Shiki Last Night
I hope I'm not breaking any rules here, but I'm reposting as a separate thread what I wrote under the "Where did you go for Valentine's Day" thread so romantically-disinclined Shiki fans can find it. ;-)
I'd say our experience was in line with most of what I've read out here - good to excellent food, spotty (but friendly and apologetic) service.
We arrived promptly for our 8:00 reservation, and found ourselves standing in the doorway with four other couples who'd done the same. Got seated about 8:20, and ordered six small dishes and a small bottle of good sake. Turns out they didn't have one of our choices, so we substituted - no problem.
We got one dish about 20 minutes after ordering (not bad on a crowded night), but then had to wait almost an hour for the next dish to show up. 20 minutes after that three more dishes arrived all at once. The sixth never arrived at all, which was just as well, we were full by then, and they took it off the bill.
As for the food, we had:
Scallop tartare wrapped in smoked salmon - very good, though as at least one poster has mentioned, the strongly-flavored (and truly excellent!) salmon overpowers the scallop, so it's best eaten deconstructed, scallop first.
Fried oysters, a special of the day. They were OK, but not nearly as good as most I've eaten. The coating was surprisingly thick and almost dough-like, covered with panko, and formed into perfect ovals. They were more like little crunchy dumplings with a tiny oyster inside than what I'd normally think of as fried oysters.
Tuna with natto, our least favorite. This was our first time trying natto, and probably our last - it was weirdly sticky, leaving little spiderweb threads of goo all over the place, and had a slightly nauseating taste (yes, I know it's fermented, but it tasted more like half-digested and the flavor lingered in my mouth until I was finally able to get home and brush my teeth), with a texture somewhere between cooked beans and oatmeal. The tuna with it was small bland chunks. This may have been a good version of natto (natto fans please chime in), but if so it's clearly not to our taste.
Things picked up with the arrival of the tonkatsu, a pork loin cutlet (the menu actually reads "poklin") fried perfectly crispy and moist, with a dipping sauce that tasted strongly of pomegranate molasses.
Our last dish was salmon onigiri, a simple but delicious ball of moist rice with a piece of cooked fish in the middle, wrapped in a large sheet of dried seaweed so you can pick it up and eat it by hand.
All in all an enjoyable meal. I really like what they've done with the decor, the space is much warmer and more inviting than when it was Firenze. We'll definitely be back, though probably not on a holiday.
I hesitate to go negative on this place, because the food is exceptional and the staff seems mostly well-meaning, but we have now been several times and had the same experience each time - painfully slow arrival of dishes, at least one of which we find out is not available well after we have ordered, forcing us to reorder and wait even longer. Last time we had to ask three times for a fork for my wife; I actually had to get up and go to the kitchen to plead with them for it after they had brought her dishes out and forgotten the prior two requests. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, but after the last time we may have given up.
this reminds me of the first time i had yamaimo. i saw "mountain potato with egg" on a menu and thought: i love potatoes and eggs. when i got a bowl of slimy white stuff with a raw quail egg on top, i was rather taken aback. i think i tried a tiny bite and gave up. but it, like natto, is an acquired taste and now one of my favorite dishes at shiki is the tuna tartar with yamaimo. the yamaimo is cubed, not grated, in this one and the tuna chunks are larger and, in my experience, always fresh tasting. i've had tuna and natto there too and thought it was fine, although i tend not to order it much since natto is so cheap and relatively easy to buy and have at home.
i guess saying that it's supposed to be really good for your health won't make it any more appetizing for you if you hate the taste. actually, the way i started eating it was in sushi rolls (as in natto and tuna hand rolls). the rice, plus soy sauce and wasabi, tone down the taste and the presentation partially hides the sliminess. not all sushi places have that on the menu but many have natto on hand and can make it (the roll) on request.
I'm a huge natto fan, and I think shiki's is fine, but as mikhail notes, it's not really a dish that shows off their preparation, since they must certainly use a prepackaged natto (so it's cheap and easy to make at home--finding really great natto is not always so easy in boston, but finding reasonably OK natto is easy)
The sauce that comes with tonkatsu is indeed fruit-based (and has a lot of sugar). We've been pleased by their frying technique-- the tonkatsu and kara-age are both nice and crispy, but the meat is still moist inside.
Over a series of visits, we've found their service speed to be quite variable (but still tending towards slow). It's fine by us-- conducive to ordering some drinks and enjoying as things come out periodically over time-- but with such a small space (and diners who may want to hit it up before a movie), I can see that being able to speed things up would be helpful for business.
I have enjoyed lunch twice on weekdays at Shiki. The Kaiseki was wonderful--this is something new to me (I don't know much about Japanese food). The large selection of sakes (with descriptions) impressed. The service was gracious (and leisurely which suited my mood).