Oishi Sushi: "Oh My Precious"
As my post title suggests, the sushi at Oishii is both 'Precious' i.e. EXTREMELY expensive, and just cause for the obsessive/protective glee of Golum in the Lord of the Rings works.
The 2 of us went to the Washington St., Boston Oishii tonight 8PM; the same day that this Oishii received Alison Arnett's rarely-awarded 3 1/2 stars in the Globe review.
It was not crazy packed, but steadily busy, particularly after 9.We were starving; we hadn't had lunch.We sat at the sushi bar and it quickly became obvious to me that NONE of the 5 or 6 very young sushi chefs were Japanese except the head(and older) guy. When i asked for Yama Kake all looked baffled . Getting wind of my request, Chef Ting came over, and said he could make it for me if I liked, but that it was a bit too'normal japanese menu' for Oishii. He served me a beautiful little nouvelle version of it but i needed to ask for more yam (which contributes equally to the maguro in this dish's exquisite experience) and then transfer it into a larger bowl so it could be mixed properly. It was wonderful. and it was $20. it was NOT twice as good as other $10 yamakakes I have had in Boston.
The same was true of my other nigiri and maki- each item was twice the cost of the same item in other sushi restnts(and nigiri prices are by the PIECE, not by the pair.)california maki $11- was the same as any other cal. maki i've had.
However, the quality of the hamachi and unagi and salmon- were all extra special silky lovely. i have never had unagi like this before and i wonder if maybe they prepare it themselves (All other Amer.sushi restnts that I have visited sell unagi that has been sauced and grilled and frozen, which has not kept me from adoring it in the least, but Oichii's unagi had a lightness like none I have had).
I found out that they DO make their own tofu, and its soft light silkiness in the Age Dashi Tofu- made for a very special experience indeed.
The Saku and Tuna with Su-Miso in Kataifi nest- was just super. cubed white tuna (saku), maguro, and yama, all tossed in a bright citrus sauce, in a kataifi nest (the nest was pretty but difficult to eat and not really worth eating .)$18
The Yam Tempura filled Maki was coated with hay-like sweet potato and deep fried. fun and delic. but would benefit from another ingredient i think.
Seaweed Salad , $8, was the same japanese import that you would find anywhere for $1.
The Grilled Black Cod w/ Sweet Miso sauce app.was an absolute knockout in rich clean luscious flavor.$18 Same for the much more common Hamachi Kama- $16.
All kinds of interesting unusual Maki average in the $18 range.Entrees average about $28. Their desserts did not tempt me.
They do not make their ice creams, but they do make their sorbets(mango- yawn).
Four different sakes by the 'carafe'from $7.50- $15; fun to sample but I actually preferred the robust flavor of the least expensive one.
Service was very attentive at first and then she disappeared for the last 1/2 of our meal. The room design/decor did not draw my attention. Though the place was full, it was not loud.
So, I think my lesson- for me- was that Oishii is a place to go for the inventive dishes, not the regular sushi items.When we return , we will NOT be starving, and we will order exclusively from the very extensive menu of unusual offerings.While I'm sure it won't be LESS expensive a meal, at least we won't feel that we were paying twice the price of the same dishes at other excellent sushi restnts. With 2 carafes of sake and the dishes I've mentioned, we walked out, BEFORE tip, minus $200.wow, for our wallets it was a Japanese Jean Louis Palladin.
The Korean market next to Fresh Pond seafood has been gone for a year or so. All the Russian markets in Brookline and Allston (Berezhka, Bazaar, and the other one whoe name I forget) sell seafood salad for, like $4 or $5 a ppound. last time I was in Berezhka, one of the guys form Color was in buyinf 4 quarts of it... ;)
seaweed salad is ubiquitous at japanese/korean stores that have a deli case. and it has a shelf life of FOREVER.
you can buy at: whole foods , the korean store next to fresh pond seafood, kotobukiya in porter exch. there are many other interesting taste/texture cold vegetrn Jap salads as well. the korean store at least has one that i am particularly fond of -made with 'zenmai'(that is a jap word; they don't call it that in korea i guess) or wild fern.
the satoII restnt in stoneham does an inter'g thing w seaweed salad- they mix it with chopped iceberg/romaine and toss it with a good asian dressing. extends it a bit; num num.
by the way, when i said $1, i meant that for the portion size that Oishii serves, $1 would be the price of what you buy retail at a store.
i'm sure evone alrdy knows this, but 'Oishii" means 'delicious' in japnese.
Thanks for the writeup -- sounds like you definitely know your sushi. Curious where you like to go for a regular (and not too expensive) sushi fix?
I tried Oishi at the original location and wasn't blown away, but I didn't go for any of their more interesting rolls.
Lately I've been stopping in at the sushi bar in the Porter Square exchange. It's not great, but it's servicable and it's very reasonable.
I used to go to Blue Fin, the sushi restaurant in Porter Exchange (as opposed to the small bars in the food court), for a cheap sushi fix at least once a month. They have recently significantly raised their prices after the recent renovations, but I do think the quality has also gone up in the meantime.
Interesting. I feel like since the expansion, Blue Fin's food quality ranges from about the same to a small notch worse, although they are putting a little more effort into presentation.
As far as overall chaos factor though, the place has become a complete zoo. They used to be just able to handle demand, but with 20ish extra seats and no extra kitchen/sushi bar space, they've gone over the edge.
I keep hoping they'll figure it out. I really like going here, but it's a little stressful these days.
I agree with you completely. When I went to Tufts Blue Fin was my place to go for a sushi fix. I remember commenting to my friend that in all the many, many times I have been there, it was amazing that I had never had a sub-par meal. I spoke a little too soon b/c that very night it was slightly worse (the rolls were cut very poorly). This was the first time I'd been back since the renovations so I'd have to say that had to be a factor.
As for Oishi, it is my heaven on earth! I've been to Oishi several times and it remains my favorite restaurant for sushi. My boyfriend always goes with me and he has orders the omakase every time (about 6 times to date). Each time it was absolutely amazing (I always steal a few (okay, many) bites from his dishes). Even though it was busy, they completely pamper you when you order the omakase. They do a wonderful job of explaining each dish and the food has always been delicious (and different each time). I really recommend trying this if it is a special occasion/you are willing to pay upwards of $80-$100. If you are on a budget, try sharing a platter of their amazing maki rolls with a friend.
Lastly, I'm going to share my Oishi secret which has kept me sane when trying to beat the crowds. Though they do not take reservations, if you call about 20-30 minutes before you arrive and ask them to put your name on the list, they have always been happy to do so. When I arrive I only have to wait a max of 5-10 minutes. I have only done this in Chestnut Hill, so I cant make any promises for the other locations. Enjoy!!
I love the omakase too.
It's best to get their really nice dishes when you're eating in and can afford it-- basically own their specials and the ones invented by customers-- and stick to lower-priced places when ordering more 'normal' dishes. I've been blown away by the truffles, gold flakes, tasty sauces, and of course the delicate fish and exquisite presentation.
Another secret (well, not so secret...) about the place is that they do do take-out which only applies to those same 'normal' dishes, like their reasonable $10-$15 lunch specials. So you can get it on the go and avoid the lines and the steep prices.
I recommend Cafe Sushi off Harvard Square on Mass Ave, towards Central Square. Don't go on Sundays, as 1. (you probably know) fish is never delivered on Sundays and 2. they have a fridge-cleaning $1 sushi special on Sundays. But on the other days, I've had very decent sushi at decent prices.
I agree with all that the more interesting rolls are the stuff that are "worth it" at Oishii. The best standard stuff I've ever had was in a stall off the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for breakfast... I don't know where to get that kind of freshness around Beantown, but Cafe Sushi will hold me over till my next b-trip to Tokyo.
Great review. I haven't tried the tofu and I will for sure now.
I think these prices are higher than the original location. It was pricey, but if the unusual maki, like the route 66, is coming in around $18 it's much more expensive than it was last time (maybe 4 months ago).
On the seaweed salad note - WHERE can you find good seaweed salad for a buck? If it's out there I'd love to know. I get pretty regular cravings for it.