Article by Cindy Hadish
Photography by Justin Fox

Newcomers and regular customers, alike, can find something to love at Oyama Sushi Japanese Steak House.

The restaurant, at 5350 Council St. NE, near the Wehrenberg Galaxy 16 Cine, serves high-quality sushi – vinegared rice, rolled with fresh fish, various meats and vegetables – as well as a variety of appetizers, drinks and teppanyaki-style grilled steak, vegetable, chicken and seafood meals.

Hibachi tables, on one side of the spotless restaurant, are popular for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, but even lunch-goers in a hurry can order the hibachi meals without the fanfare of chefs offering their showmanship with flashing knives over the hot iron grills.

For regular customers, owner Henry Liu – a frequent presence at Oyama Sushi – is offering those with member cards two points for every dollar spent at the restaurant during the month of December. Anyone can sign up for the member cards, with double points this month.

Liu also touts the popular lunch specials, offered six days a week, Monday through Saturday, such as the Luncheon Bento Box with a choice of teriyaki or other dishes, served with miso soup, salad, California roll, rice and gyoza, a type of Japanese pan-fried dumpling; the Hibachi Luncheon, served with soup, salad, vegetables and fried rice, starting at under $10 for chicken or vegetable, and the Maki Special: any two sushi rolls with soup and salad, for just $9.95.

With a full bar, mixed drinks also are a popular option at Oyama Sushi, along with beer, wine and sake. For a tropical escape on a blustery Iowa evening, try an Oyama specialty cocktail, such as the Aqua Thunder, with UV blue raspberry vodka, Midori, blue Curaçao and Sierra Mist, with a color to match its name, or the Tokyo Tower, with plum wine, peach schnapps, pineapple and orange juice.

If you’ve never eaten at Oyama Sushi, here are some options, which our table recently enjoyed:
Gomale, one of several vegetable appetizers at Oyama Sushi, is steamed spinach made with a house sesame sauce. Japanese cuisine is generally thought to be healthy, and this spinach undoubtedly is high on the list, with a bonus tangy sauce.
Beef Yaki Niku is another appetizer, this time one of the meat menu options, consisting of sliced New York steak, sauteed with vegetables in a spiced sauce. The steak is incredibly tender, with onions complementing the sweet sauce.
Shrimp Tempura, a batter-fried shrimp with vegetables, is among Oyama Sushi’s seafood appetizers. If you’re timid about eating at a Japanese restaurant, go for this option. It’s an all-around favorite, even for people who say they don’t like seafood.
Tropical roll, with spicy crab meat and tuna, cucumber, avocado, and crunch inside, and topped with the chef’s special sauce and tobiko, the Japanese word for flying fish roe, or eggs. All of the dishes prepared at Oyama Sushi are created like works of art, and the Tropical roll has a beauty of its own, with a light green-colored soy paper on the outer layer contrasting with the pink fish. For newcomers to sushi, this roll offers a mild flavor.
Fiesta roll, consisting of tuna, salmon, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, chili sauce, and jalapeno. The jalapeno and chili sauce give this roll a surprisingly spicy kick, while staying in the medium-hot range.
Jimmy roll, with shrimp tempura and avocado rolled inside-out, and spicy crab meat on top with eel sauce. This was the consensus favorite of our table, with an especially fresh taste.

Liu notes that fresh fish is key to the high quality food at Oyama Sushi, with No. 1 bluefin and bigeye tuna, the highest grade possible based on initial appearance, size and shape, color, texture and fat, as well as fresh salmon from Norway.

“People can get a different quality – cheaper – but I keep it high quality,” he said.

The top-sellers at Oyama Sushi include the Iowa City roll, Fiesta and Best Friend roll, but as for himself, Liu finds it difficult to choose.

“I created 80 percent of the chef’s special rolls here,” he said. “I can’t choose a favorite.”

Oyama Sushi Japanese Steak House, 5350 Council St. NE, is open daily for dine-in or takeout. Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. Call (319) 832-1800 and see: www.oyamasushi.com

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