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Looking for Japanese recommendations in Boston area

  • b

I've decided I'm going to go on a Japanese diet for a few weeks to lose a few pounds (trust me, it's bound to be lower-calorie than my current diet). But I want to have a tasty time at it.

So what are the Japanese restaurants and sushi bars I should seek out? I already know about Porter Square, but I'd like to branch out. I live in the Harvard Square area right now, but will travel by public transportation! Brookline and places off the Red Line are ideal.

Try to keep it under $30 for dinner and $20 for lunch. Thanks!

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  1. h

    Takeshima on Harvard Street has decent sushi and dinner entrees. It's maybe a block or two north of Coolidge Corner.

    Also, for Japanese hot pot, try Shabu Zen in Chinatown. It's a fun eating experience--you have your food cooked right at your table.

    6 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      I highly recommend against Takeshima. I used to go there a lot in the past, but based on an experience I had this Summer, I'd never go back.

      The total lack of customers on a Saturday evening should've been a red flag, but we went in anyway. The place reeks of rotting fish and there's a distinct odor of urine coming from the back (from the bathrooms, I'd hope). When the staff goes to take a smoke in the alley, the smoke wafts in.

      As far as the food, it ranged from OK to awful. The high-calorie stuff (tempura) was pretty good. The sushi was just plain gross... not fresh at all. I choked down a couple pieces out of politeness but not without worry for my health. Definitely avoid this place.

      1. re: rxrfrx

        That's a shame to hear about Takeshima. Years ago, I think it might have been the only Japanese place in Coolidge Corner, and I used to go there often. I do agree that the quality has gone south somewhat in the past couple of years, but my more recent experiences were nowhere as bad as yours.

        I did notice cigarette smoke coming in from propped-open doors, and couldn't help but wonder what critters were waltzing into the place as well as every time I walked down that side alley to the big parking lot in back, that side door seemed to be propped open.

      2. re: hiddenboston

        As for Shabu Zen, it's fun, but not great. If you've eaten Shabu Shabu in Japan or at more authentic spots (L.A., NYC) - watch out. You'll be disappointed. Food quality is fine, taste is bland. I've been 2X and they didn't offer dipping sauces??!!??

        1. re: pkbos

          Will disagree re Shabu Zen, which is the best shabu place Boston has to offer and is a place I've enjoyed.

          1. re: bachslunch

            i LOVE shabuzen. my friends and i grew up eating shabushabu back in asia and this one is the best boston has to offer. it is much higher quality than most of them you'll find in LA & NYC

          2. re: pkbos

            Shabu Zen is definitely the best shabu in Boston - I have had both better and worse in LA.

            You do have to ask for the sesame dipping sauce, but they are always happy to provide it.

        2. Sushi 21 on Mt. Auburn St., Watertown. #71 bus from Harvard Sq. stops almost in front.

          Link: http://www.sushi-21.com/lunch.php

          1. Check out Umi, on peterborough.... I belive the 55 bus goes right by there, and its right off of the Fenway stop on the D line.

            1. Mr. Sushi in Arlington Center (Bus #77/79 Harvard or Alewife) is reliably good and reasonable. Hana sushi in N. Cambridge is pretty good too, though I haven't been there in the past few months.

              1. Lunch boxes are cheap (12 for sushi, 17 for tons of Sashimi) at Oishii in Chestnut hill and this place by far has the best sushi around. You can get there by D line T to chestnut hill, and a 5 minute walk.

                Also the food in general is amazing.


                4 Replies
                1. re: Tzonis

                  I was gonna say Oishii (great deal for a huge lunch box) but it's not easily accessible from Harvard. Coolidge Corner is easy because of the 66 Bus.

                  If the OP wants to get on the D line, by all means, this a great recommendation.

                  1. re: rxrfrx

                    Oishii is so good that it's probably worth the hassle to take the Green Line to the Chestnut Hill/Longwood stop. It's a tiny place, though, so seating could be tough, depending on when you go.

                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      Will second Oishii in Chestnut Hill, which I think is still the best standard sushi place locally. O-ya, Oishii Boston, and Uni (sashimi only) are excellent for upscale sushi/sashimi.

                  2. re: Tzonis

                    i second oiishi. best sashimi in town

                  3. Sakura Bana on Broad Street in the Financial District. Lunch can be very difficult, because of the business crowd, but dinner is fantastic. Plenty of room, good service, and consistently the freshest sushi in Boston (and I've tried other places for the last 7 years.)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JPAF

                      Agree with the Sakura Bana recommendation. It recently expanded, there is another dining room downstairs now so lunch is not impossible. Dinner is always easy to get seated. Consistently fresh, average to great service, and good prices.

                    2. Gari on Harvard Ave. in Coolidge Corner. Not cheap but impeccably fresh and a good deal at lunch.

                      1. So I suppose there's still no place in town that offers okonomiyaki? Never hurts to ask, but the answer is always no.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          good question. it is SO SAD that boston doenst really have any authentic japanese food except for sushi. i have never heard of okonomiyaki in boston in my past 8 years year. nor do we have yakiniku or yakitori, or good ramen. its so sad. we dont have one restaurant that looks anything like something you'd find in japan. all we have is sushi or porter square. everytime i go to ny, all i crave is japanese food!

                          1. re: kweesee

                            I disagree about the no good ramen: Ken's is outstanding.

                            1. re: kweesee

                              And in addition to Ken's (which I personally find to be decent, though maybe not always outstanding), Shiki in Coolidge Corner has recently been dishing up some izakaya-style fare. Not sure if you count yoshoku places as "authentic" (are you just looking for truly washoku options?), but it's been one bright spot in an otherwise pretty bleak japanese scene...

                              1. re: another_adam

                                Toraya notwithsatnding (I live in Arlington and enjoy it), for even more comprehensive Japanese, try Kyotoya, Montvale Ave., Stoneham. Great sushi, but also a large Japanese menu.

                                1. re: another_adam

                                  i have heard good things about shiki, and my japanese hair stylist loves it too. i will def go try in the near future.

                                  how does ken's compare to the ramen place in porter square. the one in porter is FARRRRR from good ramen you can get in japan. forget japan, even NY or LA

                                  1. re: kweesee

                                    Ken's is way better than the one in porter square (sapporo? I forget which one is which) They have decent miso and shio ramen, and the noodles are generally cooked right. The only thing kind of odd about them is that they're quite slow (they put bowls together methodically, not with the high speed precision of a tokyo ramen shop). I'm not up on the NY ramen scene, but I'd put them on par with above-average places in LA (where, actually, it's not always so easy to find great ramen)

                                    1. re: another_adam

                                      does anyone make their own noodles? (like sobaya in ny)

                            2. Check out the recent Toraya thread. Very good and just outside Arlington Center. Should be pretty accessible by bus.


                              Toraya Restaurant
                              890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                              1. I have to second Kyotoya in Stoneham, great bento boxes at lunch and pretty authentic sushi that won't break the bank for it's location.

                                1. If you don't mind traveling outside Boston, Sushi Island in Wakefield Center is about as good as gets in the area. Impeccably fresh fish with lots of the more traditional Japanese fare. They do excellent tempura and I love their version of Agedashi Dofu. You should also try the Hamachi Kama which is the grilled cheek portion of the Hamachi head. It is really excellent.

                                  1. Fugakyu is one of my favorites and is on Beacon st, just east of Harvard St (I can't believe that nobody has mentioned it yet) Great food, awesome sushi, good bento boxes. The only issue is that it is a little pricey, but not astronomical and it's hard to get in for dinner, but a cinch for lunch.