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Omakase dinner menu at O-ku in Charleston

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Omakase dinner menu at O-ku in Charleston
Omakase Dinner at O-Ku | Photos by Alice Wannamaker

A friend recently asked me where I send people for the best Japanese food in Charleston. I immediately responded,

“O-ku”. He shook his head: “No. I’d prefer real sushi, not night club sushi.”

While “night club sushi” was a term altogether new to me, and while I disagreed with his dismissal, I saw his point. Late on weekend evenings at O-ku, which is located on trendy upper King Street, the atmosphere becomes one akin to a sophisticated martini bar. Well-dressed beautiful people glom to the bar, the music becomes increasingly loud, the focus on socializing and imbibing.

But the scene should not deter you because the food is wonderful: balanced, fresh, exquisite. By going earlier on a weekend evening (any time before nine) or on less night clubby nights like a Monday or Tuesday, you will be treated to the best Japanese cuisine in Charleston—without the bumping bar scene.

“Omakase” is a dining experience where the chef sends out whatever he wishes to showcase (allergies and/or strong food preferences are accommodated). Though generally adventurous, I had some trepidation: horror stories of sea urchin and fish heads came to mind. As usual, I worried for nothing.

Our meal included ten courses. We ate seven and had to call an audible. Depending on the night, you can select the number of courses you’d wish to have, and seven was plenty for us. The menu we were served is below. The balance of spice and sweet was spot on, the Sunomono was the most beautiful presentation of all, I would like to drink the carrot ginger sauce that accompanied the rock shrimp, and pork belly is my new go-to dessert. If this is night club sushi, then I am all about it; grab me a glo-stick and get me back to O-ku.

  • Yellowtail Carpaccio with cilantro, Serrano pepper, and truffle ponzu
  • Salmon tartare with truffle micro greens and wasabi guacamole.
  • Sunomono (a roll of salmon, tuna, and escolar, wrapped in cucumber and daikon) with a seaweed salad accompaniment
  • Tempura oyster with kimchee tartar
  • Yakiniku duck confit taco with Japanese BBQ sauce
  • Rock shrimp with spicy aioli and carrot ginger sauce
  • Spicy teriyaki pork belly with sweet cabbage and kimchee purée