“Hidden gem” is a term as cliché as they come, but Sacramento’s Osaka-Ya cannot help but assimilate into that very category. Known amongst local shoppers for its exquisite mochi and (weekend-only) bento boxes, this Japanese bakery and grocery store is what one might call a below-the-radar tradition. Hipster hoopla or no, I can only attest that this place is well worth a multitude of visits.
From their storefront service window owners peddle Gunther’s Freeze, a Sacramento-famous fruit slushie, as well as made-to-order shaved ice. I have honestly sampled neither, but in a city where the temps are wont to climb to a devilish 105 Fahrenheit, syrup-covered frozen water is almost too easy a sell.
Although the trays of mochi/manju are not labeled, the Osaka-Ya staff are more than happy to explain each unique variety in articulate detail. With the prodigious aid of the strapping young gentleman on counter duty, I chose four varieties of mochi for sampling: two with smooth an (sweet red bean paste), one plum-flavored with chunky an, and a 4-pack of smooth peanut butter-filled mochi. The exorbitant use of plastic-wrap and Styrofoam did little to assuage my ever-rising consumer guilt; in a deep state of mens rea, I offered up a “Forgive me Earth Spirit, for I have sinned” as the overhead exit bell echoed its soft jangle behind me.
Although cursed by a beyond-dismal photo shoot, the mochi exceeded all expectations. Mochi is one of those magical foods that rigidly interlocks with my natural taste preferences; if unbridled, I could have effortlessly effected a permanent disappearance of the three an-filled mochi in a matter of minutes. Instead, I summoned my last iota of restraint and endeavored a reasonable prolonging of each morsel’s mastication. What pure indulgence in bean-filled sweeties I savored! What gluttony I withheld to allow a few hours between each tasting!
In stark contrast, the peanut butter mochi were an unfortunate combination of East meets West, resulting in what I like to dub “con-fusion” cuisine. The smooth peanut butter innards evoked a suspiciously close resemblance to the Jiff-sweet, hydrogenated oil variety; t’was vastly unsuitable to this “natural only please” pb enthusiast. In blunt fairness, the mochi acted as a copacetic shell, albeit a bit homely in pop of flavor. I finished the unfortunate foursome only by by peeling off the mochi gold and donating the peanut butter facsimile to my all-too-obliging pooch.
These purchased soba noodles will soon act as my main accomplice in the creation of ze’ all-time favorite comfort food: Kabocha Noodles with Peanut Sauce.
Japanese snacks and kitchen foodstuffs galore!
Is Osaka-Ya comparable to the Japanese Wall-Mart that is Mitsuwa? Egregiously no, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with foul peanut butter mochi. Oh, I kid! I endorse this place all the more for its modest yet high-quality grocery selection, hand-beaten mochi, and superlative customer service.
If you require more persuadin’, Osaka-Ya is approximately 4 hops, 3 skips, and one road-length jump from the fabulous gourmet doughnut shop that is Doughbot Doughnuts. If that doesn’t hold some level of sway, I haven’t the foggiest what will.
2215 10th St
Sacramento, CA 95818