Osawa in Pasadena offers delicious sushi and shabu shabu options during lunch and dinner services. If you don’t fancy either, you can always order from their hot items menu, which also comes with daily and seasonal dishes. There’s a meal for everyone.
PS. Do not mistake this restaurant for Sawa in Los Angeles. Both serve delicious sushi, but are in totally different price tiers. Sawa/Osawa are Japanese terminologies for swamp.
The Osawa Experience
Osawa is a very popping restaurant. Whether you’re there for lunch or dinner, there is always a crowd. It’s recommended that you make a reservation ahead of time, or you can risk waiting an hour during peak dinner hours. If you can’t get a reservation, you can always walk in when it opens for lunch or dinner service and get seated almost immediately. Reservations can only be made via phone during working hours.
Upon entering, you have the option to choose between the shabu (bar) or tables. The restaurant is a bit small, so expect to be sitting close to the next party.
The menu has a fair selection, including appetizers, sushi/sashimi sets, bento boxes, rice bowls, udon, shabu, and hot items. Some of their fun daily specials include uni pasta, tartare, carpaccio, ribeye (or steak), and random fish flown from Japan.
The shabu experience is comprehensive with your selected meat, broth of choice (kelp, chicken, or pork), vegetables, sauces, rice, and udon. This is more than enough for one person. The meat is freshly sliced.
The biggest difference between shabu broth and hot pot broth is that shabu is simple. You can make it with a simple boxed broth or an anchovy kelp stock. If you go with the popular hot pot starter kits, it’s filled with different spices, and heavy on the flavor (even if it is just mushrooms or tomato).
Mario and I ordered the grilled seabass. I learned how to debone a cooked fish, thanks to Italy, and I was definitely a wifey material by doing that. The seabass tasted amazing. The sauce helped keep the flavor together, and the fish itself was not dry. This is a great option if you’re not feeling a sushi experience.
We paired this with the tuna tartare and it was the perfect combination, from raw to cooked.
The nigiri selection features typical cuts of fish, including salmon, tuna, shrimp, yellowtail, mackerel, and so on. I’m a bit shocked at how popular mackerel is across sushi restaurants. It’s not my favorite fish at all. I would judge a restaurant on how they prepared their mackerel.
You can also judge the quality of the restaurant through the wasabi they use. Real wasabi is delicate to handle, and it’s easier to use the paste most of the time, especially if it’s not a fancy restaurant and there is high waste.
You can also order nigiri, rolls, and handrolls a la carte. I can never say no to uni, amaebi, and yellowtail. Yellowtail became my favorite fish as it’s fattier than salmon.
Overall, highly recommend checking out Osawa! I enjoyed my experiences here. If you’re looking for nearby parking, you might have to settle for street parking, park parking, train station parking, or the nearby structure on Union (One Colorado – a bit pricey).
77 N Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101