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recommendations for a sushi-virgin?

Sushi-loving family will be visiting this weekend. I've never had sushi but am open to trying it but, quite frankly, I have no idea how/what to order. So, I'm hoping someone can recommend some places (we have a car and will mostly in Cambridge and on the North Shore) and what a sushi-shy gal might consider ordering there. Thanks in advance for the help!

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  1. if you're sushi naive, you may want to try maki - a sushi with cooked fish to begin with. try a dragon maki (smoked eel, avocado, rice, seaweed, cucumbers) this is my favorite. you can also try some of the tempura based sushis. try the spider maki - it has fried soft shell crab. the best sushi i've found so far has been at fugakyu in brookline. but its very expensive - $30/person. Oishu is supposed to be even better, but i hear its a hole in the wall. fugakyu is very nicely laid out. check the boards, there are a lot of threads about sushi from people who know more. but i am not a big raw fish fan, so i can speak to the how delicious the "cooked" sushi offerings are.

    3 Replies
    1. re: craveyummyfood

      thanks craveyummyfood. i think it is smart advice for me to stick with the 'cooked' stuff my first time. this is a special occassion so i think splurging on something like fugakyu may be the way to go. thank you!

      1. re: missfoodie

        if you do go to fugakyu, request that chef Hiro-san take care of you (he has his own little counter of a few seats at the end of the sushi bar, on the far right next to the tatami room) if possible, he's the best (and most entertaining if you are able to sit in front of him)

      2. re: craveyummyfood

        maki implies it's a roll, not that it's fish or that it's cooked or not.

        Oishii ... it is better. It's a lot better. The chestnut hill location is really tiny, like you said, but they have a downtown location that is quite a bit bigger, though more expensive.

        $30/person is pretty cheap for good sushi ... I've spent anywhere from $30-80 just by myself.

        As for where to go ... I'd pick any of the following over Fugakyu - Oishii, O Ya, Fish Market, and Douzo.

      3. I don't know how many family members you have, but if you do end up at Fugakyu you can sometimes get a private or semi-private room, which might be nice. I think $30 per person is actually pretty cheap for sushi, and I've generally spent more than that even at Fugakyu, which I wouldn't consider particularly pricey. I would urge you to try at least one raw fish- something nice and light like tuna. It's surprisingly un-fishy, and I'm sure if your family is sushi-lovers they'll be eager to give you a bit of some of theirs. Have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Parsnipity

          those little rooms downstairs at fugakyu seat 6 comfortably, but request it when making a reservation. and yeah, $30 pp is pretty cheap for sushi.

          there are many cooked options, but don't cheat yourself--try some of the simpler raw items. very light flat fishes like fluke are delicious and raw scallop is thinly sliced and amazing.

          you sound open-minded and that's key. enjoy!

        2. Try simple rolls to start with: philadelphia rolls (salmon & cream cheese), spicy tuna, and California rolls. Unagi (bbq eel) is almost impossible to dislike -- it's tender, sweet, and delicious. My parents were horrified by sushi and became converts after eating the things I've listed here. Now they're eating sashimi and raw fish rolls with no problem.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter

            So basically, you're saying that unagi is a gateway sushi?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              I agree with it being a gateway- Unagi was my first love in sushi when I was a kid-and I actually recently introduced my boyfriend to Sushi and he really liked it as well (before he realized what he was eating ;-) )

              1. re: fmcoxe6188

                I know this is a post for another thread, but isn't it rather traditional in many other cultures for the men to eat the most noxious and disgusting of foods and the women to have the better sense? Yet here in Boston, I am constantly amazed by the wimpy palates of so many men. What gives?

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  women in Boston are just that much cooler than women all over the world? That's my incredibly scientific finding :-)

            2. re: Boston_Otter

              Great list for starter rolls, echos what I'd pick for newbies too. I'd also toss in plain cucumber rolls just to get people used to the texture as it can set people off.

            3. I'd recommend salmon (sake) nigiri (a raw slice of fish on a small ball of rice) for a sushi newbie. I never met anyone who doesn't like that! Yellowtail (hamachi) nigiri (not to be confused with yellowfin tuna) is also a crowd pleaser. Both are light, sweet, delicate and not at all fishy.

              If you go to Oishii in Chestnut Hill (just off Route 9, so it is easy to get to from Cambridge), go at ~3-4PM Sat/Sun before the dinner crowd hits to avoid a long wait. It only seats ~14 (only one 4-person table and the rest at the counter), but it is well worth it. It's tiny, but I wouldn't really call it a hole-in-the-wall divey sort of place. Highest customer:employee ratio I've ever seen! They are famous for their rolls.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                all good suggestions, i would also add spicy scallop hand roll (raw), salmon skin hand roll (cooked item), caterpillar roll (cooked item), hamachi usuzukuri (raw, w/ hot sauce), seared or torched o-toro (if they have it), fried aji bone (if they have it)

              2. Seems like this has been suggested but I'll also agree that the easiest way to start sushi is staying with cooked items like unagi (cooked eel), California rolls, even octopus (tako), etc. If you'd like to try raw fish, you should start with milder flavored ones like salmon (sake) or yellowtail (hamachi), and then work up from there. My sister never liked sushi and after 10+ years has at least worked her way up to enjoying the salmon.

                With that being said, if you want to take your sushi-loving family to a Japanese restaurant, you should be able to find plenty of non-sushi options at most decent Japanese restaurants (unless you choose a sushi only bar). No need to love sushi to have a good meal with your family. You can choose from different rice options (katsu, tempura), noodles, or grilled fish too. Fugyaku, Sakurabana, Oga's all have good, broad menus. I'm not as familiar with N. Shore, but Cambridge is a Japanese food wasteland IMO.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: trufflehound

                    I guess that's true. I tend to think of more actual restaurant than food stalls, but some in the food court are decent to good. Maybe just me, but even in the food court, there isn't something I'd particularly go out of my way for. Cafe Mami was the closest if I was craving hamburg or maybe the Japonaise bakery stall if I want some sweets, but otherwise I think there's better Japanese food elsewhere.

                    1. re: kobuta

                      Bluefin at the Porter Exchange has been quite good in the past couple years. Better than I remember it being, say, ten years ago. As always, order from the specials as much as possible.

                1. If you are going to be spending time north of Boston, you should add Sushi Island to the list of possible destinations.

                  1. I heartily second Sushi Island in Wakefield center. Japanese owned and operated by Kenji-san. Excellent sushi and sashimi and good cooked choices too for the non-sushi folks. Try thee Hamacjhi Kama which is a grilled portion of Yellow Tail Tuna. Order it shio-yaki (salt broiled style). It is excellent. Kenji-san imports some specialtyt items directly from the famous Tsujiki fish market in Tokyo.

                    1. Hmmm. I see lots of recommendations but they seem somewhat exotic for a first-timer. e.g. unagi

                      Avocado sushi is an easy one. Tamago (cooked egg) is another. Tuna sushi is also especially in combination with avocado. Shrimp tempura sushi is another. And of course, the california roll.

                      After that intro, I'd try the more adventurous.

                      Places to try:

                      Kotobukiya Sushi - Cambridge
                      Toraya - Arlington
                      Sushi Island - Wakefield
                      Toki - Allston
                      Oishii Sushi - Chestnut Hill
                      Blue Fin - Middleton (north shore)

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: robertlf

                        A third for Sushi Island. And if you go, one thing you might consider if you are a little adventurous is to do omakase (chef''s choice) and just tell the chef it is your first time. You'll get one piece at a time and you can see what you think.

                        1. re: drbangha

                          I will definetly be trying omakase at Sushi Island soon. (Just gotta get back to normal after having my gallbladder out last week. My system is getting used to it.) I have driven by there but never eaten there. Usually a couple of us go over to Mandarin Reading for the lunch buffet. It's reasonably priced and offers some basic sushi, I have always been fascinated by the little sushi bar thats on the left as you walk in. I love watching them make it. Hearing so many good things about Sushi Island I am eager to try it.
                          One question for anyone who has done omakase at Sushi Island-How much was it per person? Thanks.

                          1. re: hhookk

                            i've done it and you can just tell the Itame how much you want to spend on the sushi. i think that $75-$100 pp would give him the greatest latitude and you the widest selection.

                            1. re: ScubaSteve

                              Is is common practice to tell him how much you want to spend before hand? I don't want to insult him or anything.

                              1. re: hhookk

                                no. not at all.
                                they may even ask you for how much you want to spend as well as likes/dislikes.

                        2. re: robertlf

                          Is Blue Fin the one right on Route 114 across from Daleys Pub?

                        3. If you are open to trying sushi, I would let your sushi loving family order for you. Sushi is most fun and enjoyable when someone who really knows sushi orders a number of different rolls and pieces for the table. I think rolls are a particularly good way to get initiated into sushi and once you get used to the taste and texture to move up to pieces. For a more reasonably prices sushi spot, try Seiyo in the South End. Oishii is very good but it can be pricey. I also really like Fugukyu and agree with all the recommendations here- try and get one of their cute little rooms. Also, if you get there early, you can sit at the sushi bar and watch some of the offering come by. I also want to put a plug in for two appetizers- if you go to Fugukyu- the eggplant with miso is so yummy. At Oishii, the black cod with miso is also divine. Enjoy! (As a pregnant diner, I must say that sushi is the food that I miss most of all).

                          1. SHRIMP TEMPORA IS DELISCIOUS!

                            ALSO TRY FIN'S ON CHESTNUT HILL AVE IN BRIGHTON.

                            1 Reply
                            1. probably too late for your meal, but you might want to avoid items with mayo pre-mixed in, such as sake aburi (seared salmon on top of a small ball of crabstick/mayo/tempura bits salad) as you don't know how long the mix might have been sitting around. items where you see them add mayo in front of you are probably less risky. if you are looking for cooked, some places will also do a "dynamite" or coquille sort of preparation where they put seafood (e.g. crab or scallops) in a shell with a mayo-based sauce on top and bake it, not really sushi but can be a good side dish if you need some variety

                              1. Anyone have any thoughts about Sake on Route 1 Saugus across from The Hilltop? I have always wanted to try that place. Is it worth it? Thanks.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: hhookk

                                  It is fine- we've been a couple of times and it was good, not great. But it is fairly reasonable and seems always busy. I'll note that my wife walked into the vestibule before we had read any reviews and based on the appearance of the carpet just couldn't do it. But once you get inside it is perfectly clean. If we are in the area we will go again.