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Japanese restaurant to open

BY MITCH MCANDREW | SEPTEMBER 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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A new establishment will offer Japanese cuisine downtown, replacing the space Iron Hawk occupied.

Osaka is expected to open later this month, taking the place of the recently closed restaurant, 122 E. Washington St.

“I’m excited to get going on things,” said restaurant owner Yuki Yu, who moved to Iowa City two years ago.

Though she may be relatively new to Iowa City, she is not new to the restaurant business. Upon her arrival in Iowa City, she opened the Szechuan House, 320 E. Burlington St., which offers Chinese and other Asian cuisines.

Along with running the Szechuan House, Yu ran a Japanese restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin.
Osaka will offer predominately sushi for delivery, dine in, and pickup. The exact opening date remains tentative because of health inspections.

“There are a lot tougher inspections when it comes to sushi due to the raw fish,” said George Etre, the president elect of the Iowa City Downtown District and owner of Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave., and Formosa, 221 E. College St.

In general, Etre said, the local restaurant  community is excited to welcome Osaka to town.

“We are all about supporting any small business, especially one that can survive in this economy,” Etre said.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., next door to Osaka’s new location, shares Etre’s belief.

“It’s always exciting when something different comes in,” Cohen said.

She also thinks the variety Osaka offers will make it successful.

“Ethnic food is huge across the country right now, so it should do well downtown,” she said.

Yu said she saw a need in the area that Osaka could fill.

“I found that there was no Japanese [food] in the rest of the downtown area that delivers, and many students need delivery,” she said.

Osaka will also boasts a highly-skilled kitchen staff, something she thinks will be a benefit.

“I have two sushi chefs from New York, and they are the best chefs I know,” Yu said.

Despite its attraction, Osaka will still face several challenges in opening the new location, Cohen said.

“The first two years are critical, because it’s tough to balance catering to regular customers and attracting seasonal crowds — like during football season,” she said.

Yu said she expects the challenges.

“Opening a new restaurant is indeed challenging because it takes time and money to remodel,” she said. “Plus, it’s always hard to get customers to try your food.”


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