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Otaru Excites the Tastebuds

Yellowtail and salmon nigiri - North Hills Monthly Magazine
Yellowtail and salmon nigiri

Otaru recently opened at the beginning of April to much excitement. It had been a while since a new restaurant with a city view had opened on Mount Washington, and this is the first sushi restaurant in the neighborhood.

When you walk into the space, you can tell it’s going to be an elevated sushi experience. The split-level space is bright and open with light wood and glass. Almost every seat in the restaurant has a view of the city, which visitors and locals alike will love. While it’s definitely advisable to make a reservation, you can always snag a seat at their bar.

Nothing is more enjoyable than sipping a cocktail while gazing out at the city. Otaru has a variety of cocktails, some of which are completely unique to the restaurant, such as the Cherry Blossom with rum, peach liqueur, grenadine, and grapefruit juice, and some of which are classic cocktails with a Japanese twist, such as the Yellow Bird Saketini made with sake, limoncello, lemon juice, and simple syrup. They also have a selection of nonalcoholic drinks, beer, sake, and wine. I opted for the orange mojito, which was refreshing and the perfect summer drink.

Tartare layer - Otaru
Tartare layer

The appetizer selection at Otaru is impressive with almost 20 different dishes. They have a variety of both hot and cold options, including takoyaki (fried octopus balls), agedashi tofu (fried tofu), yt kanpachi (a type of fish), and yellowtail jalapeño. Each meal at Otaru starts with a complimentary appetizer, and the night I visited it was edamame sprinkled with togarashi seasoning, which added both tartness and spiciness. My table started with the gyoza. Gyoza are a classic sushi restaurant appetizer and are a must order at Otaru. The presentation is gorgeous, as all of the dumplings are pan fried and then flipped upside down so the lacy, crispy bottom is on top. You crack into the bottom to procure your tender and savory dumpling, and it adds a delightful crunch when you take a bite. The pork bao buns were our next appetizer of choice. The bao buns themselves were fluffy and the perfect vehicle for the pork filling. The pork was salty, but not overly so and had a bit of chew to it. The sweet house sauce and kewpie mayo really brought out the savory flavors in the pork, and the bean sprouts added a fresh, crisp element to the otherwise rich dish. Our final appetizer was the tartare layer, composed of fresh, diced tuna, salmon, and yellowtail with chef’s special sauce and topped with fish roe. The sauce perfectly brought out the freshness and buttery flavors in the fish. This is another can’t miss appetizer.

Gyoza - Otaru - North Hills Monthly Magazine

Otaru differs from other sushi restaurants, as they don’t have any maki or reverse rolls on their menu. Their main sushi offerings include sashimi, nigiri, and hand rolls. There are also various tasting menus, which in addition to sushi, include a selection of appetizers and hot dishes. I opted to order some yellowtail and salmon nigiri, as those are two of my favorite types of fish.The yellowtail was rich and buttery. The salmon blew me away. It was incredibly tender and melted in my mouth. The flavor had subtle, salty ocean notes, but it wasn’t overly fishy. It was so heavenly that I ordered a second round. The salmon nigiri and any dish featuring raw salmon is something you can’t miss at Otaru. I also ordered two different hand rolls, one spicy salmon and one spicy tuna. Both had the perfect level of spice mixed in with the fish. The panko on top offered a crunchy contrast to the fish, and the roe added a juicy burst of ocean flavor. While the rolls were flavorful and I devoured both, I wish I would’ve only ordered one spicy roll and then the scallop or uni hand roll, just to have some contrast in my meal.

Otaru has a delectable selection of hot dishes, but I was so focused on all of the appetizers and fresh sushi that I didn’t have room for any. Next time I visit, I’d love to try the pork katsu sando, the seared scallops, or the uni pasta.

I wasn’t going to order dessert because I was stuffed, but our waitress insisted and brought us a complimentary matcha ice cream. I’m not the biggest matcha fan, but the flavor in the ice cream was subtle. If you’re looking for a dessert that’s not too sweet or filling, then the matcha ice cream is perfect.

Everything at Otaru was exquisite from the view to the quality of the dishes. I’m looking forward to frequenting this spot and trying more of their delicious menu.

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