It’s been a week since I’ve gone out for sushi yet it seems like forever. I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite sushi eateries in the Boston area. When I’m craving innovative maki rolls, a detour from traditional Japanese fare, I’ll head to Gari in Brookline, despite my detestation for the term ‘fusion’ (don’t get me started the cheap connotation it carries. I prefer ‘progressive’, ‘experimental’, ‘innovative’ cuisine versus ‘fusion.’)
Bruschetta Twist at Gari
Gari is a small joint on Harvard Ave with modern decor (uncomfortable bar seats–grab a table if you can) and offers good lunch prices as well as a special deal after 9:30pm–I think 20% off or something along the likes. I’ve mapped out the Bruschetta Twist above, a delicious specialty at Gari which I have not tasted elsewhere. The fried nori “bruschetta” has the perfect crunch and fried goodness. It makes a great bed for the spicy tuna, citrus micro greens and secret sauce that lay atop it. I also recommend the double spicy tuna maki, the black pearl and messy caterpillar rolls. I’m not crazy about spicy tuna but this place does it well.
When I go for more of a splurge with the family, we’ll hit up Oishii Sudbury, now known as Oishii Too Sushi Bar. This place used to be a literal hole in the wall when it opened, seating like, 6 ppl. It’s been remodeled since and continues to serve up just what it promises–everything oishii. I even prefer it to the Oishii Boston (I have yet to try the Chestnut Hill one, the ‘first’ Oishii). Now it offers more than innovative maki, fresh sushi and green tea ice cream.
The presentation is beautiful. I can’t remember what this dish entailed besides the overly crunchy mango on top. I guess that goes to show that not all ‘innovative’ rolls are necessarily equally oishii as others. That’s why I know I can always rely on a good caterpillar maki (eel, avocado, cucumber) or fresh sashimi. My personal favorites are hamachi (Yellowtail) and chutoro (fatty–but not the fattiest–tuna). They also have great tempura and fried softshell crab–very crunchy, flaky and golden unlike the cold, gluey or worst-case soggy tempura I’ve experienced at other places. I also love to end the meal on a sweet note. Their black sesame ice cream is awesome (until I recreate my own), as is the green tea. Most places don’t have black sesame and skimp on the matcha powder in their green tea ice cream.
This salmon tartare had [edible] gold foil. Beautiful but tasteless–just for looks.
If you’re willing to splurge on the best sushi in Boston, there’s none other than the acclaimed O Ya. It’s been reviewed many a time in Boston Magazine, not to mention it is the recipient of awards from New York Times, Food & Wine, Zagat, etc. Tim Cushman, owner and head chef, was named Best New Chef 2008 by Food & Wine. So if you don’t hear it from me, hear it from the pros.
I stumbled upon this establishment before it got its claim to fame, thanks to a tip from my friend Jeff who lives a block from the place. It’s on a small street a block from South Station. I was intrigued just looking at its exterior–a giant wooden door and a small sign dangling above with the simple, kanji characters. It reminds me of the small mom and pop places in China that serve up amazing food without the pretentious, ostenstatious jargon. Sure O Ya isn’t completely traditional Japanese food; but its progressive cuisine is humble. It is meticulously prepared by Japanese chefs and so the resulting flavors that complement each other surprisingly well. Plus, I love their use of blowtorches. It adds so much more depth to the sashimi flavors.
Having dined there twice, this is what I recommend: fried kumamoto oysters with squid ink bubbles, peruvian style toro tuna tataki, hamachi belly with yuzu soy uni, scottish salmon belly, wild bluefin otoro with lots of green onion(favorite) and their miso soup(favorite). Miso is not just miso–my mom will tell you that. This place has the heartiest miso I’ve had since my grandma’s restaurant back in the day. Next time I’d like to try the homemade soba, homemade tofu and other sashimi/nigiri. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the hokkaido scallop sashimi.
O Ya is one of the few places I’ve dined where I leave having tickled my palette, wondering how they create such symphonies of flavors. I want to go back for reasons unlike those of other restaurants, where I go back for the reassurance of the caterpillar roll or perfectly executed tempura; I go back for the promise of a new, intriguing experience which will open my senses–taste, smell, sight (not so much touch..) to a new culinary harmony.
On another note, when I’m craving fresh, cheap sashimi or oodles of noodles, I head to Porter Square Exchange. Check out my Hambagaa post for my recommendations of Cafe Mami, Kotobukiya and Blue Fin.
Also, I recently tried GinGa on Beacon St. in Brookline. It’s a stone’s throw from my apt. and has great lunch deals–20% off. The small, quaint eatery, although empty and suspicious when I first entered, turned out to surpass my expectations. My friend Kelsey and I went on a cold, snowy day and enjoyed a nice heaping bowl of tempura udon as well as a spicy tuna roll. I’ll have to go back for more research. Yes….”research”….