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Dec 25, 2007 05:24 AM

Toraya - the hidden gem

I was warned by a friend not to "spread the word" on this place, but I can't help it. Out on Mass Ave. in Arlington, Toraya was a real find, excellent sushi and Japanese food, very "down home" feel. I'd put the quality of the sushi right up there with Oishii, though the menu tends to be a bit more straightforward: nothing with macadamia nuts on the menu at Toraya. The fish was very, very fresh, and the rice perfectly seasoned (which matters a lot in my book).

Started with the agedashi tofu which was *superb* -- four squares of fried tofu in a wonderfully savory broth topped with tiny mushrooms and grated daikon. I'd go back to Toraya just for this dish. Scallop sashimi was subtle and sweet. Went for various kinds of sushi: squid, toro, salmon, unagi, hamachi, etc. -- everything was great. No need for soy sauce or wasabi here. The only roll we tried was a spicy tuna and cucumber roll -- very nice, although the spicy mayo tends to overwhelm the fish, and with sushi this good it's not necessary.

For non-sushi eaters they have a number of entrees on the menu (tempura, tonkatsu, and the like); based on the agedashi tofu I'd say the kitchen can do as well as the sushi bar. They have a few beers and a nice selection of a dozen or so sakes. The only downside is that the interior is a little grubby -- not a place I'd want to go on a date for example. If they put some money into sprucing up the interior they would probably see lines forming each night ... for now it's nice to know there's a place where you can get great sushi without a wait. Just don't spread the word, OK?

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  1. I concur - it's my favorite place North of Cambridge to go for sushi. They do a nice fried lotus root appetizer with asparagus, I think, that is also great.

    1. Not only is the sushi good, it is incredibly consistently good -- my highest compliment for a restaurant. The kitchen also does a very nice job, as you note -- the agadashi tofu is a favorite of mine too, as is a miso-coated salmon wrapped in banana leaves. The last time I was there at the sushi bar I was chatting with a man who used to live in Japan and he said that this was the place in the Boston area which reminded him most of being in Japan.

      1. Thanks for the tip... I disagree with your friend's view. We all want places like this to succeed. Tell everyone. That way it will (hopefully) be there 5-10+ years from now.

        Too many off the beaten track tiny gems fade away for lack of enough business.

        Will definitely check it out.

        1. Toraya is my favorite local sushi place, although I am still trying to get out to Sushi Island. It does regular business with a loyal following and they are hardworking folks, so I don't think there is a risk of going out of business, but none of its fans here hold back on suggesting it. It doesn't get the Arlington Center foot traffic, though, which keeps it as"hidden gem"... although given the proximity to Blue Ribbon I am quite surprised Striper Guy has never been. The Armenian market next door has a surprising array of goods for its size (always worth a look in their chest freezer), although not as fresh as Arax.

          2 Replies
          1. re: itaunas

            Sushi Island, awesome place. Haven't been for a while, but I enjoyed every bite. The chefs prep is what you'd expect from a great sushi house.

            1. re: itaunas

              Hey Itaunas... if I head out that way it is only with pork products on my mind...

              Guess I might have to add sushi to the list.

            2. How does it compare to Oishii in Chestnut Hill, pricewise?

              1 Reply
              1. re: sheila

                Hmmm, cheaper, to be sure. We didn't ask but I'd be surprised if Toraya did a $100 per head omekase the way Oishii in CH does. IIRC the prices at Toraya are pretty standard sushi joint prices, not much different than, say, Bluefin.