Otaki Japanese Steakhouse has been serving Jacksonville for quite a while, remarkably sailing under the radar for most of that time. Located off Gate Parkway in the shopping center with The Melting Pot, it is heavily frequented by locals. The restaurant is owned by the family of the owner of Blazin Azn food truck. After falling more and more in love with Blazin Azn over their months of being on the road, I was invited out to try Otaki as well since I hadn’t been in close to 7 years. Otaki is set up with half the restaurant being lively hibachi tables, and the rest set up as traditional dining. Most of the tables overlook the open kitchen in the center where the sushi is prepared. Everything about the food preparation in this restaurant is transparent – it’s fascinating to watch everything you’re eating be meticulously prepared in the seconds before delivery to your table.
We began our meal with the Tuna Tetaki ($9.25), which was beautifully served in a carved half mango placed in a martini glass. Plating is such a remarkably important part of the difference between good sushi/sashimi and great sushi/sashimi. This is phenomenal. The half mango was filled with lightly seared and heavily peppered tuna and sweet mango. The pepper added heat to the creamy tuna which, while it sounds cliche, truly melted in our mouths. I haven’t paired tuna with mango before, but I can tell you I will most definitely do it again. We followed this appetizer with bowls of traditional clear soup which was as comforting as expected and primed us for the feast that arrived shortly after.
A massive platter arrived on our table filled with nearly all the appetizer options that Otaki offers. Accepting their challenge, we dug in. First up were their signature Kamikazi wings ($5.95) which are HOT. I mean, I’m from Louisiana and drink straight hot sauce, HOT. It’s a creep-up-on-you kind of hot though so take it slow, the sweet sauce has fireballs behind it and it will get you. I absolutely loved these. As a signature appetizer, the flavor is very unique and stands up against any other wings in town. The Florida Spring Rolls ($4.95) included ginger shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce and cucumber wrapped in rice paper. Spring Rolls normally aren’t that engaging, but in these you can taste immediately the freshness of the shrimp. There’s a reason Florida is in the name of these. They are a beautiful representation of Florida seafood. Another highlight of the appetizer tray were the spicy edamame ($3.95). I love edamame and order it often, but normally they’re run of the mill steamed pods with sea salt. These had a wonderfully spicy dry rub on the outside that added a kick to the usually mild appetizer. We were also treated to tender steamed dumplings filled with pork ($4.95), crab rangoons (amazing), and bang bang shrimp with a creamy shrimp sauce. All were equally as delicious as the next. I advise not choosing only one appetizer at Otaki.
Our next arrival was the shining star of the dinner. Paper thin tuna was wrapped around a ball of crab salad, lightly garnished with fish egg, and on top of a small seaweed salad. This is life changing. Firstly, the execution to so carefully wrap the tuna around the crab salad is incredible. Secondly, the flavors are so vivid and unique. The tuna was equally as creamy as the tetaki, but in a totally different way because of the thin cut of the tuna. This takes a practiced hand and some serious talent. It’s by far the most unique appetizer on any Japanese menu in Jacksonville that I’ve had, and it elicited a lot of “wow” reactions from our table. I’d eat this truly every single day. It’s also a dish that showcases the abilities of the chef , which I appreciate most. Sushi is art. It’s a vision that is created inside the mind of a chef and transformed into delicate construction and flavors.
As if we hadn’t indulged enough, our next course was a shrimp, chicken, broccoli, zucchini, and onion stir fry ($18.95) with the most tender noodles possible. Every ingredient was perfectly cooked to create a combination of juicy chicken, succulent shrimp and lightly crisp veggies. For anyone looking for traditional hibachi style noodles, Otaki has it down to an art form!
Without a doubt, the most beautiful sashimi platter I have ever laid eyes on was delivered to the table. The sashimi was woven and placed into flowers that looked like delicate petals. They were wrapped around crispy fish skin and fruit to create the illusion of them being in bloom. It was stunning. It tasted even better. The fish was cut perfectly with no graininess whatsoever. There were accents of strawberry, lemon, and avocado to use as palette cleansers in between the slices of fish. It was truly amazing. As for sushi, we tried the Deutsche Bank Roll ($8) , which was rolled with tiny slices of lemon, fried shrimp, smoked salmon, flying fish egg, and topped with shrimp and eel sauce. It was so clean and refreshing with the slices of lemon, it tasted like summertime. There are several other Jacksonville themed sushi rolls, including the Florida Capital Bank Roll, the PGA Roll, the Jax Roll, and the Jaguar Roll amongst others. Each includes only the highest quality cuts of fish and ingredients. Everything is made fresh in the restaurant daily by highly trained sushi chefs that are artists in their own right.
Otaki has everything you could ever need from a Japanese restaurant. It is authentic, bursting with creativity, and unique in every manner. The food is simply mind blowing. You’ll leave planning your next visit for the sake of being able to try more things off their diverse menu. Another perk is the full bar with creative drinks crafted by the owner of Blazin Azn. He has extensive experience in bar management and has created some incredible cocktails like the Grape Crush with Three Olives grape vodka, chambord raspberry liquer, and sweet and sour and Sprite. Or, if you’re feeling traditional, try the Ultimate Cosmo with Grey Goose, l’orange vodka, Grand Marnier, and cranberry juice. All these cocktails are perfectly crafted to complement the variety of options on Otaki’s menu, and the staff is well trained to recommend these as needed. This should be your Japanese steakhouse. One trip will have you become a loyal fan for life.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.