In 2002, 5280 gave Osaka Sushi in southeast Denver restaurant Top of the Town honors for best sushi. Ten years later, Osaka’s still got it. Although numerous sushi joints of varying price and quality have opened in recent years, Osaka keeps plugging along with a menu that’s both finely tuned and affordable. My party of six, there to celebrate a birthday, reveled in huge platters of rolls and sashimi, booze, and dessert—all for under $300, including tip.

The semiobscure restaurant (it’s tucked into one of the myriad Colorado Boulevard strip malls, cross-street Exposition Avenue) wows diners with all the traditional sushi bites and supplements, along with one of the city’s most playful rosters of rolls. Among my favorites were the fire caterpillar (cucumber, eel, avocado, and strawberry), the heart attack (spicy crab, cucumber, avocado, and baked salmon), the play girl (crab, spicy tuna, regular tuna, avocado, and “special sauce”), and the spicy crunchy (spicy tuna, avocado, cucumbers, wasabi tobiko, jalapeños, tempura crumbs, and masago).

Bonus: Osaka’s atmosphere is amped up by owner Jay Chung’s always-animated presence. He moves through the room, joking with every table just enough to make you feel welcome without overstaying his own. Once he discovered we were celebrating a birthday, he stuck a pair of black-tape “sideburns” to his face and serenaded our guest of honor with a (spot-on) Elvis impersonation before setting up a few dozen birthday sake bombs, domino-like, for the entire restaurant. It was the perfect nightcap to a fun and delicious dining experience.

3940 E. Exposition Ave., 303-698-9919

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