Okinawa Japanese Restaurant in Yorktown is not just a sushi bar—it's also a real bar and a hibachi place. This spacious, do-it-all Japanese eatery holds appeal for every diner.
Okinawa's façade and entrance are misleading though. To eat here, you have to find your way to the back of a strip mall where you will see a simple black and white sign bearing the restaurant's name. But once inside, the neon-lit bar, glass water wall and urban techno lounge music will transport you from bland suburban reality into something far more eclectic.
The bar and water wall are first glimpsed upon entering, followed by the large dining area with high factory ceilings, bamboo lanterns and a large sushi bar. To your right is the hibachi room.
The loud music permeates the entire experience, so be ready for it. On a positive note, the music will drown out conversations from nearby tables and you don't have to feel self conscious about making your own noise, in whatever form suits you (loud toddlers and squealing pre-teen girls would do well here, in spite of the pre-party atmosphere.)
Prompt and polite service is the custom here and you won't wait long for menus, drinks, food or your check. The staff is neatly dressed in an all-black uniform. The color black denotes the urbane and not a mournful attitude, as every server seems to brim with enthusiasm.
Don't be surprised to hear the occasional banging of a gong from the hibachi room. This is how birthdays are celebrated in the restaurant. The gong goes on for a little while and it blends nicely with the techno music.
Selecting your meal could prove a challenge, given the wide scope of selections.
Decide if you are in a sushi, hibachi or noodle mood before you get there and you'll save yourself some time. There are plenty of dishes to choose from in each category. In addition to the typical sushi menu, you can go all out with steak and lobster on the hibachi, an inventive noodle dish or pan-Asian offerings like pad thai.
In the way of beverages, you have your choice of a variety of sakes, beer and innovative cocktails. For those who do not drink alcohol, a fun variety of Japanese sodas are offered — the melon soda is quite nice. Be sure to ask about the appetizer and entrée specials, which are more unique than the menu selections.
If you see Sashimi Pizza offered as an appetizer, definitely go for it. The name may throw you off a bit, but don't let it. A light and crispy scallion pancake is decorated with fresh tuna sashimi, scallions, spicy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. It's yummy in a refined way. The Makame Salad is another great choice for an appetizer, and this one is on the regular menu; fresh tuna and yellowtail are wrapped around crisp seaweed and drizzled lightly with dressing.
Presentation stands out at Okinawa. No shortcuts were taken in the presentation of appetizers and entrees, and this is clearly demonstrated in the sushi love boat. The overall restaurant theme is respected with the glowing pillar and cocktail glass adorning the platter.
It must be said that the quality of the fish is decent, but the color and flavor of the sushi and sashimi was lackluster in comparison to the appetizers. In addition, the sauces served with the sushi and sashimi were pretty, but they tended to overpower the palate. It was best to stick with the wasabi rather than dip in the sauce.
The restrooms at Okinawa merit a thorough depiction. The bathroom break is designed to be an experience that far surpasses functionality. Wear some white or a flash of neon when you go so you can appreciate the black lights. Of course, there are speakers in the restrooms so you don't miss part of a song while you're in there. You are sure to notice the Asian-chic décor as you wash your hands, and don't overlook the lovely grey floor tiles etched with leaves. Not a detail was missed in the design.
Overall, Okinawa provides a stimulating, satisfactory dining experience. The restaurant's appeal is well-suited for students on a night out, singles hanging out after work and birthday parties from ages 15 to 80. This is definitely a party atmosphere. It's a good choice for a date night, and with the speedy service you can make it to a movie. Families wanting a quirky meal that's out of the ordinary can live it up a little, too.
Okinawa Japanese Restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner. Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
It is located at 48 Triangle Center in Yorktown Heights, between Route 118 and Maple Hill Street. For questions call 914-962-8188.