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Snackshot of the Day: O Ya's Fried Kumamoto with Squid Ink Bubbles in Boston

Snackshot of the Day: O Ya's Fried Kumamoto with Squid Ink Bubbles in Boston


Photos of all things food and drink from The Daily Meal

Fried Kumamoto Oyster with yuzu kosho aioli and squid ink bubbles at O Ya in Boston (taken 3/4/2011).

The Daily Meal's editors, contributors, and readers dig into some pretty great restaurants, festivals, and meals. There's not always enough time to give a full review of a restaurant or describe in depth why a place, its food, and the people who prepare it are noteworthy, so Snackshot of the Day does what photographs do best, rely on the image to do most of the talking. Today's Snackshot is of fried Kumamoto oyster with yuzu kosho aioli and squid ink bubbles at O Ya in Boston (taken 3/4/2011).

Normally a fried Kumomoto oyster would likely corner your attention, but the mesmerizing sphere of glittering squid ink bubbles set atop it is a real scene-stealer. It will certainly give pause, but if you're lucky enough to sit down to omakase at O Ya it will be just one otherworldy-looking dish in a parade of beautiful, distinctive courses prepared at Tim and Nancy Cushman's acclaimed Leather District restaurant.

Read more about The Daily Meal's Snackshot feature. To submit a photo, email jbruce[at]thedailymeal.com, subject: "Snackshots."


O-Ya – Review

I’ll be honest: I thought I would hate O-Ya. It gave me anxiety right from the start. I mean, it’s not everyday that you have to put a credit card down for a mere two-top reservation. (Not to mention the $100 per person fee if you cancel within 24 hours.) In fact, the cheapest ticket to entry at O-Ya is $185 for an 18-piece “sushi” omakase. And if you’re really hungry or a glutton, you can splurge on a 23-course meal for a whopping $245… per person. Do keep in mind: This ain’t no Daniel or Masa, or any other restaurant with a legendary chef you’d immediately recognize by name, for that matter. O-Ya is a pricey Boston import rolling the dice on the mean streets of Manhattan, located in the Park South Hotel (with its own street level entrance thankfully). Still, you might think they’d keep their head down “undersell and overdeliver,” that kind of thing. Nope.

Black Truffle Potato Chip Nigiri

Instead, husband-and-wife team, Tim and Nancy Cushman, made a big bet that New Yorkers will pay up big time for their very untraditional omakase experience. Why untraditional? Seared foie gras on vinegared rice isn’t exactly common in most tried-and-true Japanese joints. Especially when it’s anointed with a balsamic-chocolate kabayaki (a riff on a traditional sweet kabayaki sauce often used for eel) and a sake-spiked raisin/cocoa pulp. How is it you’re probably wondering? Pretty damn good, though it’s not exactly rocket science combining unctuous foie gras with something sweet to cut the richness (read fat). It’s the sushi rice beneath it that makes it so novel a fun, new finger food with luxe ingredients. Speaking of luxury, will you see truffles for $185? Hell yes.

Wild Spot Prawn NIgiri with Yuzu Tobiko

Black winter truffles crown a piece of Tuna Tataki nigiri, which is also enlivened by a dose of smoky pickled onions a unique combination of flavors I’ve never had the pleasure of together before, though I hope I will again soon. Lest I forget the homemade Potato Chip finished with a Black Winter Truffle over sushi rice and the Seared Tuna with grated onion and black truffle. In short, this isn’t your run of the mill sushi spot with an omakase offering. The chef and his wife aren’t even Japanese. They’re two white Americans who fell for Japanese food and drink, earning a James Beard award for their creativity and embellished Japanese at Boston’s Japanese bent O-Ya back in 2012. (Frank Bruni even called it the best restaurant in the United States in 2008.) When O-Ya first opened back in 2008, this brand of avant-garde sushi was new and exciting. Now, it’s a fashionable and proven style that’s been embraced for some time at places, like Shuko, Sushi Dojo, and I could go on.

Tuna Tataki & Black Truffle NIgiri

The big difference between the O-Ya Boston and the one in New York is that there is no a la carte menu in Manhattan. The only options are the $185 or $245 omakase menus a take it or leave it philosophy that makes it pretty inaccessible to the masses, and makes me worry just how long it can stay in business. After all, not everyone has $185 to spend on dinner. This is a splurge, special occasion spot, not quite as expensive as the $450 omakase Masa (and that’s without alcohol or tip), but almost as expensive as Daniel or Le Bernardin, which may be a tough sell, considering Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert are much more familiar and famous. For those traditionalist sushi eaters, consider yourself warned that not everything is raw or nearly raw, thus the foie gras nigiri. Really, the only thing that makes almost every course served “sushi” is the vinegared rice beneath it. There’s grilled Chanterelles and Shitake Mushrooms over sushi rice, anointed with a fragrant drizzle of rosemary oil and sesame froth, as well as a nub of Wagyu seared to a medium rare, dabbed with nothing more than potato confit and sea salt. To be honest, I wasn’t wowed by the rosemary-scented melange of mushrooms, which seemed not only out of place at a sushi counter, but also something that might be served in winter not late spring. But I loved that toothsome, juicy Wagyu. You wouldn’t find anything this delicate on a steakhouse menu, but this little nibble is just as gratifying.

Fried Oyster with Squid Ink Bubbles

Let’s start at the very beginning of this 18-course meal with an utterly refreshing Kumamoto Oyster, dressed with ponzu-marinated watermelon curls and a diced cucumber mignonette, followed by a Hamachi Nigiri with a feisty Banana Pepper Mousse. As I got deeper into the meal, I stumbled upon a Fried Oyster, enlivened by to die for “squid ink bubbles” — code for frothed up squid ink) and a tangy yuzu kosho aioli the best fried morsel I’ve had in awhile. There are plenty of blissfully complicated discoveries at O-Ya, like Seared Trout shrouding tomato confit with smoked sea salt, a wild spot Prawn with yuzu-splashed tobiko and ramp puree, and the Shima Aji (striped jack) & Hokkaido sea urchin, seasoned with aji amarillo chile vinaigrette and nigella (aromatic black seeds).

Bluefin Toro & Wasabi Nigiri

There are a few courses that are on the gimmicky side, like chive a blossom omelet with a turkey egg and “wagyu schmaltz,” which sounded more interesting than it tasted and that truffle-topped potato chip sushi. But for the most part, the Cushmans’ triumph in delivering an imaginative & unexpected tasting menu with the kind of first rate ingredients you’d expect to find for a big ticket dinner. And while we may have a slew of modern Japanese restaurants from non-Japanese chefs in New York already, O-Ya manages to deliver something original and exciting.

Did I mention the sake list? It’s excellent and so is the lone dessert, which says a lot coming from me because I flat out hate white chocolate and O-Ya’s White Chocolate Namelaka is the exception to my rule. It’s a ridiculously delicious layering of yuzu sherbert, white chocolate creme, strawberry, rhubarb and a crunchy matcha sable.

I realize I got so caught up in the food I forgot to mention the decor, which is cozy and serene. The walls are exposed brick and there’s a long L-shaped eating counter made of beautiful wood that’s been sanded to a soft suppleness the kind you want to run your hand along all evening. The best seats at these kinds of sushi spots are always at the counter, where you can watch the chefs molding each and every nibble, but if there aren’t any spots left, there are plenty of tables scattered about the room, too. On the night I was there, the seats were populated with mostly food types (writers, expert eaters, & distributors I knew), scoping out the newest entree to the food scene. Let’s just hope there’s an appetite for the pricey omakase at O-Ya. I certainly hope so as I plan to return in the fall.


Snackshot of the Day: O Ya's Fried Kumamoto with Squid Ink Bubbles in Boston - Recipes

Boston sushi lovers will fall in love with the menu at O Ya, a Japanese restaurant right in the heart of Boston. O Ya's menu caters to those with vegan and gluten-free dietary needs. This restaurant's fully stocked bar is a perk for patrons who enjoy a fine wine (or more) with their meal. Having trouble finding that family-friendly restaurant everyone will love? This restaurant serves all ages, so little ones are welcome to come along, too. O Ya is a prime location to dine with a group.

The restaurant accepts reservations, so you can get around the busy crowd. O Ya goes easy on the dress code ? business casual is expected, so no need to squeeze into your finest attire.

Street parking is conveniently available around the restaurant, as well as valet service. Public transportation is a prime transportation option, with stops at Essex St. @ Atlantic Ave. (SL4), South Station (Fairmount, Framingham/Worcester, Franklin, Greenbush, Kingston/Plymouth, Middleborough/Lakeville, Needham, Providence/Stoughton, Red, SL1, SL2, Silver), and Washington St. @ Essex St. (SL4, SL5). If your preferred mode of transit is of the two wheel variety, you're in luck ? there's tons of bike parking outside the restaurant.

Come to celebrate a special occasion at O Ya. You'll definitely be impressed by the exotic Japanese cuisine served up by the traditional chefs at O Ya.


Snackshot of the Day: O Ya's Fried Kumamoto with Squid Ink Bubbles in Boston - Recipes


There are very few restaurants that have mastered the combination of exquisite artistry, extreme attention to detail, and stunning flavor combinations. There are even fewer restaurants who are able to create dishes that are “transcendent” – dishes with flavors so interesting, complex, and mind-boggling, they delight and surprise you to no end. These are flavors that stick with you forever flavors you still taste in your mind years later.

A few more recent memories come to my mind, such as the consomme at Le Bernardin, the cherry gazpacho at Joel Robuchon, or the black truffle xiao long baos at Din Tai Fung in China. By and large, however, those tastes are rarely encountered at home.

But not never.

Near South Station down a dark alley is nondescript wooden door. If you squint and look really hard, you’ll see a tiny sign way up high that says O Ya.

Welcome to one of Boston’s gems, O Ya. You could call O Ya a Japanese restaurant, but it’s really much more than that. Chef-owner Tim Cushman, who trained under Nobu Matsuhisa before moving to Boston, uses basic Japanese cuisine as a canvas on which to experiment with flavors from all over the world.

O Ya has won many, many awards and has been recognized by all sort of well-known figures. Chef-owner Tim Cushman won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2012 for Best Chef Northeast. New York Times food writer Frank Bruni named O Ya as the best new restaurant in 2008 when it first opened. O Ya has the highest Zagat rating of any restaurant in Boston (29), and was named as a “top highlight” by Andrew Zimmern when he visited Boston.

Tim’s wife, Nancy Cushman, is a sake sommelier, having completed multiple levels of Sake Professional Course in Japan under John Gauntner, one of the world’s foremost sake experts. O Ya has a dizzying array of sakes, and they offer sake pairings with their dishes.

Eating at O Ya most definitely comes at a pretty price. If you eat a la carte, small plates (which could contain a couple pieces of sashimi, nigiri, or other ingredients) range from $8 to $20 each. You most likely need to order several of them. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending close to $100/person.

There are also a couple different types of omakases (chef’s tastings). The normal omakase is a tasting of dishes off the regular menu and costs $175. The Grand Omakase, which also includes off-menu, “special” items, costs $275.

Please join me as I take you through the Grand Omakase, one of the most beautiful, exquisite, and incredible meals I’ve ever had in Boston.

Kumamoto Oyster watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette
Compressed watermelon spheres and tiny chopped cucumbers sit delicately on top of sweet Kumamoto oysters. The dish is beautiful, light, and refreshing, a perfect prelude to the meal.
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin & Black River Ossetra Caviar Yuzu zest
It’s hard to go wrong with creamy uni and strong, salty caviar over rice. It takes me awhile to get used to Tim Cushman’s rice, which is mushier, denser, and a bit wetter than traditional Japanese sushi rice. The flavors of the toppings, of course, are fantastic.

Hamachi Nigiri spicy banana pepper mousse
This is one of the most popular dishes at O Ya, and it’s easy to see why. The marriage of yellowtail (hamachi) with jalapeno is a classic combination, supposedly first “invented” by Nobu Matsuhisa, Cushman’s mentor. Cushman has taken that concept and put his own spin on it, using spicy banana peppers instead.
Langoustine Tempura ao nori, spicy langoustine sauce, lemon zest

House Smoked Wagyu Nigiri yuzu soy
My first time seeing beef on nigiri, it works here because Wagyu beef is so well marbled with fat and is melt-in-your-month soft.
Wild Salmon verte sauce, house pickled ramps, salmon roe Kindai Bluefin Chutoro Republic of George herb sauce
Kindai Bluefin is a type of farmed bluefin tuna that’s touted as being more sustainable than wild bluefin tuna (which is rapidly being depleted). Opinions are very mixed about whether this type of tuna is actually more sustainable or not. Nevertheless, several restaurants have embraced it as a way to provide environmentally-conscious diners with an alternative to bluefin tuna.

Chef Cushman did a great job of dressing this tuna up with this herbaceous pesto.
Fried Kumamoto Oyster Nigiri yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles
This is another classic signature dish that you’ll also see on the normal omakase. Though it seems hard, you must pop the entire piece in your mouth in one bite in order to enjoy the fascinating mix of flavors – the warm fried oyster, the bright yet spicy citrus notes from the yuzu kosho, and the salty umami from the squid ink bubbles. It’s an ingenious dish, and one of my favorites.

Uni “kabob” soy, shiso, olive oil snow
This artistic dish almost looks like a piece of art painted on the white plate. The olive oil “snow” uses molecular gastronomy techniques to achieve the unique powdery texture, which pairs well with the creamy uni and floral shiso leaf.

Madai white soy ginger, myoga, lemon oil

Geoduck reed shiso vinaigrette, verjus

Kanpachi Baby Hamachi jalapeno sauce, sesame, apple, myoga

Kindai Bluefin Otoro wasabi oil, lots of green onion

Arctic Char yuzu cured, smoked sesame brittle, cumin aioli, cilantro

Foie Gras miso, preserved california yuzu
This creative, powdery version of foie gras, which is served with preserved yuzu, reminds me of David Chang’s well-known dish shaved foie gras course at Momofuku Ko. It’s a delightful little bite, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really love foie gras!

Hokkaido Sea Scallop perigord truffle, sake sea urchin, jus, chervil
This is one of those dishes that I still remember to this day – it was so incredibly perfect. Raw scallops from Hokkaiddo (the northern part of Japan) are thinly sliced and served in a delicate sauce topped with shaved truffles.

Shiso Tempura grilled lobster, charred tomato, ponzu aioli

“Farberge” Onsen Egg black river osetra caviar, gold leaf, dashi sauce, green onion
The “onsen egg” on the regular menu is already incredible, consisting of a single egg cooked at low, low temperatures (I’m assuming sous vide by the texture) in a gorgeously flavorful dashi broth. The Grand Tasting elevates this dish several, several notches by topping this luxurious egg with osetra caviar and a gold leaf. The presentation and flavors are equally stunning.

Grilled Chanterelle & Shitake Mushrooms rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy
I never knew how good mushrooms could taste until I tried Chef Cushman’s version of mushroom “sashimi.” Frank Bruni of the New York Times called this the “best dish of my entire journey”, praising its “magnificent taste” which “settles all debate over umami.” The flavors of this dish are absolutely gorgeous, capturing the strong earthiness of the mushrooms with just enough soy and sesame oil essence to enhance, but not overpower, the dish.

Seared Petit Strip Loin of Wagyu
Though it may seem surprising at first, it actually makes sense my favorite steak in Boston comes from a “Japanese” restaurant. Japan is where Kobe beef originated, and it’s a country that’s meticulously obsessed with the quality of its beef (not to mention everything else, really). These tiny little cuts of Wagyu are phenomenal, perfectly salted and seared on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside.

Simple citrus palate cleansers in preparation of dessert.

Foie Gras Nigiri balsamic chocolate kabayaki, raisin cocoa pulp
The Finale. It’s most definitely worth the wait for this final dish, a dessert that is yet another signature dish and truly one of their best. Seared foie gras “nigiri” is served with a balsamic chocolate sauce and raisin cocoa pulp. The warm, nicely browned, savory foie gras is perfectly balanced by the sweet, dark balsamic chocolate sauce and the fruity raisin cocoa pump. These pair gorgeously with the glass of dessert wine that comes included with this one course.

I savor my one bite, slowly, trying to make it last as long as possible.

What an incredible end to an incredible meal. Throughout the entire night, we’ve had the privilege of sitting right at the bar, watching the chefs prepare one course after another. I would most definitely recommend getting one of the counter seats. You get a much better view of all the action that’s happening in the kitchen.

What can I say? I don’t think there’s another tasting menu in this city that’s grander, more sophisticated, and more impressive than this one. Just the sheer number of different tastes, different presentations, and variety of ingredients is mind-boggling.

A truly transcendent meal.

Sayonara to an unforgettable evening.


O Ya | Boston, Massachusetts USA

Housed in a re-purposed old fire station in Boston, Massachusetts, O Ya is a one of a kind restaurant. The food is truly superb and the experience is one I wish I could relive over and over reference: Groundhogs day. If you happen to be in Boston and have a free evening, you should surely try and call, but honestly this is the type of establishment one would want to reserve a few weeks in advance this will assure you a spot in their humble / intimate 37 seated eatery. I did not follow such a plan, but luck was on my side as somehow, during my way from Western Massachusetts (a 2 hr drive), my call with the folks at O Ya proved successful and was able to snag a spot at the chef’s counter!

I ate SO well that evening. Dish after dish, I dared not pair alcohol with my food as I wanted to savor and remember every bite, at least to the best of my ability. My favorite was a tie between the Onsen Egg and the Diver Sea Scallop. Those two dishes just had so much flavor, multi-textural contrasts, and had both land & sea elements that worked well. Definitely want to go back and eat those again.

Thanks all, until next time.
-Matt

O Ya (information gathered 2/2013)
9 East St
Boston, MA 02111
617.654.9900
Hours
Sun, Mon Closed
Tues – Thu 5:00 – 9:30pm
Fri, Sat 5:00 – 10:00pm

Parking:
Just take a taxi. Parking is pretty crazy in the leather district of Boston, Mass.

Please be advised, all images and content are copyrighted and may not be used without permission. Got questions? Email me: mweats <dot> info <at> gmail <dot> com


Salmon*

Came here for a special occasion. We got the grand omakase, which was 21 courses at 285 per person before taxes and a fixed 20% gratuity, and sake flights at 65 for four glasses of the bigger end sakes.

Quite honestly, I had really high expectations, but O Ya turns out to be little more than an old-time Japanese restaurant trying to cash in on the success of the NYC avant garde omakase scene.

If I could use one word to describe our meal, it's "overkill". Each course was overly bombastic in its flavor, with one or two ingredients completely overwhelming the taste of everything else, including the fish. Isn't the point of omakases to highlight the fish? The pacing felt off too - by the time the richer courses were coming out, my stomach had expected them 3 or 4 courses ago, and we started feeling sick as a result. Far from enjoyable. However, desserts were absolutely delicious, and made for quite a pleasing end for the night.

The one annoying part of our meal was when the hostess seated a couple (friends of hers) at the sushi bar next to us in a space for one, midway through our meal. I ended up getting bumped by his elbow every few minutes, which made the whole experience quite a bit less enjoyable.

At $440 per person total, the quality of the food and the experience did not hold up. You can get better for cheaper at both No Relation and Pabu, which is where I'd rather spend my money.

Highlights were the oyster, uni and sturgeon, ora king salmon , bluefin toro, ramen, onsen egg, A5 Wagyu, and black yuzu calamansi sorbet dessert. Service was pretty solid, but I'm pretty sure it was because of the 20% gratuity ‍

You can do better than here. Would not recommend.

Others will see how you vote!

I love sushi and Japanese food. For my birthday my friend took me here.

It's a little hole in the wall place that you can easily miss but quaint. First off, little too dark inside for my tastes could use just a smidge more light. Second, and this is one of my pet peeves, please dont put tables so close together that a servers butt will be in my face. Every time the server was waiting on the table next to us both me and my friend had to lean the other way and watch the items on our table so they wouldn't be knocked off. That really doesn't paint a pleasant dining experience.

That aside, our server was great. Friendly, informative, patient, prompt and helpful one of the best servers that I can recall.

My friend and I each ordered our own 'tapas' dishes. It's hard to pick and choose what to have because everything sounds so interesting. Not to go into too many details but some were amazing and others were good. I love hamachi but the seasoning on their tartare dish was a bit overpowering. I also love truffles but the flavor was a little under for the potato chip nigiri. My favorite dish was the salmon belly, I could have easily ordered another.

Sadly though, the prices are just way to high for the portion size. I've eaten in a LOT of Japanese restaurants and recently returned from a trip to Japan and these prices are pretty high. I will pay for good quality first and then quantity but I dont think the prices here are justified (even for being in the city).

Though I enjoyed my meal, overall the prices alone (plus the butt in my face) will not have me back. Maybe for another special occasion where someone else is paying and I'd request to sit at the bar would I dine here again.

As always never take my word and give it a try yourself.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Karen M.
  • San Francisco, CA
  • 29 friends
  • 98 reviews
  • 364 photos

We had a great experience here at O Ya Sushi! We did a tasting menu and the dishes were unique. Amazing service! Our waitress worked here for 12 years and made sure we were happy and went above and beyond and even marked the items that we had on our menus. The must have was the salmon nigiri and the one with the truffle and homemade potato chip! We did the beverage pairing (wine or sake pairing with each dish) - so good!

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  • Olga S.
  • Kensington, NH
  • 4 friends
  • 209 reviews
  • 519 photos
  • Elite ’21

We had the most amazing omakase here! We reserved the chef's table, which gets you a seat at the bar (you don't have to be doing the omakase for this), which you have to do a month or so in advance but is very much worth it. We got a cozy little corner, with the perfect lighting, a great view of the chefs preparing the food, and even the temperature was perfect (usually I freeze in restaurants).

Our waiter was incredibly attentive and happy to explain and recommend, and even let me sample a wine before getting a glass of it (as an aside, the wine pours are very generous). Our 17 course omakase was out of this world amazing. Each plate was a whirlwind of tastes and flavors, and even things I usually don't enjoy so much were made amazing. My favorites were the salmon nigiri, Kyoto style mushrooms, and chocolate foie gras. One of the plates was wagyu beef, which was incredible!

The service, the ambiance, the food, everything was beyond amazing. This is the perfect place for a celebration!

Others will see how you vote!

  • Dan C.
  • Boston, MA
  • 219 friends
  • 17 reviews
  • 5 photos

A top 2 meal of all time for us. We did the Omakase which is about a 20 course meal. I tried to give a letter grade to each dish. Keep in mind an C although is average it would be considered an A at most restaurants.
A+: Wagu Beef- Melts in your mouth
A+: Hamachi
A+: Fried Oyster aioli with black squid ink
A: Salmon with ginger soy
A: Hamachi banana pepper
A: Truffle Potato Chip
A: Pork rib sesame
A-: Toro sashimi
B+: Shrimp Salatra
B+: Suziki Sea Bass
B+: Mushroom Nigiri
B: Jack Fish Coconut Cream
B: Omelette Role
B: Desert
B: Oyster
B-: Maguro Tuna
C: Trout with Leaf

Sorry we forgot a few dishes, but truly you cannot go wrong if you select the Omakase. As for the drinks, we stuck with a bottle of wine, so unfortunately we cannot share any extra details on the alcohol.

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  • Ray Y.
  • Boston, MA
  • 32 friends
  • 421 reviews
  • 821 photos

I am very picky and strict with restaurants at this level. However, it did not give me a chance. This place earns its five star rate among other Michelin restaurants.

First of all, I will talk about the service. I ordered sake. The restaurant served me with multiple frozen cups and let me pick what my favorite choice was. In addition, they provide me an extra menu and a pen to mark down what I had. I am very satisfied about this. BTW the menu is daily printed.

Then let's discuss the food.

Traditional Japanese dishes are well cooked. For example, I ordered salmon and salmon belly separately on purpose since there is a huge difference between them. The cook fairly illustrated the differences. To enhance the oily taste of the belly, they even use sesame oil to enhance the fatty taste.

Summer truffle sake butter sushi is very creative. This is not a traditional Japanese dish. Truffle and sliced butter are used as sushi ingredients. A fresh taste comes from this dish. This is completely a successful French-Japanese style dish.

Another dish I want to point out is the Somen noodles. It does not look spicy but it is spicy. More importantly the fried squid comes with it is only slightly fried which is not greasy but crispy on the surface.

Chawanmushi is another creative dish. It is unbelievable they use foie powder and chicken skin crunch to on the top of the steamed egg.

Foie gras sushi as a combined style dish is creative and successful. Instead of using sour sauce to decrease the greasy taste, they use balsamic chocolate to enhance the greasy and sweet taste.

As for the dessert, chrysanthemum sugar is used for fried doughnuts!

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  • Tylee S.
  • San Francisco, CA
  • 174 friends
  • 147 reviews
  • 290 photos
  • Elite ’21

This place is amazing - truly a sushi connoisseur's heaven. The reservations fill up early and they charge a cancellation fee if you're unable to cancel within 24 hours. It's definitely worth it for a special occasion.

The food - my favorite was the final piece with dark chocolate foie gras with the dessert sake, but the king salmon sashimi with microgreens (pictured) was savory and amazing. I also included pictures of the A5 Wagyu on a potato (sorry, my descriptors aren't nearly as elegant as the menu) which was cooked perfectly.

The service - super attentive and knowledgeable about where everything was sourced from. Normally I'm not too interested, but Japanese fish always has a great story, so I'd definitely recommend asking your waiter to enhance the experience. We sat at the bar where we got to see the making all the dishes and it's truly an art.

The price - probably the most we've ever spent on an omakase and we didn't even get the "grand one". You think at the beginning that it won't fill you up, but all the tiny bits add up and it comes out at a rate that helps you pace yourself. We came hungry and by the end of the meal, we were comfortably full. I'd recommend not coming famished because then you aren't able to savor and taste each bite if you're too hungry and shoving it down rapidly.

All in all - if you love sushi and appreciate it as an art form and have $ to spend, this place is for you! Go with the mindset of it being an experience instead of just another meal and take advantage of the waiter's expertise on sushi. If you just like California rolls or even just basic $2 happy hour sushi and can't taste the difference, avoid this place.

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  • Marisa C.
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • 408 friends
  • 170 reviews
  • 699 photos
  • Elite ’21

Imaginative. Quality. Unmatched non-traditional flavor combinations. Best sushi experience I've ever had!! I am so thankful we were able to make a reservation for 5 to enjoy the exquisite food, service and atmosphere. We chose to order each dish a la carte our waitress was kind enough to modify the portions of each dish to allow each person to receive a bite. Each dish contained uniquely combined ingredients to create a modern appeal full of flavor and varying textures. The recommended wine pairings were pleasant and well-suited to compliment the courses we ordered.

When walking into the restaurant you are greeted with dim lights, a relaxed ambiance and industrial chic decor. Surprisingly the restaurant is much smaller than anticipated with enough seats to fit

30 people. Our waitress guided us to our seats while eagerly waiting to explain the menu and answer any questions. She was knowledgeable, helpful and had great taste. We ordered around 20 items, more details listed below! Each dish was modern and ingenious, allowing us to have a novel sushi experience.

HIGHLIGHT--A must order item is the *ORA KING SALMON with unfiltered wheat soy moromi and onion flower. The salmon had a buttery texture which melted in your mouth. The subtle flavors perfectly balanced each other making one bite a delicious amazing experience. If I ever visit this restaurant again, I'd make a meal out of this single item. It was absolutely wonderful!!
*= A MUST ORDER ITEM!

*FRIED KUMAMOTO OYSTER| yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles--Exquisite. Inventive. The spice from the yuzu kosho provided a delightful flavor, while the squid ink bubbles provided a fun texture.

KARIKARI CRISPY SESAME CHICKEN SKIN| yuzu honey pickled ginger with foi gras powder--Extremely interesting. Unfortunately, there were too many sesame seeds for my taste, which felt a little over-powering.

*BLUEFIN MAGURO| Republic of Georgia herb sauce-- Would definitely order this again! The herb sauce was slightly spice and not overpowering. It complimented the beautiful fresh piece of tuna well.

WILD SPOT PRAWN| tamarind,habanero and fingerlime-- Good, but not fantastic. The lime and tamarind were a bit overpowering. It has a nice texture.

*HAMACHI BELLY| yuzu-soy marinated sea urchin-- Well-dressed and balanced. The waitress described this as a more "traditional" menu item. I had never tried hamachi belly before, so the fish was a bit tougher than expected.

*M.V. SMOKED BLUEFISH| rainbow trout roe, wasabi vinaigrette and micro celery wrapped with cucumber--This dish was a pleasant surprise. It not only was beautiful, but the smokiness combined with the wasabi vinaigrette provided a desirable flavor. It was as if eating a delicious smoked fish sandwich. Without a doubt, I'd order this item again!

HAMACHI| viet mignonette, Thai basil and shallot-- Good! Basil was a bit over-powering.

BLUEFIN TORO| wasabi and green onion-- Unfortunately, this dish was over-dressed yet still satisfying. The green onion was over-powering. The fish had a beautiful texture

*BLUEFIN CHUTORO| pickeled red onion, ponzu and summer truffle-- ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Another must order item. The combination of acid with salty and earthy notes was scrumptious!!

*MOREL MUSHROOM TEMPURA| kabayaki, truffle salt and yuzu zest-- I love morels and truffle salt. Mushroom lovers, definitely order this item!

*SILKEN TOFU TEMPURA| foraged mushrooms, spring ramps and nasturtium-- I admit my expectations were low, but taking one sip of this broth was a revelation. The tofu was extremely soft and silky soaked in an out of this world savory broth with earthy undertones. Absolutely divine!

SEARED PETIT STRIP LOIN| potato confit and sea salt--Tender and flavorful! One bite was not enough and would recommend ordering it in the future!

*WARM SEARED SPANISH OCTOPUS| squid ink soba, bonito, mentaiko and meyer lemon--Flavors were awesome with perfectly cooked octopus. Honestly I wish they served an entire bowel of octopus without the noodles. It was fabulous! The noodles were great, but not the main event of this dish.

CHARRED KOREAN SHORT RIB| gochujang, nuoc cham and fragrant herb salad--well seasoned with meat falling off the bone. Very satisfying!

*TEA BRINED FRIED POR RIBS| hot sesame oil, honey and scallions-- Delicious! Perfectly cooked with a sweet and savory flavor profile. My favorite type of sauce on ribs. Such a delight to eat! Try them!

MOCHI DONUTS| coated in sugar with caramel sauce--There's something about a warm donut d*ipped in melted caramel that is comforting. A sweet tooth's dream. The mochi donuts also had a nice chewy consistency!

*COCONUT TAPIOCA PUDDING--Well-executed and beautiful!

If you are in Boston feeling the urge to splurge, this restaurant is worth the visit! Be sure to make reservations well in advance :)!

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  • AB H.
  • Brookline, MA
  • 0 friends
  • 563 reviews
  • 22 photos

Best meal we've ever had in Boston, hands down.
First, our server was kind, prompt, and so helpful when ordering. She was awesome.
The food is extraordinary. We had 12 items plus dessert for the four of us. I loved eating one bite at a time.
Legs and Eggs: lobster and caviar: amazing, light, flavorful, with a bit of lemon zest.
The foie gras nigiri: brilliant, the reduction is perfect. Loved the chocolate and balsamic and soy.
Spring ramps: fabulous
Warm eel: warmed just a bit, SO GOOD.
Hamachi Tartare: with tiny flakes of tempura, crunchy goodness. so good.
The whole fish snapper was mild, raw fish slices with skin. It was good, but not my favorite.
Smoked Bluefish: fabulous. salty.
Salmon Belly: holy crap. the quality of the fish, the oil, and the touch of greens. AMAZING.
Foie grad gyoza - good, but not my favorite. it was like a lightly fried dumpling.
pork belly - so delicate. the turnip puree is very rich, lots of cream
shrimp tempura - awesome. they said you could eat the tail shell, but I didn't.
Seaweed salad.
This is not the order they came in, the staff chooses the best order, starting with lighter and moving to more rich. Brilliant.

The bathrooms are downstairs, and I had to take a lift to get there (I use a wheelchair) which I always find annoying, but at least they have accessible bathrooms.

The acoustics are poor. Yes, it's VERY expensive. It was over $500 for the four of us. It's a huge splurge. It is worth it. GO!

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  • Mimi T.
  • Seattle, WA
  • 875 friends
  • 280 reviews
  • 250 photos
  • Elite ’21

Oh yas to O Ya! Having seen this restaurant on Eater before moving to the East Coast, it was definitely near the top of our go-to list. As a celebration, we went with the Grand Tasting Omakase (without the white truffle oil - as much as I love truffle, it doesn't seem necessary), along with 3 extra a la carte items.

These are the courses that we had but it is to note that the menu varies slightly online. To note, the nigiri parts of the menu come with one piece per person, and we found the hot food portions to be larger in comparison to the nigiri and sashimi.
+KUMAMOTO OYSTER
+COBIA
+MAINE SEA URCHIN & OSETRA CAVIAR
+LOCAL SEA BREAM
+LUBINA SEA BASS
+JAPANESE AJI
+TORO HANDROLL
+KYOTO STYLE GOLDEN CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS
+FOIE GRAS
+KONA KAMPACHI
+KONA ABALONE
+SHIMA AJI & SANTA BARBARA SEA URCHIN
+ORA KING SALMON
+BLUEFIN CHUTORO
+BLUEFIN TORO
+ALASKAN KING CRAB SUNOMONO
+MAIN LOBSTER
+CHAWANMUSHI
+TRUFFLED KAGOSHIMA A5 WAGYU SEARED PETIT STRIP LOIN
+FOIE GRAS NIGIRI
+SOMETHING SWEET

For the something sweet, we got a floral sorbet and a homemade chocolate. As for the dishes, the nigiris were tasty and unique! They definitely weren't the "traditional" flavors I've had with sushi but it was amazing in its own sense never thought I would like olives or banana pepper in my sushi! On the other hand, the sashimi, while still tasty, were not as exciting as the nigiri or hot dishes. While still tasty, they didn't blow me away like the others. The hot dishes were delicious but by this point, I was really full, but wish I had more room for these very decadent plates!

On top of our omakase, we had 3 extra a la carte items.
+UNI TOAST: It uses truffle honey with uni on top of a crispy buttery toast, and just an amazing bite. The honey definitely complements the creaminess of the uni.
+HOMEMADE FINGERLING POTATO CHIP: I got this because I absolutely adore potato chips and we got it as a "let's see what a gourmet potato chip tastes like" joke. But it was absolutely amazing. There's a sauce that made it kind of creamy and the truffle is fantastic.
+FOIE GRAS GYOZA: We're definitely foie gras lovers and this was wonderfully decadent. It was a little on the fatty end but it was definitely balanced out by the cleaner flavors of the nigiri and sashimi that we had. Wonderfully delicious!

Honestly, this was too many courses for me, and the grand omakase is already a large amount of food. So if you have smaller appetites, consider doing a la carte. They do give you the menu after the meal and it helps to figure out what you want next time!

The service here is also fantastic. Our waiter was very happy and friendly, and the staff takes your jackets before seating. What was a little strange to us was that the nigiri would be made in front of us, a waiter would take it to the back, where it was then brought to us. However, it didn't bother us immensely (we've been to omakases where the chef hands you the sushi).

All in all, we loved our experience here, and it was a great celebratory meal! After having the omakase, I would consider picking things from the a la carte menu next time. Though, as a first time visit, the grand omakase gave a great first impression and lets you know what to expect on future visits.

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  • Steven B.
  • Boston, MA
  • 41 friends
  • 210 reviews
  • 1229 photos

A lot of people, myself included, think of Oya as a sushi restaurant. And they do specialize more in sushi than most other dishes. However, during this last visit I realized, as a whole, Oya is really a high class Izakaya. It is also important to recognize the fusion or modern element in the cuisine. Many of the dishes have a modern touch typically not seen in traditional style Japanese cuisine. Although the menu does state that most sushi can be traditionally prepared.

Now, there are two options for how to indulge in the menu. One is to have an Omakase the other is to order a la carte. I've done the chef's tasting previously and there are items on the menu I wanted to try that are not included in the tasting, so we decided to order a la carte. Our server recommended that we order around 15 dishes for an la carte experience.

Started off with Miso Soup. Strong broth with clean essence of the ocean. Strong Shiitake flavor was nice in combination with miso. Great way to start the meal.

Kumamoto oyster is clean tasting. The brine from the oyster is great paired with the watermelon pearls and the cucumber. All the flavors hit you at once in a sweet, salty and refreshing experience.

The Bluefin Chutoro, Ora King Salmon , and Hamachi Belly Nigiri are excellent. The fish quality is superb. Soft texture, clean tasting. The fish meat is a pleasure to eat. The rice is properly form and each Nigiri is lightly brushed with a unique sauce and some topped with microgreens. The Chutoro has some marbling and subtle melt in your mouth feeling.

Read carefully what seasoning is on the Nigiri/Sashimi, as some of the seasonings such as truffle oil can detract from the experience rather than enhance it. But all the Nigiri I selected this time were winners.

The only exception is the Eel Nigiri, as it did not have the delicate texture I'd expect. Perhaps the eel was not the best quality. A Nigiri I would not recommend.

As for Sashimi the standouts were Bay Scallops and Ora King Salmon . The scallops were complimented by the truffle slices. The salmon sashimi was topped with cilantro sprouts and has a mix of ginger and sesame oil. Perhaps not the most elegant sashimi, and maybe a little gratuitous in the seasoning, but I enjoyed it.

The Hamachi Tartare is a crowd-pleaser and if you mix in the sauce at the bottom you will get a strong, but balanced ginger complexity with some chile oil adding a nice nuance.

Next up was the Seared Octopus Soba. Topped with bonito flakes, the delicate noodles are smothered in a rich squid ink sauce. Pieces of chewy seared Octopus are coveted if sharing. This is an umami hearty dish that I highly recommend.

The tempura was perhaps a weaker aspect of the meal. We ordered both a mushroom and shrimp tempura. The mushroom tempura has the delicate light coating one expects of tempura. The thick sweet sauce drizzled onto was tasty. But, at the same time, there was nothing about this dish that was particularly interesting. Now, the shrimp tempura was on the heavy side, probably because of the bacon emulsion. But also the coating itself seemed too heavy and greasy. Bacon and truffle emulsion coupled with fried shrimp is a bit unbalanced, even gratuitous.

Korean Shortrib is topped with microgreens. The rib is extremely tender, (I tore it apart with chopsticks), and fatty to the point that the microgreens do not provide enough balance to this dish. The sweetness of the sauce and the melty fattiness of the rib is something fierce. The meat itself is not sophisticated, I think it may suffer from a lack of flavor, something that the sweet glaze tries to mask. Overall extremely indulgent. I like this and would order it again, but it may be too unbalanced for some. I love to eat this alongside a bowl of rice.

The allure of the Onsen Egg is that it takes 45 minutes to prepare. But this was a weaker aspect of the meal. It is a soft-boiled egg, albeit one expertly cooked. Extremely delicate, the yolk has a perfect amount of coagulation. Dashi stock adds needed complexity.

The Foie Gras Sashimi is always given last because it is a perfect way to finish the meal with its sweet and savory nature. An unlikely combination of Foie Gras, rice, seaweed and Cocoa has an incredible balance of sweet, salty, and umami. This is a must try, item. And the sip of Aged Sake is a perfect way to end the meal. The Aged sake is comparable to a port wine. Concentrated, bold yet sweet. I savored each sip.

As a dessert, we got Mochi Doughnuts. The mochi was nice and warm, dipped in crunchy sugar, but most of what you taste is the caramel dip, which has a rich buttery quality. I probably would not order this again.

Again, it is important to recognize that Oya is a not traditional Japanese fare (unless you request traditionally prepared Nigiri/Sashimi) but Japanese Omakase/Izakaya with a modern/fusion element. I am not a fan of fusion food. Regardless, Oya provides a a gastronomic experience that I highly recommend.

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  • Vee V.
  • Saint Paul, MN
  • 311 friends
  • 459 reviews
  • 1040 photos
  • Elite ’21

I'll never forget this meal.

Wow. Some of the best bites of food I've had. There were so many highlights, I'll try to stick to a few.

Uni topped with black caviar was hands down top three bites I've experienced in my foodie existence. Creamy, decadent, buttery, and full of the briny sea flavor you expect from delicious sea urchin. I recently learned that the edible part is the reproductive organ. I feel weird about this, but it wouldn't stop me from eating a tub.

The fingerling potato with black truffle. Holy smokes I didn't think a potato chip on sushi would make me swoon, it was definitely the slice of truffle that took this over the edge.

Salmon with the soy sauce goo left over at the bottom of a tank. Yummy. I'll take more completely cooked down and gooey soy sauce please.

I don't know why there are haters on the egg. That thing was jelly on the outside and cream on the inside. It was yummy.

Service was insanely good.

You should do the tasting menu. Next time I'm back that's what I'm doing.

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  • Katie Y.
  • San Francisco, CA
  • 445 friends
  • 410 reviews
  • 1320 photos
  • Elite ’21

I prefer my sushi to be a little-less inventive, but it seems like it'd be cheating to give O-Ya anything less than 5 stars. We did the Grand Omakase and sat at the chef's counter - is there any other way to do it? The menu was massive, and I mean literally massive. I was actually devastated to learn that I didn't have nearly enough room in my stomach to try everything I had wanted to. Here's the list of dishes that we had (in the Omakase):

- Kumamoto oyster: not a huge oyster person but easily the best oyster I've ever had, probably because it didn't taste like sea-water and was balanced out by all the other stuff that was added inside also funny that we came all the way from Washington just to eat Washington oysters
- Cobia: with banana peppers, tasty and inventive. kind of an unusual flavor but I enjoyed it
- Santa barbara sea urchin and osetra caviar: personally not a huge fan, this was my first time having caviar and wasn't sure what to think about it uni is funky to me. kind of a strange texture and not a super huge fan of the flavor
- Kin medai: to be honest, I don't really remember this one, but it had Japanese plum vinaigrette which was interesting
- Japanese aji
- Toro caviar: love toro, still unsure about caviar
- Kyoto style matsutake mushrooms - mushrooms with truffle?! delicious
- Foie gras: eh, not a huge fan of foie gras, it was okay
- Cape cod scallop: also not a huge fan of raw scallops. but at least it had truffle
- Kona kampachi: jalapeno gave it a cilantro flavor for some reason (thank god I love cilantro)
- Shima aji penang: tasty and easily one of the most creative pieces I've had. obvious Thai flavor with Thai basil and penang curry (and lime)
- Ora king salmon : she said this was flown in from NZ, easily one of the best dishes of the entire course usually not a huge salmon fan but it melted in your mouth.
- Bluefin chutoro
- Alaska king crab sunomono: eh, just kind of tasted like crab to me.
- Cape cod scallop and pressed caviar: the softest scallop I've ever had. still unsure about the caviar on the top
- Faberge onsen egg: soft poached and created with absolute perfection, was decorated in gold flakes and the caviar actually worked wonderfully with this dish. the texture. the flavor. WOW
- Kagoshima A5 waygu seared petit strip loin: I've had my fair share of fancy beef. and this is easily the best I've had and probably the best I ever will have it also featured crispy potato slices underneath the beef that weren't fried. but had a PERFECT crispy texture to them, amazing
- Foie gras nigiri - featuring a chocolate flavor, since this one was cooked it had a different flavor than the first one, it was okay
- Something sweet: some kind of marshmallow concoction, a wonderful texture

We also ordered another piece of sashimi and some crispy pork belly - which was almost 100% fat but wonderful, the sides of it were a little sticky. The service was fantastic, it was the fastest omakase I've ever had. The dishes kept disappearing and reappearing. The waitress introduced every single dish and was very knowledgable with all the questions we had. She said the head chef brought back a lot of the pieces (like some of the dishes) from trips he'd taken to Japan. The fish was obviously amazing, only the ones that are in-season are used, so the menu rotates according to what's in-supply and actually good at that time of the year. O-Ya was much more inventive than I usually like my sushi. Every bite was a surprise of flavors, carefully and thoughtfully chosen to mix together. Some dishes (like the shima aji penang) I'm sure you won't be able to find anywhere else. I'm used to eating sashimi/nigiri with just the fish and a tad bit of wasabi. A few of the pieces were a little too advanced (in terms of ingredients) for me but that's one of the things that makes this place unique.

I'd come back. but only if someone else was paying for it. Easily one of the most expensive meals I've ever had. Oh, we also ordered a couple sake flights - the waitress poured and explained each of the drinks for us.


Pork is My Friend

Much has been written about Boston’s culinary sensation, Tim and Nancy Cushman's O Ya. A relative newcomer, I first gazed upon the words "O Ya" just last year while reading an in-flight magazine, where it showed up on somebody's list as one of the top new restaurants in the world. O Ya's modern-American-Japanese-inspired food is right in my wheelhouse. And given that it is also right in my backyard (well, globally speaking), there was no way I couldn’t go check it out.

I made my way down Boston’s East Street, a tiny, nondescript side street that appears in all ways unremarkable. Tucked away in the heart of downtown, it is less than a minute’s walk from South Station and it’s chaos of frantic commuters, who pass every day, unaware of their brush with culinary magic. A small sign next to a single lantern read “o ya,” with faint Japanese characters in the background. Around the corner, down an even smaller alley, was a weathered wooden door, strikingly reminiscent of Kyoto and its traditional architecture. This had to be it.

I grabbed the smooth handle and pulled it open with nervous anticipation. A funny mix of conflicting emotions came over me – tremendous expectation and its shackled compliment, fear of disappointment. To say that I went to O Ya to eat dinner would be somewhat like saying I went to the Louvre to see some pictures. Or, you remember that Mozart guy, he wrote some nice tunes, didn't he? Could any restaurant live up to the mammoth expectations I had? Would it even be fair to expect one to?

The restaurant was much smaller inside than I was expecting, with just 4 or 5 small tables and a few seats along the sushi bar. It was intimate and cozy, but most surprisingly, it was quite relaxed and casual. Our server, Anna Li (sp? sorry!), was warm and welcoming, and made the evening feel more like I was hanging out at a friend's place rather than- feeling lucky to be allowed into culinary nirvana.

We decided to go the obvious route and ask for the omakase, leaving the selections up to the chef. Same for the sake as well, as the in-house expertise in this arena in particular is well chronicled. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably ready for me to shut up and show you some pictures. So let’s get to it!

A light and fresh way to start things off. I love the creaminess of Kumamotos, which was contrasted nicely with a light vinaigrette. The cucumber added a nice crunch, and it's clean, fresh taste tamed the sweetness of the watermelon. With one bite, I knew the evening was off to a good start.

With our taste buds awakened, we were next treated to an progression of nigiri sushi. And of course, I can't mention sushi without commenting on the preparation of the sushi rice, which was absolutely flawless. Nothing wrankles me more than poorly prepared sumeshi. After all, THAT'S WHAT SUSHI IS! Anyways.

You had me at hamachi, which was briefly torched to add complexity, a technique used on many items at O Ya. Here it accentuatess the oilyness of the fish (a good thing) which helps it stand up to the spiciness of the mousse. Seriously, wow. One of my favorite tastes of the night.

As I tasted this, I instantly thought of a BLT in sushi form. The combination of the fattiness of the salamon and the smoked salt was somewhat remeniscient of bacon. Of course, the tomato and the aioli become the logical accompaniments. What a great idea.

A nice enough take on the traditional grilled eel with eel sauce (kabayaki), but this item didn't quite deliver the flavor that its description suggested. Both Thai basil and sansho (Sichuan peppercorn) pack bright, intense flavors, which I thought would be a nice counterpoint for the sticky sweetness of kabayaki. The potential was high, but these flavors just didn't sing here. The eel itself was nicely cooked.

As soon as this plate was set in front of me, I was hit with the unmistakeable aroma of truffles. Mmmmm. Truffles.

I managed to snap free from my substance induced stupor to actually eat it, and boy was it good. An explosion of truffle flavor coated my mouth and olfactory sensors for the first 3 chews before finally stepping aside to reveal the oily crunch of a beautifully prepared potato crisp. "Oh yeah, there's a potato chip in here too," I remember thinking to myself. And as tasty as it was, I thought it actually worked surprisingly well as a sushi garnish. This was a big hit with our table, and one of the standouts of the night.

A nice bite of wild tuna, simply garnished and briefly hit with the blowtorch. The flavor profile was comparatively straightforward on this one, letting the quality of the tuna show through.

Crispy, briny, creamy, and, well, fried! This bite was perfectly conceived, and as beautiful to look at as it was tasty to eat. This was hands down another group favorite. I could have eaten a dozen of these, called it a night, and gone home happy. Okay, slight exaggeration.

Another nice bite, with a touch of wasabi and shiso to add some zing. This one was good, but not outstanding among the items we had.

And with that, we were done with nigiri and moved on to a selection of sashimi courses. No time was wasted on fluff as we jumped right in and were treated to some beautiful sea urchin, or uni, to start things off.

Okay all you sea urchin haters out there, this is the moment to put your palate to the test once and for all. I defy you not to like this! Shima aji (jackfish) is meaty and bold, a nice contrast for the silky, fruity sea urchin. Nice idea with the cevice vinaigrette - it balances the richness of these two items.

Nothing sends my heart racing with anticipation faster than the o-word. Otoro of course. Uuuhm. What were you thinking? It's impossible for a beautiful slab of prime tuna belly like this not to send shivers down your back. And with a heap of mild onion garnish to cut the fattiness, it did just that. I'm just saying.

I expected a more exotic and powerful burst of flavor, with the yuzu kosho called out. There was a nice lingering spiciness, but overall this one was just okay for me.

Taking a page out of the southeast Asian playbook, these vibrant flavors really enhanced this beautiful hamachi. A little sweet, a little sour, and a little heat to balance out the rich fattiness. And the Thai basil/crispy shallot garnish? So money.

I was greeted by another wafting cloud of heavenly truffles upon arrival of this plate. I would have never thought to combine this group of tastes (which isn't saying much), but they worked beautifully together. Our table was somewhat divided on this dish, but I was firmly in the 'totally love it' camp.

It was time to hit up the back side of the menu and try some cooked items. And as much as I was looking forward to seeing what they could do with a little heat, I was sad to see the end of the sashimi flow.

One bite of this lovely salad, and I was instantly transported to the New England seaside on a hot summer day. Seriously, this reminded me of a sophisticated take on the classic lobster roll. Avocado adds richness in place of heavy mayo, and the cucumber gelee (really more like a pudding) was wonderfully light and soothing.

Our first land dwelling protein of the night packed an explosion of flavor. The crispy exterior added a nice crunch for textural interest to the tender, juicy chicken. I especially loved the lightness of the homemade kimchee.

Nicely grilled, and beautifully complimented with the herb oil and fantastic sesame froth. Mushroom lovers should make sure not to miss this one. For me - I enjoyed it, but couldn't help but think that I could have been eating another piece of sashimi instead.

I've raved before about the magic of Wagyu beef. And I was most greatful to be amazed once again at the richness and full beefy flavor of real Japanese Wagyu. Fresh wasabi was a nice condiment to pair with it - so much more floral and subtle than the fake stuff. The smoked potato was a blast from my past, remeniscient of foil wrapped potatoes cooked on a campfire. It brought a smile to my face.

As nice as the first plate of Wagyu was, this is the one I will lust after to my grave. No matter how much of this I could eat, I would always want the same thing - just one more bite. I warn you - if you are a meat and potatoes kind of person, do not eat this without considering the consequences! Like Neo and the red pill, once you partake, there is no returning to beef innocence and naïveté. Be forewarned.

Saved for the last course of the evening was O Ya's signature dish - one I was looking forward to all night long. Obscenely rich and decadent, seared foie gras was accented with a semisweet, semisalty chocolate/raisin/soy glaze - a beautiful pairing. We all noticed that the rice noticeably cut the richness of the foie. Some at the table were appreciative of this, feeling that foie can be too rich. But for me, it muted the very thing about foie gras I love. Not saying I wouldn't get this again - the taste was phenomenal - I just think it would be even better without the rice.

Dark, intense, and amazingly Port-like, with a raisiny quality that nicely echoed the foie preparation. The color was a deep amber, and it had other flavor components typically derived from storage in wood, despite spending it's full 8 year aging period in stainless. This was truly a remarkable sake, and certainly the most unique one I've ever had.

Reflecting back on the meal, I had some clear favorites. But honestly, even my least favorite was still tasty and delicious and would be a welcome snack on any day. Undoubtedly, the raw ingredients were of superb quality, and the overall experience was excellent.

But nonetheless I have a few nitpicks.

I was a little surprised that there were no special off-menu items that were offered to us, given that we had gone omakase. Of course then there was no 'omakase' per se listed on the menu, though it seemed like a standard request when we asked. Still, a place of this caliber should have some unique one-off specials to throw out from time to time.

I didn't mention them, but we did order several desserts, which in context of the rest of the evening were forgettable. I also thought that they didn't fit stylistically with the rest of the meal. It's a pretty big challenge to make something that can rival foie gras nigiri and the like, but it has to be possible.

It seems like any writeup of O Ya includes an obligatory reference to the cost, so I can't say that I didn't know what to expect. But it was steep for what a cynic might legitimately call a 14 pc. sushi/sashimi combo plus 5 or so 4-bite portions of cooked food. (dodging lightning bolts. ) The meal was served at a leisurely pace but seemed to drag at times. So our 34 bites of food over 3 hours or so averaged out to just over 11 bites per hour. It was not the most filling dinner, to be sure, but I didn't need to binge eat afterwards either.

For the sushi and sashimi items, I really wish I could have had more than one piece of each. They all were so full of such interesting flavor combinations, that just one bite made it tough to make a definitive taste judgement. I really wanted a second bite to confirm the first observation. And maybe a third for pure enjoyment. I know, I really could have doubled up or tripled my order if I wanted to. But I like my house and would like to be able keep it.

Still, I resist the notion that it wasn't worth it, although for the casual diner, I would probably agree. We were served the absolute best ingredients prepared in a thoughtful and artistic manner. The flavor combinations were nicely conceived and unexpected, even if not the pinnacle of innovation. The warm service added to the experience for me as well. I would definitely return again, although I would probably forgo the omakase and take my chances on my own. Several of the items were good enough to warrant a reup, but there are plenty of other things on the menu that caught my eye. I'm guessing that with a couple of friends along for the ride, we could eat a bit less food, drink a lot less sake, spend half the money I did, and still leave happy. Maybe I'd have to skip the Wagyu , but I'm sure glad I got to have it once.

A special thanks to those seated at my end of the table - I'm sure I annoyed you with my slow and deliberate photo taking, slowing you down in the process. A few of the photos turned out quite good, so I hope you think it was worth it!


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Xiao Sichuan - Lunch Heats Up

One of the nice things about southern China is its diversity of food offerings. Many people living in this area have come from surrounding provinces looking for work, in the process creating a market for all varieties of Chinese cuisine. Just around the corner from where I’m staying is a small Sichuan place I’ve wanted to try for some time, Xiao Sichuan. We decided to take a break from drinking at the fire hose of Cantonese food, as we typically do when we come here, and give this place a try.

Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you probably know that Sichuan food is famous for its fiery bite (all apologies to the Geico cavemen). But you may be surprised to know that heat is only half of the equation. “Ma la” is the term that Chinese use to describe the unique blend of capsaicin induced heat in combination with the numbing action of the eponymous Sichuan peppercorn. Not actually related to our old friend black pepper, the Sichuan peppercorn is the flower/seed pod of a variety of prickly ash tree – hence it’s Chinese name, “hua jiao” (flower pepper). It’s assertive, citrusy flavor is just the beginning, as it contains the chemical hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, which causes localized numbness. This tingly sensation together with spicy heat is the hallmark of Sichuan cuisine.

I have to admit that I am not really sure what half of this stuff was, despite my best efforts to find out. So I’ll tell you what I know, but my descriptions are probably going to be pretty lame. One thing I do know quite well though – this food was delicious, and cheap too.

Rich, fatty pork was cooked slowly until meltingly soft was served over a bed of dried preserved leafy greens. This was a nice way to start things out and ease the chili-phoebes in gently, as it was one of the few dishes that wasn’t really spicy.

Loaded with flavor, the lamb was coated in a cumin based spice rub, with just enough hot pepper to give your lips a buzz. The meat was amazingly tender, too. It was really a phenomenal plate of food, probably my favorite of everything we had. I could have pounded down this whole plate.

My second favorite after the lamb, the tender meat was still on the bones, giving us the chance to play barbarian as we devoured these tasty morsels. The taste was really, well, porky - just like pork should taste. I piled up quite the boneyard, but still can’t really explain just what was so unique about this item. But I loved it.

A pile of thinly sliced offal was dressed up with a chili oil sauce, Sichuan peppercorn, some nuts, and cilantro. This is a pretty traditional dish that I’ve even found back in the States. The tongue, despite what you may think (you know who you are), has a nice rich beefy taste, so get over it. The tripe… well, the texture can be off putting. Okay, it is like chewing a rubber band made of cartilage. If you can get past that, the taste is actually pretty mild.

Our table was quite happy with this soup, which featured a whole “water fish,” cut into paper thin slices. Tangy and intense, the broth was infused with mounds of citrusy Sichuan peppercorns. The humongo pile of dried chilies on top looked menacing, but did not overpower the light flavor of the fish. As with many of these dishes, cilantro added its distinctive flavor to the mix.

A version of this dish can be ordered from many restaurants here, but this version is one of the best I’ve had. Despite the fierce looking dried chilies, this dish was actually not that spicy. There has got to be something special seasoning the beans. They tasted a little salty, but there was an overwhelming savory enhanced bean flavor that was totally addicting. Maybe a hit of MSG was used to boost the umami.

The Chinese name for this dish is literally “mouth water chicken.” So does that mean “salivating chicken?” “Chicken saliva?” Or maybe something more innocuous like “mouth watering chicken.” In China, you can never be too sure. Either way, this cold dish was moderately spicy, with those mouth numbing peppercorns once again. It had a distinctive flavor that was a common thread through many of the dishes, but I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what it was.

So this beef was served stir fried with fresh hot peppers, but the heat didn’t stop there. No, no, in the bottom right corner of the plate you can see a dish of crushed red chilies for dipping to taste. Above that was flaming sterno to wave your meat through and add a touch of char before scarfing down. This was another delicious dish, but be careful! The manual chili application may lead the careless diner to OD.

Satisfied with a fantastic lunch, my mind began to wander into 6th grade territory. Yes, in a land already fraught with intestinal challenges for foreign visitors, what would a full meal of searing heat do to a person? Let’s not go there…

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this lunch was the value. Most plates shown were about $4, with just the fish reaching a lofty $9. Beats a happy meal any day of the week.

As spicy as some of the dishes were, I have to admit that I was expecting much worse. I even asked if they toned it down for us westerners, but we were assured that they did not. Although each item individually maxed out at a solid “medium” on the pepper scale, the cumulative effect left a lingering tingly sensation around my lips and tongue. According to one of my Chinese colleagues (a Sichuan native), the food would have been considerably more spicy in her hometown. Here’s to visiting someday - I look forward to the challenge. But in the mean time, whenever I come to Dongguan, I'll be stopping by Xiao Sichuan.


Review: Saus (Boston)

Waffles. Fries. Two things pretty much irresistible to a food. So when I heard of Saus, a place in Boston specializing in both, I had to visit. Saus is located just steps from Quincy Market so it should benefit from a lot of foot traffic. When my friend and I went it was empty so we had plenty of time to peruse the menu and decide what we wanted.

We ordered a regular-sized order of fries to split. In addition to the fries, Saus offers roughly 15 to 20 dipping sauces. We decided to try four: Bacon Parm (bacon and parmesan), Samurai Sauce (Sriracha mayo), Truffle Ketchup and Vampire Slayer (roasted garlic mayo). All of the fries and waffles are made to order, so once we placed our order, the potatoes went into the fryer. They came out hot, golden and crispy.

Were they the best fries I’ve ever had? Probably not, but they were still worth ordering. What really made the difference is the sauces. It’s clear to me that the brains behind Saus took the time to test sauces in deciding what would pair with fries. My two favorite sauces of the night were the Samurai and the Bacon Parm, but they were all good.

After most of our fries were out of the way, our waffles came out piping hot. Saus offers four different waffle toppings (Salted Caramel, Homemade Nutella, Lemon Cream and Berry Berry) and a seasonal topping (when I visited it was Harvest Apple). Since we ordered two waffles, we chose Salted Caramel and the Homemade Nutella. What makes Saus’ waffles insanely delicious is the fact that they use pearl sugar. It really gives the waffles a nice crunch that doesn’t just come from the golden brown waffle itself.

The Homemade Nutella waffle was quite tasty, but Saus’ Nutella has nothing on the real thing. It doesn’t have quite the same chocolate/hazelnut ratio or the consistency of Nutella.

Salted Caramel (top) and Nutella Waffles (bottom)

I will say that the Salted Caramel waffle is one of the best waffles I’ve ever had (sorry, Waffle House Pecan Waffle). The sweet/salty flavor profile has always been one of my favorites and Saus’ salted caramel topping is perfection. One of my biggest pet peeves is when salted caramel isn’t right. Thankfully, Saus got it 100% right.

To me, Saus is street food under a roof. But it’s damn good street food. They have late night hours on the weekend and I can’t imagine the fries and waffles don’t make for some great drunk food. I enjoyed my trip to Saus so much, I wanted to go back, but ran out of time. Add it to your list next time you’re in Boston, it’s already on mine…again.

Saus is steps away from Boston’s Quincy Market at 33 Union Street. The hours vary so visit Saus’ website for details.

Posted by poboylivinrich on October 8, 2011 in Eatin'


Lettucespoon

When my dad came up last weekend to help me move out of Boston, I made an advanced reservation at o ya for two seats at the sushi bar. There aren't too many Japanese restaurants in Boston, so I'm just going to say this straight up: o ya has the best Japanese food in Massachusetts. It's fresh, it's innovative, and it's special. It's located in the middle of nowhere by South Station, but those couple of hours you spend inside will definitely transport you away from the Leather District.

My dad and I settled on the trying the 17-course chef's selection. It seemed the most "affordable" compared to ordering just a la carte or the 20+ course omakase menu. But I promise the $185 was very well spent because each dish is so intricately prepared. All the fish are paired with flavors and seasonings that makes each course unique in taste and presentation. I got a bit worn out in the middle because the sashimi marinades got a bit repetitive, but the chef's nigiri choices were all very impressive and delicious. All I had to tell my waiter was that we liked eating uni, and the following photos document what we were served. I bolded my favorites, so if you ever stop by o ya, be sure to request to try those!


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