O Ya - potentially better than Uni
- limster Mar 9, 2007 05:54 AM
Had an excellent meal at the O Ya. Despite a few opening night kinks in some of the cooking, the food was multifaceted but nuanced and subtle and outstanding on the whole. The meticulously assembled nigiri and sashimi dishes were superior to the cooked dishes from the kitchen. Instead of the Nobu-like dishes at Uni that are now "classics," the dishes at O Ya are of their own. Will post details when I get a chance, but the standouts were the kinmedai sashimi, the daikon "dumplings" with miso-nut filling and the Santa Barbara spot prawn nigiri. Prices are comparable to Uni. Will be exciting to see how this place holds up in the long run.
Have to agree! Just got back, and they were such a friendly, welcoming, gracious couple. Getting a chance to meet and talk to them a bit really ended our fantastic meal on a nice note.
Thanks Limster for your post today. As a fan of Uni, the title caught my eye. I'll do a longer report tomorrow, but immediately after reading your post, I talked E into checking out O Ya tonight.
WOW. More details later, but ordered the three dishes you mentioned (kinmedai sashimi with white soy, ginger, and lemon oil, daikon dumplings, and the Santa Barbara spot prawns), and splurged on lots of others - grilled lobster with shiso tempura and torched tomato, Kurobuta tonkatsu with cabbage-shiso slaw, the chutoro "Peruvian" with aji and cilantro pesto, foie gras with chocolate, lobster cones, onsen slow-cooked egg, the......Also, we ate at the bar, and Akira, Hiro, and Gucci were terrific, as was our server Vinny. Tried a lot of the creative, unique dishes. Very impressed. Really liked the decor too and the unassuming building - felt like we found a hidden secret and a cozy spot. Though it's not a secret (good for them!) - they were pretty much full the whole time we were there. Perfect service from the moment we were greeted and our coats taken, until we left - you'd never know they've only been open two days.
Can't add much to Limster's wonderful comprehensive review below (those daikon dumplings were one of our favorites too), but wanted to mention that Nancy, one of the owners, is a very knowledgeable sake sommelier. Many nice selections, and good recs from our waiter - we started with a sparkling sake I had never had before, then shared a bottle of Hakkaisan Honjozo I think, and were even able to sample a delicious unique 8-year aged sake at the end of our meal.
We got there a bit after 8:30 and there was one two-top open and 3-4 bar seats. By 9:00 it was full and bustling. Price points/portions are similar to Uni. They mentioned that the menu would obviously change daily depending on seasonal ingredients and availability. We also had dessert - I'd recommend the 'mixed berry crumble' with a creamy sake sabayon garnished with tempura bits. I'm not a chocolate fan but E liked his chocolate and dried cherry pudding cake.
Limster - do they have a website or could you post the address? Have a sushi hound coming to town this weekend and this just might be the ticket.
No web site yet, just e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
9 East Street off of Atlantic in Leather District.
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Owners are very nice. Looking forward to trying the place and supporting them.
Three bright, pristine slices of kinmedai (see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/43963... for more about this variety of sea bream) edged with brilliant orange-red skin. Tender, with a mild and delightful gelantinous quality in the texture. The snapper-like flavour is remarkably pure, more proud than regular snapper, enhanced by delicate slivers of shiso and a delicate-tasting ginger. The airy lemon oil rounds up the flavour of the fish, lending a gloss and a richer finish to the fish.
The glistening Santa Barbara spot prawns were vibrantly coloured; impossible to miss in the case at the sushi bar. They are touched with a dab of garlic butter, torched, then finished with white soy, preserved yuzu and tiny leaves of microgreens, a multilayered set of flavours that integrate with the butter, prawn and suggestion of garlic. The prawns were firm and sweet, without any trace of mushiness, the texture transitioning from the cooked surface to the snappy raw body below.
Nuggets of foie gras are perfectly seared - a warm lacquered crust with near liquid centres. They sit on a pedestal of perfectly balanced sushi rice, glutinous, soft, the right aura of vinegar. Around the rice a ribbon of nori. A dense tiny sweet bit of raisin resonates with the foie and the brings it close to balsamic chocolate sauce with just the right bitter chocolate undertones.
Creamy, sweet Santa Barbara uni is lightly torched, placed over a base of rice and nori (a gunkan), carefully dabbed with a sweet soy-based sauce. A very good preparation with high quality uni, but could have used more uni.
The miso-nut filling of the daikon "dumpling" is a revelation -- a mellow nutty flavour against a complex backdrop of miso, and supported by layer after layer of sauces -- nutty, sweet, savoury. A remarkable bite that brings together all kinds of flavours, finished by a refreshing and light daikon that forms the skin of the "dumpling."
Tonkatsu pairs a nice piece of foie gras and a thick cut piece of pork with the faintest possible hint of shy rosiness, a wonderful almostly mlky flavour, tender and juicy, a celebration of pork. The batter around it can be forgiven for being a little soggy, perhaps from the tonkatsu sauce and a very mild apple puree. The shiso cabbage slaw is sharp and clear and pairs beautifully with the pork, reminding me of a shiso maki I once had at a yakitori-ya.
Chicken yakitori rests heavily on the aroma of black truffle slices for deliciousness. The truffle flavour in the celeriac sauce is intense and sexy, but the chicken itself is quite basic, using the right pieces from the thigh but otherwise cut a little too thinly in parts so as to lack maximal succulence.
Shrimp tempura pleasantly surprised with the battered head, but mildly disappointed in the quality of the batter -- I was wishing for something more puffy and light. The shell was deep-fried to a good crunchy texture, but I've had better versions that were even more brittle. I hazard to guess that the oil could have hotter? The bacon truffle emulsion, deliciously hoggish, worked well with the sweet and plump shrimp, the chive oil a bit harder to catch.
The soy mllk blanc mange for dessert -- the essence of soy, intense but not overpowering, set into a custard the density of Greek yogurt. A clever sauce of Thai red tea dotted with Thai basil seeds round it off with remarkable grace.
The strengths, as it seemed to me based on this limited sampling, appears to be on the nigiri and sashimi side of the menu. The seafood looked very appealing in general, especially the dazzling kinmedai and spot prawns. The bluefin chutoro and otoro served were local (with the likely advantage of not been previously frozen). However, I personally prefer the flavour of the Spanish versions, and didn't try these. I do hope they will increase the variety of fish/seafood that they serve, for textural and flavour variations; mirugai (and other clams), saba (if they marinate it themselves) would be great additions.
Thanks for your kind words. I do want to emphasize that it was only a limited sampling of the menu -- would be great if other hounds chime in with details about other dishes when they get the try it. I do hope they tighten the kitchen cooking, but for now, I'll probably focus on the nigiri and sashimi offerings.
I have to concur with most of the posts above.
Quality of the food and preparation were exceptional. We tried a few of limsters recommendations. Hamachi sashimi (owner recommendation) was surprisingly not overwhelmed by a salty/spicy "viet" sauce. A little nuoc cham-esque. Spot prawns were excellent, as was uni nigiri. Also enjoyed the varied sake list - found a nice $30-ish 500-ml sized bottle - nice for two imho.
We thought the service and decor were great. Disagree somewhat with the NY-comparison in another thread. Thought the design and decor was perhaps classier than nobu and more inviting, warmer than Oishii south end. However, do agree on the music issue. Zeppelin is awesome when I'm walking along the river, on a road trip or hanging with buddies. But it did feel out of place and broke the overall mood.
In addition to a couple other items already mentioned, I had the soy-marinated salmon on truffle oil which was swoon-worthy.
All soy sauces, etc., are home-made.
The music last night for the brief period I was there was American pop songs... done in Japanese. I am in the camp that think the room is great. Very "real" feeling; good vibe.
In response to some of the griping in the other thread, I thought the serving sizes were about what you would expect from a place like this. The prices certainly reflected the quality of ingredients and care in presentation. I have not been to Clio, though, so I can't compare in that sense. Have been to Nobu.