Restaurant Review: O-Ku in Downtown Charleston

It’s been a while since I tried out O-Ku, so a friend and I decided to go back and check out their dinner menu for the purposes of a review (my previous review only covered their lunch selections). We had a veritable sushi feast, which I would happily repeat anytime, if anyone would like to go with me (and pay, of course).

The first thing they brought out was the Poké (diced salmon, tuna, Hamachi, Asian pear, mango, seaweed salad, dandash, $14). It was really refreshing and the kind of thing that is perfect for snacking on in the summer.

Next up, we tried the King Salmon Usuzukuri (wasabi relish, black salt, chives, ponzu, $16), which was absolutely fantastic. I am sometimes hesitant to eat salmon because it can have such a strong flavor, but this was fantastic!

We also tried the Wagyu Tartare (wagyu, shallots, chives, sesame soy aioli, lotus chips, $16), which was fantastic. If you like beef tartare in general, you’re definitely going to like this, and if you are not usually a fan, this might just change your mind. Pro tip: ask for more lotus chips, because they definitely don’t give you enough.

Since I’m always down to be a little adventurous, we also decided to try the Otoro Spoons (uni, caviar, wasabi stem, garlic ponzu, $25). Uni, the Japanese word for sea urchin, is definitely a delicacy and an acquired taste. It tastes like the ocean, in that it’s very briny, and has the same texture as tongue (another delicacy), in that it’s very creamy, but somehow also a little spongy. I might be ruining my reputation as a foodie to admit this, but these were not my favorite. They’re plated gorgeously and I really wanted to like it, but sadly, uni is still not something I enjoy eating.

The Lobster Temaki (butter-poached lobster hand rolls with asparagus, chives, cilantro aioli, black volcanic salt, $18) sounded so good we couldn’t resist, and they definitely exceeded our expectations. The lobster was perfectly cooked and pairs perfectly with the aioli, while the fresh veggies give a nice crunch and differentiation in the texture.

I have recently come to be obsessed with nigiri, so we basically did a nigiri flight of all 8 on the O-Ku nigiri menu. From left to right, we have the Lobster (poached lobster, truffled ginger butter, caviar, chives, red salt, $11), Otoro (fatty blue fin tuna, chives, black salt and pickled wasabi stem, $11), Tuna (miso mustard, chives, togarashi, $9), Snapper (shisho, pink Himalayan salt, lemon juice, $11), Salmon (togarashi aiolo, lemon zest, ikura, $9), Hamachi (Japanese Yellowtail, serrano, cilantro dust, truffle ponzu glaze, $9), Snow Crab (lightly torched with truffle wasabi ponzu, $9), Wagyu (white truffle and caviar, $11). My favorites were the Otoro, Salmon, Hamachi, and Lobster, but they were all delicious.

O-Ku also does this really cool style of sushi rolls called “hakozushi,” which is “box-style sushi.” Basically, they shape sushi rice into like a little boat and then fill it with what normally goes inside of a sushi roll and then serve it to you, sans seaweed. For those who don’t love seaweed, or just want to try something different, I highly recommend the hakozushi. They have 2 options, the first is the Green Eggs & Hamachi Hako (spicy tuna, asparagus, wasabi tobiko, $16), which is light and bright and perfect if you like really fatty tuna.

The second, which is my favorite, is the Black Magic (lobster, squid ink rice, masago aioli, scallion, $21). The roll is super rich, but the squid ink rice is served just a little bit warm, and the entire thing feels very comforting and hearty. Some people are scared of squid ink rice because it’s black, but it really doesn’t do anything to the flavor except make it slightly saltier than normal. If you’re in doubt, definitely try this roll. I took one bite and my eyes closed and all I could say was “dude.” I was in heaven.

If you haven’t been by O-Ku in a while, or are just trying to get into sushi, I highly recommend you stop into O-Ku. They have complimentary valet parking, they source many of their ingredients from local places (like GrowFood Carolina and Crosby’s Seafood), and their happy hour is pretty fantastic ($3 off signature cocktails, ½ off select bottles of sake, and ½ off makimono rolls every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5 – 7 p.m.)



Article by Sydney Gallimore on behalf of ABC News 4
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Photos by Sydney Gallimore


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