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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.