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Boston Area Sushi

Finally: some sushi worth getting excited about

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Finally: some sushi worth getting excited about

Tir na nOg | May 19, 2003 02:39 AM

As I’ve noted several times before on this board, ever since moving to Boston I have been bitching, groaning and complaining, to whomever will put up with me, about the mediocre state of sushi in this city. It’s not like Boston doesn’t know a thing or two about good fish, but unfortunately that expertise doesn’t seem to extend to sushi. There are a few halfway decent places, such as Ginza in Chinatown, but nothing really worth daydreaming about. And for someone used to West Coast sushi, sushi not worth daydreaming about isn’t worth eating.

Well, that changed today when I finally made it over to Oishii in Chestnut Hill (about 2 blocks south on Hammond St. from the Chestnut Hill stop for the Green D line), which is run by an ex-chef at NY’s famous Nobu (and his brother, also ex-Nobu, runs Oishii Two in Sudbury). Now, I’ve been to several sushi shops in Boston that came very highly recommended, only to end up being sadly under whelmed. So, frankly, I was expecting more of the same at Oishii. Who cares if their walls are covered with glowing newspaper reviews and “Best of Bostons”, or that Zagat’s just gave them a 29 for food, the highest of any restaurant in Boston? Been there, done that, and it’s not worth going back.

Well, I’m not sure if Oishii has the "best food" in Boston or not, but they would appear to have “best sushi” wrapped up and it is very definitely a place worth going back to, probably on a weekly basis.

As has been mentioned here in the past, Oishii is a really, really tiny little place with only 9 or so seats at the sushi bar and one table for four, which translated into a 20 minute wait when we arrived at 3:30 PM on Sunday. [Incidentally, the place was almost deserted at 4:45, so splitting the lunch and dinner crowds may be the way to go on the weekend.]

We started off with the customary miso soup, which was, well, like the customary miso soup. But that was quickly followed by far more interesting fare.

First, Toro Tata, which is a sort of toro version of steak tartar, with a little soy sauce under a heaping mound of tender, chopped toro, set in bowl of ice containing a large green leaf and a little red fruit. A simple, yet interesting and elegant presentation. In fact, Oishii seems to be particularly adept at presenting food in a way that enhances the eating experience. I would only say that, compared to the relatively modest nature of the premises, perhaps their presentations are sometimes a bit overdone and incongruous (for example, the use of gold leaf below).

The toro was followed by Unagi, the only nigiri we tried. This has always been one of my favorite dishes, and Oishii’s was as good as any I’ve had and larger than most.

The piece de resistance, as far as presentations went, was the Namero, a truly exotic looking dish of red miso with fluke, oba, scallions (the most pronounced flavor), ponzu sauce, all in a tower wrapped in thinly sliced white raddish and seaweed, and topped with a liberal sprinkling of gold leaf. Yes, I said gold leaf, many fragments of which ended up floating away and into the hair of the lady sitting next to me when the dish was delivered! I’m pretty sure the gold didn’t add anything to the flavor of the dish, but again, it was an exotic presentation that had other diners stretching their necks to see what we had ordered.

But, for me, the dish really worth daydreaming about was the Hamachi Torched Maki. Out of the ordinary maki rolls seem to be a specialty at Oishii. This delicious creation consisted a thin California roll containing flying fish roe and cucumber on the inside and surrounded by partially cooked hamachi on the outside, liberally covered with heaping spoonfuls of some sort of delicious, explosive black fish roe. Unfortunately, we didn’t try “Jeff’s maki” on the specials board, which many have recommended. Maybe next time.

Finally, since we not quite stuffed yet, but fully intended to end up so, we decided to try something more traditional and hot, namely sukiyaki. This was the only dish, other than the miso soup, that followed the classic recipe. I thought it should have been a tad bit sweeter, but that may be just me. And perhaps it is just a minor point, but it was obvious that the chef had used those pre-cut little carrots from the grocery store, which somewhat contrasted with completely elegant presentation of the other dishes.

Anyway, this was certainly the most interesting sushi I've had so far in Boston. The quality of the fish seemed to be very good, but not having ordered any sashimi, I’ll have to wait for a second trip to reach a more definitive conclusion. Other than having to wait to be seated, which we expected, the service was fast and efficient (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a restaurant with as high a employee to customer ratio!). A bit on the expensive side, at $80 for two people (and BYOB), but for a sushi lover, worth every penny.

If you haven’t been yet, give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.

Cheers,
Kevin

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