How it took me this long to visit O-Ku, I’ll never know…But miso happy that I finally paid them a visit!
Sushi, sashimi, cocktails. What’s not to love? Located on Upper King just 3 blocks from Marion Square, the restaurant is conveniently close to the heart of the city. The interior of the restaurant consists of exposed brick walls and intimate mood lighting setting the tone for a relaxed, urban feel. The friendly hostesses and servers provide patrons with an inviting and exuberant experience from start to finish.
After seeing reviews on Yelp about the crazy wait times and packed happy hours, I knew I had to come early. So my friend Leila and I arrived promptly at 4:50pm. Yes, 10 minutes before they even opened their doors. And let me just say, our devious tactic worked and we were able to snag a spot at the sushi bar before the crowds swarmed. Within 15 minutes of them opening, tables were filling up and by the time we left, all the tables were full. Granted we went on a Friday at 5pm, which is Happy Hour. But at O-Ku, Happy Hour is a lot more happy than most places. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5-7pm customers can get ANY sushi or sashimi for 1/2 price and cocktails are $3 off their list price.
Their cocktails are prodigious! With a considerable list to choose from, we decided to follow our server’s suggestions and order their Brown Derby cocktail and Berry Lemonade. We were not disappointed. They change their cocktail menu often which I think says a lot about their bar service and their ability to make a high quality craft cocktail. With change comes great expertise.
But enough about the cocktails, let’s discuss the food. I’m not much of a sashimi kind of girl. I stick with sushi and not the wimpy California Roll or Philly Roll, but spicy is my go-to. Spicy fish of all shapes and sizes and I’m there. However, because I was ordering with my friend who does not share the same affinity as me for spicy foods, we decided to compromise. We ordered the Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll, the Firecracker Roll, the Scallop Roll, and the Kani Crown Roll.
My Definitive Ranking of…
- Firecracker Roll
- Scallop Roll
- Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll
- Kani Crown Roll
The Firecracker Roll was my favorite because of it’s complex flavor, spice, and overall depth. If I hadn’t had this roll first, I would have thought the rest of the rolls were incredible. But because I started my meal with this over-the-top in.cred.ible roll, all other rolls were going to pale in comparison. Consisting of crab salad, avocado, and asparagus which is then tempura fried and topped with spicy fish, a serrano pepper, and eel sauce. This roll alone is enough to coax me back to O-Ku.
The Scallop Roll was a close second because of the layers of flavor it boasted. Consisting of panko fried scallop, crab salad, avocado, cucumber, tonkatsu sauce, and wasabi aioli. Naturally as a Charleston native I had to order the most southern sounding sushi roll on the menu. Throw a scallop or shrimp on sushi and I’ll come running!
The Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll was crunchy, slightly spicy, and utterly simple. Consisting of spicy tuna, cucumber, crunch, and eel sauce. I liked that the roll was effortless and not rampant with ingredients and flavors. But I was underwhelmed by the lack of spice. I don’t know if that’s the gold standard for their rolls, but next time I’m requesting more spice. The eel sauce on top of the roll was exceptionally tasty though.
The Kani Crown Roll was honestly pretty bland tasting and didn’t leave much of an impression on my taste buds. It tasted good, but the flavors were sort of muddled together and didn’t allow any of the ingredients to shine. Consisting of blue crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, cilantro aioli, wonton, and eel sauce. You would think the spicy tuna would have been more pungent and that the cilantro aioli would mesh beautifully with the blue crab and the asparagus, however that was not the case. I was disappointed in that roll, however maybe it was just a fluke.
Overall, our experience was matchless! Our server was knowledgable and affable. Our food was extraordinary and our cocktails were strong and refreshing. I hope to make another trip there before I leave so I can try the famous Potato Roll.
Xièxiè* for a fun night, O-Ku!
*Thank you, Mandarin