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Sato No Mo' !!; Sushi Island Here We Come; Report, Wakefield 11/28/06

opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 02:42 AM

was it you, sal, who steered CHs to this place? well, whoever posted on island sushi recently, Thank You, Thank You, genuflect, genuflect!
FINALLY i have a sh---eating grin on my face because of some SUPERB sushi. i can't tell you how mellow and happy i feel;"shirawasen" as the japanese say.

of #1 importance- this chef/owner was formerly the talented but cantankerous employee-sushi chef at takeshima in cool. corner; ending an 8? yr run there 9 yrs ago. ownership suits him and he is a much friendlier fellow now; genuinely happy to serve sushi to passionate sushi lovers.

#2 - FYI: i am not a young american sushi neophyte who is bedazzled by spicy tuna rolls. i like superb TRADITIONAL authentically japanese sushi. and sushi island has it in spades, PLUS some v unusual traditional specialties.(BTW, I am not saying this to be snobbish; but rather, so that you know that americanizd maki creations are not what i look for in great sushi, and so you won't hear me talking about them.) tonight i had the best hamachi and unagi i have ever had in boston.
and that includes the new oishii and douzo, about both of which i posted long reports last month. the super white tuna (escolar) was also impeccable. the yamakake and agidashitofu were both terrific.the agedashitofu was wonderfully creamy tofu cubes, deep fried crispy and served in a shoyu-touched dashi broth, richer than other Boston versions i've enjoyed.
the 'special spinach', with a sweetish thick sesame sauce similar to the 'gomae' at takeshima, is a fav spinach preparation of ours.

new delights: monkfish liver, steamed, sliced and served cold in ponzu sauce. this was one of the biggest "WOW!!!"s of the night. it tastes a little like salmon. it is russet orange and the rich and silky texture of foie gras (yes, both ARE liver, but i'm guessing that these monkfish are not penned and force fed- but who knows? i'll have to ask next time....) Anyway, Sensai Junji says that season plays a big part in the quality of the monkfish liver, and now is a v good season for it. just amazing- do seek it out!

other specials: spanish mackerel (more like hamachi than regular mackerel); marinated squid w cod roe,and more.

the soft shell crab maki was also first rate(though it is an american phenomenon.)

at 7:30 on a wed. night, tonight, the sushi bar was 1/4full; just 3 couples. service for sake and d's non-sushi food was o.k. but not attentive enough for sake refills. but really, most of our service-attention was on our sushi chef, and obviously we were thrilled in that realm.

note- the chef/owner's wife is a jazz singer and her band plays at sushi island a few nights a week. parking not an issue.

what a delight. i can't believe that we have the good fortune to have our new 'go-to' place 10 minutes from home, AND with the best sushi i've had in boston!! hoorah and thank you to sushi island and the CHs who guided us there!!

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  1. steinpilz RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 03:32 AM

    Sounds like a really great place and I'm planning a road trip. BTW, I think it's Sushi Island -- I saved the link when this was mentioned earlier this week:

    http://www.sushiisland.us/

    3 Replies
    1. re: steinpilz
      opinionatedchef RE: steinpilz Nov 30, 2006 03:41 AM

      stein, thanks for catching that; i've corrected it!! boy are you in for a treat! make sure you post and spread the word!

      1. re: opinionatedchef
        steinpilz RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 04:01 AM

        I've seen monkfish liver at one of the fishmarkets in Cambridge (New Deal?) and have wanted to try it in a restaurant, so I'm very much looking forward to that. The mackerel (one of my big favs along with uni and hamachi) and the tofu, as well as everything else, also sound very good. Thanks.

        1. re: steinpilz
          opinionatedchef RE: steinpilz Nov 30, 2006 04:14 AM

          wow, avail in a fish market. cool; have to pursue that. and then find a recipe!! thank YOU for that heads up.

    2. Food4Thought RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 11:35 AM

      I knew you would appreciate the quality, even tho' it might mean an additional 10 minute drive when you are exhausted. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      I have been curious about the monkfish liver so I'll have to check that out. Last time I was in the Chef reccomended the Spanish Mackerel and the Uni which were luscious.

      1. macca RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 12:44 PM

        Yup- it is great. Hardly ever go there, as most of my DC are not crazy about sushi. I came to love it after travelling to Japan years ago. I usually go to a small place in next door melrose and get to go orders to satisfy my cravings.
        The Duck Walk is right next door to Sushi Island, and has great Thai food. Give it a try sometime.

        1. Chris VR RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 01:52 PM

          I first went there about 6 years ago when the Boston Sushi Society organized an outing and it was in a teeeeny storefront on Princess St. It seemed like a long and confusing trek up from where I lived in Brookline at the time but that monkfish liver made it all worthwhile.

          Since then, I've moved closer, they've moved to bigger digs and one of his chefs started his own place in Melrose (Sushi Corner). Sushi Island still remains the place I always go to when I want a consistently great meal. I've never been disappointed.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Chris VR
            macca RE: Chris VR Nov 30, 2006 02:30 PM

            Yup- Sushi Corner in Melrose is my place to go, too. I always get take out, as in my circle, I am alone in loving sushi. I probably should just go out and enjoy it alone at Sushi Island or Sushi Corner ( though Sushi Island has a more upscale atmosphere, for sure!)

            1. re: Chris VR
              opinionatedchef RE: Chris VR Nov 30, 2006 03:45 PM

              chris, do tell us about this sushi soc.!

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                Chris VR RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 05:04 PM

                Well it's a mailing list where we discussed sushi tips and planned the occasional excursion. It's not active these days (or else I got booted from the email list). More info here:

                http://www.sushiref.com/Socs/Boston/

                but the old BSS webpage is gone- the founder moved away, and asked if anyone else wanted to take the reins and I don't think anyone took him up on that.

                1. re: Chris VR
                  c
                  chash RE: Chris VR Jan 10, 2008 10:24 PM

                  I am putting the Boston Sushi Society list and web pages back together at the address of www.iisc.com/sushi for the web and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Intl-Su... for the new list..

                  BTW: I was not the founder of the list although I did create the web pages and ran the list for 10 years. Charles

                  Charles Richmond

            2. r
              RoyRon RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 02:09 PM

              Hi

              I think I have to take credit for the rec on Sushi Island. I am very pleased to hear that you enjoyed it. I lived in Japan for seven years and have been travelling there for over twenty years now and Sushi Island comes about as close as I have found in the Boston area to sushi in Japan. I wholeheartedly agree with you about "traditional Sushi" as opposed to "Americanized makis". I judge a sushi experience on the place's ability to do the traiditional things well.

              The minkfish liver, called Ankimo in Japanese is a big favorite of minbe and Itamaya-san Junji does it well. Winter is the best season for it and Junji will not even offer it in the summer months. Another house specialty that he does that is not on the menu (you have to ask him for it) is Uni-Tempura. He wraps nori around fresh Uni (Sea Urchin)then dips the roll in a tempura like batter, deep frys it and then slices it into small circles and serves it with a Ponzu type dipping sauce. If you enjoy Uni give this preparation a try. I also like his Uni served with a raw quail egg yolk on the top. He does with both Uni and Tobiko both of which are delicious.

              Overall, Sushi Island is a really great place that is a big hit with all the Japanese visitors my company gets. Plus there is ample parking at no charge.

              1. yumyum RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 02:13 PM

                That's awesome, thanks for posting. I've had monkfish liver in NYC but never seen it on a sushi menu here. OC -- have you been to Toraya in Arlington and how does this compare?

                2 Replies
                1. re: yumyum
                  opinionatedchef RE: yumyum Nov 30, 2006 03:41 PM

                  yumyum, yes on toraya, but, aside from their agedashitofu, which was really wonderful, no reason for me to return. certainly nice fellow and likely best option for arl area.

                  1. re: yumyum
                    r
                    RoyRon RE: yumyum Nov 30, 2006 03:42 PM

                    I have never tried Toraya but have heard from others and people on this board that it is good. Is it run by a Japanese manager? I have never been pleased with places that are run by Chinese or Koreans. I know it is just me but there is something different when a Japanese guy is doing the sushi.

                  2. opinionatedchef RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 03:44 PM

                    royron, thanks so much for all that additional info, and for the orig push. when you mentioned the 'other special' there at SI, I began to read w great antici[ation, but I must tell you, Uni and Nato are NOOOOOTTT for me!!! the only food things japnese I can say that about though!!

                    macca, i am serious, you just contact me anytime and i will meet you there with a big grin!(see my memb pg for email).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                      macca RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 03:46 PM

                      Opinionatedchef- Thanks for the offer. May take you up on it the next time I am craving sushi

                    2. Chris VR RE: opinionatedchef Nov 30, 2006 05:10 PM

                      OK now I've got a craving for ankimo. Anyone who is interested in lunch at 11:30am on Wednesday, December 6th, drop me an email- address is in my profile.

                      1. Food4Thought RE: opinionatedchef Dec 13, 2006 11:08 PM

                        Krikey!!

                        I had lunch there yesterday, I go there pretty regularly, but the above mention of Monkfish liver piqued my interest, I had never had it. I didn't see it offered w/ the Ponzu as described by OC, but I had mine served as nigiri, several disc-like slices on a bed of rice topped w/ chopped scallion with a nori wrap. Delightful, it was indeed like a mild luscious foie gras. I often get the lunch special of 10 pieces of nigiri (of your choosing) and it comes w/ a California roll and miso soup for $16.50, incredible deal especially for the exceptional quality. Portions are not skimpy, I leave there FULL. Another plus, Junji-san is always there during lunch.

                        1. c
                          cervisiam RE: opinionatedchef Feb 23, 2007 12:30 PM

                          ok, i am really crushed. i visited for lunch today, sat at the bar, and ordered an overindulgent selection: aji, hotate (scallop), chutoro, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, and amaebi (spelling? it's large sweet shrimp). i also added on the uni tempura. chutoro was great, yellowtail luscious, white tuna was great. scallop wasn't as sweet as i was hoping for. the uni tempura was prepared as noted above, except it also had tobiko (flying fish roe) rolled into it. it wasn't something i particularly LOVED, so i asked for the uni.

                          when the uni was placed on my plate, i did a double and triple take. the color of it was dark and splotchy, and looked as though it was comprised of the scrapings. i took my chopsticks out and tasted a bit. it wasn't sweet and it wasn't creamy. it was just... meh. almost a little sour taste. so i did the ultimate wimp thing: i waited until junji turned his back, then put both pieces in my napkin and folded it up. i didn't want to shove it down and eat it, but i didn't want to tell him for fear of hurting his feelings (yes, i know, wimpy!!!)

                          i was having such a great meal until the uni showed up, and the last couple pieces of sushi, sake and amaebi, though good, weren't as enjoyable to eat. i couldn't believe it. in my very limited sushi experience, i've never seen uni this dark colored or presented this way. it was just so out of character with everything else. i was too full for anything else, so i politely declined his offer of ankimo.

                          has anyone ever experienced anything similar at sushi island? was it an anomaly? i am coming back to boston next week, and now i'm thinking about going to oishii in chestnut hill. or should i go back again? i just REALLY LOVE UNI!!!!!! :)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cervisiam
                            onefineleo RE: cervisiam Feb 24, 2007 07:33 AM

                            Cervisiam ,
                            I really would suggest that you ASK the owner/sushi chef whenever you have a question
                            and want to learn. In the case of the SI owner, he is a very serious non-smiley kind of guy, so I can see where you wouldn’t just jump in and ask him something you’re uncomfortable with.( I have had his sushi for a very long time, and he doesn’t readily smile, as far as I can tell, ever.) But as serious/forbidding as he may appear, he really enjoys customers who want to learn and try his unusual things (and he KNOWS how few boston sushi bars are offering many of the things he offers- on his specials board.) If you were to start with something like, “I’m just learning about uni. I really like it but it seems to have many different colors and….. Can you tell me about it?” He would be more than happy to share his knowledge with you. Most experts love to expound on their given subject. Also, if you want something that you have heard about (i.e. the monkfish liver with ponzu) or something you want him to create- that you had elsewhere, just ASK for it. I know many sushi lovers who have their own particular unusual items that they ask for wherever they have sushi. In the meantime, hope you go back for more. I rarely get the chance to get over there but I wish I were closer. Oh, try his escolar (“white tuna”) next time.!

                            1. re: onefineleo
                              c
                              cervisiam RE: onefineleo Feb 24, 2007 12:01 PM

                              yes, i had the white tuna-- it was great.

                              btw, anyone know how often they have otoro? they only had toro and chutoro when i went, but i am wondering if they ever get otoro...

                          2. c
                            cervisiam RE: opinionatedchef Feb 23, 2007 12:36 PM

                            a picture of the uni and a picture of the yellowtail

                             
                             
                            1. Suzieg RE: opinionatedchef Feb 23, 2007 12:48 PM

                              Being from Melrose, and previously traveling to Brookline to Takashimi my husb and I were floored when we walked in Sushi Island (at their original location on Princess St in Wakefield) to see Chef Iokee (sp??). We jumped up and down. No more driving to Brookline!!! The best sushi in the area and now especially pleasant in the expanded digs on Main St. - and if you're in the mood for Thai - The Duck Walk next door is pretty good too.

                              1. a
                                asaka1975 RE: opinionatedchef Feb 23, 2007 02:00 PM

                                being from Wakefield I LOVE that I can get great sushi anytime. I just moved to Salem though, and while we have great places to eat here there is nothing like Sushi Island!

                                1. Food4Thought RE: opinionatedchef Feb 23, 2007 05:41 PM

                                  Cervisiam,

                                  Had this been my first visit to SI, I probably would have done something similar with the Uni. However, since I have been going there on a fairly regular basis, I would have pointed out that I was expecting something other from the Uni. I feel pretty certain that the chef's desire to make you happy would override any hurt feelings.

                                  I would defiantly give SI another shot.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Food4Thought
                                    c
                                    cervisiam RE: Food4Thought Feb 24, 2007 04:54 AM

                                    i've always sea urchin that was bright to medium orange, so i wasn't expecting it to look this dark. it totally confused me--when you get the uni there, is it darker? maybe it was just a bad batch? i didn't want to take a chance of eating it and then getting sick, and never eating uni again :)

                                    1. re: cervisiam
                                      steinpilz RE: cervisiam Feb 24, 2007 08:30 AM

                                      I've seen pictures of fresh looking uni that's a rust/red color, but everything I've had is yellow to tan or orange. As it gets old it gets runny and if its bad you'll know it!

                                  2. Food4Thought RE: opinionatedchef Feb 24, 2007 07:03 AM

                                    I should have included a disclaimer in my previous post, I am not a connoisseur of Uni, it is something I try from time to time in order to try to acquire a taste for.

                                    It does seem to range in color from a darker orange to a light yellow, folks who better appreciate Uni have told me the lighter the color, the more mild the flavor. The Uni I have been served at SI was dense,creamy and briny, not kinda "runny" as it appears in your photo. I would think that your particular experience was the exception, not the rule.

                                    There are many others on this board with far more experience than I so, hopefully someone else will chime in with their expertise.

                                    1. r
                                      RoyRon RE: opinionatedchef Feb 26, 2007 06:10 AM

                                      Hi

                                      I am a huge fan of S.i. too and have been going there for over 5 years now. I get frequent buisness clients from Asia and all of them really enjoy the sushi and other food offerings at S.I. One of the things I really like and respect about Junji-san is that if it isn't the absolute best quality he won't serve it. This means that if he can't get high quality toro or chutoro he won't have it on the menu. There are a lot of other Japanese places in the Boston area that have a broader offering but the qulaity and freshness just isn't there. I have only been able to enjoy O-Toro a few times at S.I. because this grade (the best of the best) is hard to come by most of the time because it is the most expensive and many Americans don't enjoy the very fatty flavor and consistency. As for uni, it is among my top three favorites but the quality varies according to the season and the source. Most of the uni served in the Boston area orginates from Maine so we are lucky to have very fresh and high quality uni in most places. But, if it isn't very fresh it starts to get runny and has a very strong iodine taste. If you are a fan of uni the next time you are at S.I. ask Junji-san to make a serving of uni topped with a raw quail egg yolk. In Japan this is sometimes called "stamina" sushi. I also like his uni tempura too which is a maki filled with uni and then deep fried in a tempura batter. He slices it into thin rounds and serves it with a light ponzu sauce, One other menu item I always enjoy is the Agedashi Tofu. These are deep fried squares of tofu served in a flavorfull broth and topped with dried bonita flakes. Eaten with a spoon this is a great dish on a cold winter night.

                                      1. c
                                        cervisiam RE: opinionatedchef Feb 26, 2007 11:37 AM

                                        thank you for all the reassurances about sushi island; i plan to visit again this week for lunch, and hope that i can satisfy my uni craving. :) if not, there's always endless orders of chutoro, and if i'm REALLY lucky, otoro!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: cervisiam
                                          c
                                          cervisiam RE: cervisiam Mar 3, 2007 06:48 AM

                                          i returned again, bringing a more experienced sushi eater friend. the uni looked MUCH better, not as runny as the week before, and i was gently corrected that it was probably maine uni, as opposed to california uni, which i have always been used to. i was told that maine uni has a much earthier, funkier flavor than the california uni. THAT is definitely true!

                                          we ordered the appetizer size of ankimo, which consisted of five or six slices of the liver in ponzu sauce and a bundle of radish. the richness of the liver was balanced out by the radish, and enhanced by saltiness of the ponzu sauce. although liver is not my thing, i was surprised by how tasty the combination of the three items was.

                                          between the two of us, we ordered an assortment of sushi and sashimi: scallop, spicy scallop, white tuna, yellowtail, chutoro, unagi. we also ordered the agedashi dofu as an appetizer. the white tuna was a little 'wet', and some of the rice did not hold together well. the unagi was served cool instead of warm.

                                          bursting at the seams, we ordered one more uni sashimi, and two botan ebi. after we had finished these, junji presented us with hotaru ika (firefly squid, which he had a little difficulty trying to find the word for firefly), which had been lightly steamed and then chilled. they tasted incredible. i think he had waited to see how adventurous we were, and thus 'rewarded' us :)

                                          so, i did enjoy this visit more, but i'm not sure if i would make this a destination when i come back to boston. you can't beat the value, though. i would also like to visit here on a weekend evening.

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          1. re: cervisiam
                                            limster RE: cervisiam Mar 3, 2007 10:04 AM

                                            My experience re: uni seems to be the reverse -- that maine uni tend to have a cleaner, sweeter, custard-like flavour, while Santa Barbara uni tend to have more of a nutty, oceany flavour.

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