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Jun 22, 2009 11:59 PM

authentic non sushi Japanese restaurants

Does anyone know if there are any authentic non sushi Japanese restaurants besides Shiki in the Boston area.

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  1. Shiki serves sushi and snobby service... Mentei on Gloucester St. Boston serves ramen and other dishes. Porter Sq. exchange building has many non-sushi Japanese restaurants: Tampopo, Ittyo, Sapporo Ramen, Cafe Mami. Toki Shabu Shabu in Allston.

    Also, Beard Papa at Quincy Market is a Japanese pastry chain. Cafe Japonaise in Brookline.

    4 Replies
    1. re: robertlf

      I think Beard Papa has closed shop at Quincy Market. There is a Japanese bakery in Brookline a few blocks past Simmons College.

      1. re: robertlf

        I like Shiki and never had anything but great service there. See a recent post by me on their Kaiseki.

        Ken's Ramen in the Super 88 in Allston is my favorite for ramen in the city.

        Mentei, not so great but if you are desperate.

        Porter Sq. is like a little street corner in Japan, fun to go to, though now missing one of the big draws, Kotobukiya.

        Japonaise is worth it for their tiny Japanese sandwiches (though they're way overpriced), curry doughnuts, and a few other japanese pastry/sandwich things.

        Didn't know about Beard Papa...

        Fugakyu has an extensive menu with many non-sushi items. I've had some things from that side, broiled yellowtail collar, chawan mushi. Both of those were pretty good, can't say more because I don't go there often.

        1. re: Zatan

          I agree with robertlf, the staff at Shiki make me feel uncomfortable.

          1. re: Luther

            i've only been to shiki twice, but both times their service has been excellent.

      2. Sake on Route 1 N is a Japanese restaurant.

        1 Reply
        1. We love the service at Shiki - they can sometimes be a bit scarce, but they'll bring you shiokara without batting an eyelid.

          I agree with the above, Ken's and the Porter Sq shops seem to be the main places in town that might remind one of a Japanese neighborhood spot.... Some of the Korean places on Harvard in Allston and Brookline do serve curry and tonkatsu, but I stick to the Korean, so I can't say if any of them are good for curry.

          And it's kinda sad to hear about Beard Papa! I like Japonaise better anyway so I hadn't been in eons (the Boston Beard Papa always seemed to be a pale imitation of ones elsewhere), but it's never bad to have extra places around for cream puffs :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: another_adam

            Yah, that beard papa always seemed a half-hearted effort, but I'm sad at it's loss nonetheless. Japonaise blows it (and any other Beard Papa) away anyhow.

          2. All the restaurants you guys have mentioned seem to have pretty meager menus and not that much variety. Does anyone know of any places that have more depth to their menus?

            7 Replies
            1. re: unamuno

              I'm not really sure what you mean, but think that's a rather unfair comment.

              Shiki, for example, has a quite extensive menu, including a small sushi/sashimi section but mostly non sushi dishes, including a number of very creative dishes. I found the service there very nice but unbearably slow. I love the place, but don't go there in a hurry.

              As has been mentioned previously, Mentei is an authentic Japanese restaurant in the Back Bay, featuring a wide variety of noodles and rice plates. I'm not a big fan of ramen noodles, but I enjoyed the other offerings at Mentei more than at Ken's Ramen.

              Then there are the variety of small Japanese restaurants in the Porter Exchange Mall, which serve a wide variety of inexpensive Japanese foods, including noodles, soups, tempura, katsu, sushi, and more.

              Some other restaurants, notably Oishii, O Ya and Oga's have a number of cooked dishes in addition to extensive sushi offerings. Oishii Boston in particularly has a very long set of cooked dishes. Toraya also has a number cooked dishes, with particularly excellent beef tongue and ohitashi (spinach with sesame).

              While I personally think Boston could use more high-end, authentic Japanese food, there are definitely some wonderful places here. I wouldn't call the offerings at the best of them meager at all.

                1. re: lipoff

                  What I mean is that all the places that have been mentioned seem to have variations on what pretty much all Japanese restaurants have. For example tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki, katsu noodle soups and so on.

                  Maybe the food in the places that have been mentioned have a great unique quality from the masses of Japanese restaurants, I don't know. All what I'm saying is by looking at the menus they don't look all that special

                  If you would like to see some Japanese restaurants' menus that have far more depth then the ones that have been mentioned, then check out the following menus in some of the places I've been to in NYC. Aburiya kinnoseke, Yakitori toto, Sakagura, Ariyoshi on E. 53rd St.

                  Oishii and O Ya are both very unauthentic especially O Ya

                  1. re: unamuno

                    Thank you for the clarification.

                    I would say say a few things:

                    First, I wish very much for a place like Yakitori Totto or Yakitori Taisho in Boston.

                    Second, I would say that each of the best of the Japanese restaurants mentioned above has some special unique qualities. For example, I mentioned a few special cooked dishes at Toraya. I would say of the small restaurants in Porter Exchange my favourite is Ittyo. While you couldn't necessarily tell from the menu, certain dishes, such as goma tofu and yasai soba have a really outstanding quality to them. To be fair, Ittyo is not a high end place. Those who love ramen noodles seem to really find something special at Ken's. I loved the rice plates at Mentei. These are obviously different than the Americanized Japanese food (i.e. sweet Teriyaki) that one finds at the "masses" of Japanese restaurants.

                    Third, could you explain in what way you find Oishii and O Ya to be inauthentic? I hope you don't mean that they are inauthentic because they are not owned by Japanese people. When one asks for authentic but unique food, one is walking a fine line --- what does it mean to be authentic if you are creating new and unique dishes out of your own mind? I would answer that it means creating new and unique dishes that respect the essential features of a culinary tradition, even if they may incorporate some ingredients or ideas that are distinctly outside that culinary tradition. I have had many such meals at restaurants in Japan, and I fail to see how Oishii or O Ya are any different.

                    1. re: lipoff

                      I think Oiishi and O Ya fail to capture the true spirit of Japanese food thus making them inauthentic.

                      I think Oiishi misses a lot of the gentle subtleties that make true Japanese food so special. I also think the food is way too grandiose (this seems to happen whenever Chinese people are cooking Japanese food) to be called authentic Japanese food. However I must admit the quality of the sushi is excellent. I also think Oiishi's ultra modern sterile decor is very unjapanese and I don't mean that because they don't have some cheesy lanterns and Japanese art.

                      Aside from what I already said about O Ya, I think they have way too much wagyu beef. Whenever a fine dining or high end Japanese restaurant wants to have a Japanese entree, they always put wagyu beef on the menu. As if that is the only special thing in the Japanese cuisine. Pure ignorance.

                      AS I'm sure you are aware of, wagyu is not used all that often in Japan.

                2. re: unamuno

                  I've found that as a menu size gets over 2-3 pages then the length tends to be inversely proportional to the quality of the meal.

                  What exactly are you looking for?

                  On another note, I've always felt that O Ya had a pretty solid non-sushi menu ...

                  1. re: unamuno

                    Yeah, I tend to have the inverse complaint about the local scene, not just about Japanese places, but maybe about them a little more than average: too many options, not enough specialization. I think what's really missing here is an assortment of little hole in the wall places that serve just unagi, or just spaghetti, or just curry, or just yakitori. And *not sushi*. (I think this may be related to the fact that many Japanese restaurants around town seem to be run by owners from countries other than Japan, so my guess is that they have opened Japanese restaurants to capitalize on the popularity of sushi, as compared with the estimated popularity of their native cuisine.)

                    I do think that in spite of the fact that they have the compulsory sushi menu, Shiki is probably the best around in terms of things that are not sushi, ramen, or yoshoku.