Choices, choices. Never are they more difficult than at Ó-sabi Japanese restaurant in Ventura. Teppanyaki grill or sushi? Inside or outside? Bar or table?
Fortunately, owner Tomiichi Maruyama, who prefers to go by the name “Maru,” pushed his 30 years of experience as a sushi chef and restaurant manager to the limit when he opened the restaurant a year ago as Koi Sushi, so none of the choices are likely to disappoint.>
Although Maru changed the name to avoid trademark problems, its new name, which he said means elegance and simplicity, is an apt description of both the restaurant’s décor and its food.
Sleek and stylish
“It’s like Zen philosophy,” Maru said.
Indeed, every element of Ó-sabi carries a sense of sleek serenity, including the stylish and colorful hanging lamps in the sushi bar, the low-slung teppan grills at which chefs entertain customers while preparing their meals, and accents such as bamboo foliage and Buddha statues.
In fact, Maru and his team designed every element of the restaurant to reflect a sense of zen in its atmosphere. Before the restaurant opened in 2006, a considerable investment was made to completely redevelop the site in East Ventura where an Elephant Bar restaurant once stood.
“We changed everything,” Maru said.
A blend of old and new
In some ways, Ó-sabi is a departure from other Japanese restaurants in Ventura County. Maru’s personal favorites, including the restaurant’s vegetable and tofu dishes, have a fusion spin, but traditional favorites like sushi, tempura and mochi ice cream are also hard to resist at the restaurant.
But diners will miss out if they don’t make at least one trip to Ó-sabi to enjoy the spectacle of the teppan grill and its mainstay: lobster and filet mignon dishes. Teppan makes a great choice for large parties or smaller groups willing to sit with strangers (or make new friends).
Of course, diners might find other surprises at Ó-sabi as well. Its full bar features Eastern twists on familiar drinks, such as the Japanese Sunrise and Ó-sabi ‘s Golden Margarita. Revelers can even take home free mugs when they order the Panda, Banzi, or Geisha. The cocktail menu also features a selection of 12 sakes, two plum wines, imported beer and a wine menu that includes a section for “interesting whites.”
A personal touch
As spring warms into summer, Maru said the restaurant will begin to feature live music performances on its outdoor patio. Once the music gets going, diners should not be surprised to see Maru enjoying it with his customers. According to Kim Blossomgame, one of Ó-sabi’s waitresses, customers love that Maru makes a point of saying hello to customers.
“A lot of people love that,” Blossomgame said. “If he’s not here, they’re always asking where he is. It’s more of a family thing, and it brings more repeat customers. Once they hear about us they tend to come back.”
Maru, who spent 13 years in Oxnard at a similar restaurant, is happy to see some of his customers return. Dinner already draws customers from as far away as Santa Barbara and Camarillo, as well as all over Ventura County. Now Ó-sabi is trying to draw the lunch crowd as well.
Great, another tough choice.