Ogawa Japanese Restaurant

By Candace Nelson - 8:32 AM

Ogawa is, as far as I know, one of the oldest sushi bars in town. I lived in Pierpont Apartments my first year at WVU, and Ogawa is located practically next door on University Avenue. My then-roommate was much more cultured in terms of cuisines, and I owe my love for sushi to her. Other sushi bars have popped up: Dragonfly, Volcano Restaurant and hibachi restaurants, but Ogawa has that lasting power in town. I think, for quality sushi, Yama has the downtown area covered. Ogawa has Evansdale, and Volcano hits the Suncrest area.

That point, however, would be sure to cause some controversy because many are unhappy with Ogawa. It's like one of those bands who "sold out" - apparently they got new owners, a few times, and the food has gone downhill. I can't really speak much on that fact because I've only been in the Morgantown area going on five years now, and I hadn't been to Ogawa enough early on to compare. I've heard many, many people say "I used to go there, but since they got new owners..." But here's the deal, for Morgantown sushi, it's still not bad.

The location is right along University Avenue, so it's easy to find, but parking is limited in front. There is additional parking in the rear. It's also not a very large building, so the gas station or carpet store next door could overshadow it. Ogawa also has some different hours, as they close between lunch and dinner so be sure to check in to make sure they're open when you want to stop by.

After securing parking (or walking if you're close enough), you walk in the front doors. While I usually hate walking directly into the middle of the dining room, the room is situated so it's not awkward, with some privacy dividers set up. Our waiter also greeted us right away. When we said "2," he escorted us to a small table. Here comes pet peeve #1 with Ogawa: The seating spaces are so, so tiny. Where we were situated yesterday was actually not bad, as the privacy screen was next to us, but I could reach across the entire length of the table if I wanted to. And, if you're not on the sides, you kind of feel like you're out in the open, which is a little uncomfortable. After being somewhat pleased with our seating arrangements this time, though, I ordered a water and sat down to look at my menu.

A traditional menu with a few noodle, teriyaki, lunch boxes, and tempura dishes is on the table, as well as a long sheet of paper with their sushi rolls. I generally push the traditional menu away and focus on the sushi rolls. Ogawa is supposed to be known for their "love roll" - tuna, salmon, asparagus, avocado, masago and topped with crab, mayo and spicy sauce. So, I ordered that (with it's $12.95 price tag), as well as a "crunch shrimp roll," which I'm more familiar with and knew I'd like - shrimp tempura, avocado, crab, cucumber and masago for $9.95.

After those two orders of sushi rolls, I hit my max limit I wanted to spend, and I didn't even know how much food I was getting because they don't denote the number of rolls, but I was optimistic. Our miso soup came out not too long after we ordered. Was it good? Eh. Is miso soup ever good? Eh. It seemed as though we waited a little while for our sushi, as the dinner crowd was in and Ogawa was a little busy. But soon enough, two large square plates came out and barely fit together on the table.

My "crunch shrimp roll" was segmented into five very large pieces. Pretty large, in fact, that it was difficult to eat without looking crazy. I tried to bite into the first piece, failing miserably. So I tried to eat the next piece whole, failing miserably. I gave up and decided to take those home so I didn't look like a savage in public. But the rolls were delicious and exactly what I was expecting. They were fresh, packed tight and hit all the right notes with a tad bit of soy sauce. Without the soy sauce, they're a little dry, but the flavors together are a classic win.

The "love roll" was my curve ball. When I get sushi, I rarely get raw fish. If I do, it's never two pieces of raw fish (tune AND salmon), but it was masked with some crab, so I took the bite. These rolls, too, are thick, but the circumference wasn't as large, so it was more manageable. It had 8 pieces total. The love roll is good. The fish was fresh and firm, not mushy, and it didn't taste like I was eating a large piece of raw fish. The asparagus was a new touch, but the flavors all combined together were satisfying. I noticed after eating two or three rolls, though, my mouth was actually pretty warm from the spicy sauce. Everyone knows I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy stuff, so this isn't surprising, but it was spicy enough that I didn't even add any wasabi. It was good, but the texture is a little off-putting. But if you're not in the right mindset, seeing raw fish on your plate can hijack the whole experience. Sometimes, sushi is just gross - I have to be in the right mood. And I was, until I saw something that threw me off: a short, black hair on my plate. I know this happens, but it's hard for me to get around it. At that point, I boxed up my sushi and was ready to call it a day and come back to it after my stomach had settled.

My friend Kaitlynn got the "salmon cream roll," with of course salmon and cream cheese, but it was cooked. This is a great alternative for people who are a little iffy on the texture of raw fish. Hers was very, very good, too. It's a pretty basic roll, so it was much cheaper, and she got around 9 rolls. I really enjoyed all three rolls: hers was classic and almost comforting with the cream cheese. The love roll was new and adventurous, with a mixture of many different flavors, and the crunchy shrimp roll was classic crispy tempura wrapped in rice and seaweed. Ogawa isn't stingy with the ingredients: I had huge chunks of fish and huge chunks of avocado. And they were all fresh. The flavor combinations really worked well together, as most are tried-and-true combos, but their inventive ones, including the love roll, also hit the same high notes.

Our waiter brought us a bottle of water to add refills, which I like, and we received our bill. For my two rolls of sushi rolls, her one order and her rice and chicken dish, our total came out to $46, without tip. I can't say Ogawa is my favorite sushi restaurant in town, not anymore, but I wouldn't protest going there. I've seen better, but there are many worse.

Grade: B
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