A Japanese Market Escape by Barbara L. Steinberg©
The new Oto's Marketplace on Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento has been open for a couple of years. The new store replaced the "old" Oto's just a few blocks down Freeport Boulevard near Sacramento Executive Airport. I remember the other store quite well and enjoyed the few times I ventured there. I shop at many of Sacramento's Asian markets enjoying their sensory delights...so different from the typical Safeway or even Trader Joes.
I had wanted to visit the new Oto's for some time but just hadn't found that right moment. Then my friend, Allen Pierleoni, the Sacramento Bee food critic, asked if I would like to join him for lunch at Oto's. He didn't have to ask twice. We had many hit and miss attempts at this lunch date, many months going by. I was dying to venture into Oto's, but waited...saving myself for the review. I wanted it to be new and fresh...my observations untainted by previous exposure. I wasn't sorry for waiting.
When we walked through the door it was like a child walking into a candy store...or going to a carnival. I was positively giddy. Its was so bright and shiny. And colorful. So many aisles of products I couldn't name but the packaging is so pretty...who cares. So many things have little faces on them you have to laugh. American packaging is bland by comparison.
The other reason I love the Asian markets is their produce. It's always so beautifully displayed. Fresh. Unblemished. You simply can't beat the prices. And Oto's is no exception. And much of what they sell is from local farms....very important to me. I bought beautiful yams, shitake mushrooms, apples, and avocados. Believe me, I will be back for more.
Yes, we ate at Oto's. Allen wrote a his wonderful Counter Culture: Oto's Marketplace: It's out of the box...which I am certain you will enjoy. We had a great time and I don't want to spoil the surprise if you haven't read the story already. But I must add a sidebar...Allen and I have "known" each other for quite some time. But until our Oto's adventure, we had never met face-to-face. Over the years we have talked by phone and email. I would sometimes call to inquire about places to eat or shoot him an email about something I had discovered. We have very similar likes when it comes to dining out. And I really appreciate his Counter Culture Epicurean nature. My favorite part of the Sacramento Bee is the Friday "Ticket"...and specifically Allen's food reviews. And nothing personal, I am not a "foodie." I have been fanatic about food my whole life and have been known to drive hundreds of miles just to eat...how about a pancake. I swear, it's true. And when Allen wrote about the Pine Grove Munnerlyn's Ice Creamery, I drove there one night...just because.
Okay, but back to Oto's Marketplace. It's a great getaway from the daily dull drums of cleaning and running to the bank. Enjoy some lunch with friends. Or get something to take away. And if you're really in the know about sushi, call ahead and ask if Ray, the sushi chef, can make you up something special. But go and plan to spend an hour or two. As quoted in Allen's Counter Culture, "Oto's is my new favorite store!" Something else that's a real treat at Oto's, the staff is so friendly and delightful. They seemed to be having as much fun as me. Amazing!
And Allen...I am looking forward to another "Lunch Pal" adventure. Chow.