Saturdays. Foiled. First strike against Uzen. I know y’all need your weekends and pedicures and football, too, but I need to get my grub on when I want, how I want, why I want, for I want, in God I want.

Two orders of nigiri

Unagi and fresh sake--fie fie delish

So we tried again. There was a table that had just opened up and needed to be cleaned. They seemed weird about it. Oh, because it was a table for four, and we were a party of two. Not cool, Uzen. Luckily for us, another table, for two, opened up immediately, so they cleaned that and seated us. I saw online in other reviews more people have had similar problems, where they have been moved and such to smaller tables. Let it be said: Uzen is a small restaurant. I can understand them wanting to maximize their seating. But from the service we got (not a lot of refills on the water, waiting to get the check, the time it took for my entrée to come–and from watching the table next to us, it seemed we were not alone. I heard the guy say, “I should ask the waitress for that table’s leftovers. I’m starved!”), they should be glad we were only a party of two. The two waitresses were overwhelmed with the small bevy of tables, and they weren’t handling the sushi bar.

Sparrow had the sushi dinner, pictured first. It came at the same time as my two orders of nigiri. (Did you know in NYC when you order nigiri you only get one piece? Neither did I–until I lived there. Total rip off.) She enjoyed her fish immensely. Oh, and if anyone can confirm: is that albacore or yellow tail between the tuna and the salmon on her plate? Because that’s her favorite, and she’s not sure which it is. The piece of fish at about seven o’clock on the plate, I mean. Maybe it’s halibut, or something else.

My order of unagi was excellent. Flaky but firm, not gelatinous, like it can be, not over sauced to cover up a cheap eel. Nice. But the salmon was even better: buttery, sweet, firm, velvety. I could have eaten a whole plate of it. I know someone who won’t eat “bait,” but I love fresh salmon. So good.

I know it’s not cool and sustainable, but I love it: I got the Chilean

Sea bass

Sea bass smothered in mushrooms

Sea Bass. It came covered in sauce and mushrooms, with rice and veggies on the side. The veggies were carrots, zucchini, cabbage and onions, lightly sautéed, and were excellent. The fish was softly done, not too hard, and tasted clean. The sauce was smooth, a little eggy, maybe. I couldn’t tell if there were eggs in it or not. It felt like it might have just been cornstarch, might not have been. The mushrooms were a magnificent touch. There were so many! So often, they skimp on the mushrooms. As you can see, they didn’t here. There was still enough fish underneath it, though.

Sparrow had to wait about ten minutes with no eating for my entrée to come, though. It took that long after I was done with my nigiri for my entrée to come.

Oh! The miso was good. The salad dressing was very good. It had horseradish in it, and the greens were fresh and interesting. I forgot to take pictures of those. I only remembered I should blog the damn thing halfway through my salad.

All in all, it was decent. The service was subpar, but not rude or anything, just overworked. The bill was what was to be expected at a Japanese restaurant. Don’t go if you’re broke.

I’m going to start starring them–the restaurants, I mean, because I love stars. Out of five! Everything out of five!

Uzen gets three and a half stars and two dollars and a cent.

★★★☆

$$¢

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