Muscatine residents with a craving for Japanese food won’t have to fish far for sushi and sashimi any longer. Osaka restaurant opened Thursday at 1903 Park Ave. Judging by the response on its opening day, the new hot spot is gearing up to be a hit.

While other local outlets have offered sushi as part of their broader menus, Osaka is unique in its sole dedication to Japanese cuisine, as well as its environment and presentation.

Walk inside and you’re immersed in an expansive, warm crimson replete with Japanese décor, ebony and gold accents. Everything from hibachi to a vast array of sashimi to more than two dozen sushi rolls is available. There are plentiful vegetarian and vegan options, as well as entrees without fish for the reluctant.

Traditional sushi staples such as California rolls, spicy tuna and eel are on the menu and there are chef creations, such as the Muscatine Roll (with crabmeat, cream cheese, jalapeno and seasoned red tuna and salmon), the Mango Summer Roll (a mango-wrapped dessert roll with shrimp tempura and avocado), and the Pink Lady Roll (a heart-shaped sushi with shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado and crab wrapped in pink soy paper).

“We want to offer many things for people to try and enjoy,” said Faye Yuen, co-owner with her husband, Jerry Lu. 

This is the third Osaka restaurant for Yuen and Lu, following previous Osaka spots in Galesburg and Mattoon, Illinois. Muscatine was a calculated move for the couple. Yuen said they noticed a gap in the market for a restaurant of their type.

“There were no restaurants here with Japanese food like this,” she said. “There were no restaurants that just served sushi and sashimi and hibachi, so we thought it would be good to have one if people wanted it.”

After putting out feelers and gauging the interest in the area, they decided to make the big leap.

“We took about three months to find the right place, then it was another three months of putting it all together,” she said.

After putting in months of work to renovate the space, the duo was up past 3 a.m. the night before the opening to make sure everything was as close to perfection as it could be.

“It was a lot of hard work, but we wanted it to be its best,” she said. “It was worth it.”

As momentum grows, so will the restaurant, Yuen said. They’re already looking to expand and include a live hibachi grill complete with a chef to perform the signature live-in-the-round grilling before patrons.

“We’re looking forward to that, we think people will really like it,” Yuen said.

Yuen and Lu are relishing the afterglow of the opening and looking forward to Osaka's future.

“When I see people coming in and smiling and happy and liking the food, I feel good,” Yuen said. “We’re happy to bring this to Muscatine and we look forward to being here a long time.”

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