We were laughing with some friends recently over the fact that fine dining in Fresno is often sharing walls with dry cleaners and nail salons in a strip mall. You’ve heard don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, if you want to uncover the best eateries in the 559, don’t judge a restaurant by its curb appeal.
Oka is one of those secret places someone almost has to show you – otherwise you might miss it. Locals are often confusing it for its saucier neighbor across Bullard, Maroo, but Oka is truly a hidden treasure.
Dawn and her sisters have owned and operated the restaurant for ten years. It’s not every day you see ladies representing behind the counter, but their bright and savory flavor combinations (and super sweet demeanors) keep a steady stream of regulars in the stools to watch them work.
Each meal begins with a small gratis of spicy bean sprouts. Similar to kimchi, these little fellas will give you a kick in the mouth only your Sapporo can quench.
The menu offers sashimi, teriyaki bowls and specialty sushi rolls – which are really where it’s at. Along with the dozen or so rolls on the menu, browse the list of rolls listed on the board behind the counter. My personal favorites are the Victoria and Dragonfly, which are pictured below with the Oka Roll and the Volcano. The Dragonfly has cucumber and tempura shrimp rolled and topped with yellowtail, green onions and a spicy/sweet glaze.
I’m not a huge fan of spicy mayo, so I won’t be ordering the Volcano again. (I also had a similar experience with the Pink Lady.) This is entirely an issue of personal preference and I can assure you that there’s something on the menu for everyone here. We find ourselves wandering in a few times a month. As is mentioned in the Yelp reviews, we have once or twice waited over twenty minutes to have our order taken (read: this is not the norm). However, in those cases it was clear that there was only the chef and one waitress working the tables and they are very loyal to their regular customers. It’s a wonder sometimes that they don’t bill for therapy sessions (it’s a small restaurant… one overhears things).
But time and time again, we find ourselves willing to wait (and endure the cheesy piped in covers of nineties hits) for a bite of these mouthwatering creations.
Oka certainly has presentation down pat, but how much value do you place in ambiance? I’ve certainly visited more than my fair share of gimmicky, glitzed out sushi bars with mediocre rolls, so I know I’d choose flavor over flair any day. That being said… do I have to choose?