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Toraya

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i have never been there; what should I order? My usual plan is to order omakase, chef's choice.

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Toraya Restaurant
890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

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  1. That is exactly the right thing to do. I'd also recommend sitting at the bar.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    3 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      thank you, not just for this post but for all of them.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        MC: we go to Toraya often, but have never done okmakase there. Have you? How much did it end up costing you?

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        Toraya Restaurant
        890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

        1. re: litchick

          when i do omakase; i usually give the server an approximate price and tell them what kinds of things that i want to eat.

      2. Wow, I didn't even know they had omakase (but I also don't eat raw fish. Horror, I know.)

        I do like Toraya. I go there with my parents, who do eat raw fish and enjoy it. Just keep in mind that the restaurant is quite small.

        1. Take a pass on Toraya. pre-sliced fish. overcooked and dry hamachi kama. average agedashi tofu. curt service. worst of all, they tried to pull a bait and switch on me: I ordered the most expensive sake on their list, they brought me a carafe, then when i asked to see the bottle, they were unable to produce it. eventually they admitted that they had substituted a different sake, one not on their list, which wasn't even the same type (honjyozo) as the one I had ordered. and to think that i went 1/2 hr before they opened and waited outside to be sure of getting a seat. maybe a sentimental favorite among some, and maybe the only game in Arlington, but i wont be going back. Even Fugakyu would have been better, and at least honest. or maybe Q in Chinatown.

          31 Replies
          1. re: barleywino

            That stinks. But it's not pre-sliced. I have seen this at very well-known places in NYC however.

            Toraya is good, it's sort of the Japanese equivalent of the recently closed Seoul Food. Reasonably authentic and modest.

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            Toraya Restaurant
            890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

            1. re: tatsu

              i looked in the refrigerated case where they keep the fish and it was all pre-sliced...but perhaps they keep some unsliced down below?

            2. re: barleywino

              your favorites? i assume fugakyu?

              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                haven't been to fugakyu for a long time, but if you go, try to sit at the small counter in the far right back where the big Hawaiian guy (I forget his name) holds court, he's their best (Uni tried to recruit him but he turned them down, he prefers "working for himself" instead of for some big-name chef :) Q has been turning out some good sushi/sashimi too, lately. The one time i went to OIshii South End i found their sushi to be not fresh and overpriced

                1. re: barleywino

                  I think you mean Hiro, at Fugakyu, at the far back right.

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                  Fugakyu Cafe
                  621 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

                  1. re: new2nyc

                    right, thanks. actually i might skip the sushi at Q from now on and just get their Shanghai noodles, which seem to be more of a Cantonese take on them, tasting almost like dry fried beef ho fun (but with chewy spaghettini-sized noodles instead of the fat rice noodles)

              2. re: barleywino

                I have been there on weeknights and it looked like the chef/owner was hard at work slicing the fish. I dunno...will have to keep my eyes peeled and sit at the bar...
                The sake shenanigans are not cool...

                1. re: barleywino

                  Shocking: never seen that at Toraya.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  -----
                  Toraya Restaurant
                  890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    i guess i'll go to Oga next time i really want sake...O Ya has an empty bottle of Gekkakow Vintage on their shelf but alas they don't offer it, nor any seasonal namasakes (last time I checked, anyway...the little vending-machine sized bottles of Sho Chiku Bai or Hakutsuru don't qualify ;)

                    1. re: barleywino

                      i would prefer riesling, chablis, or red burgundy which shows how little i know about such things.

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                        not at all, wine works well too, it's just personal preference...i find though the "rich" sakes with lots of umami http://www.sakesommelier.com/ complement the sushi better than something mineral-ly or fruity...maybe red burgundy would go well with some of the "meatier" fish such as bonito or toro?

                        1. re: barleywino

                          Sake has MSG (or the natural variants, which is what umami is)? Didn't know that.

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            perhaps umami is not technically correct.... how would you describe "rich" sakes? to me, many of them have an almost savory or toffee quality. like some Pedro Ximinez sherries taste like figs, even though they obviously do not have figs in them.

                            Here is a quote from
                            Gourmet magazine http://www.gourmet.com/food/video/200... which also uses "umami" to describe this quality in sake (Chef Dufresne says the umami quality arises because the sake is fermented):

                            "Who knew the dregs of sake could be so tasty? Chef Wylie Dufresne discusses the unusual Asian ingredient sake lees (also called sake kasu), the thick rice paste that’s left at the end of the sake-making process. Often used in Asia as a marinade for fish or meat, sake lees are given an unusual twist in Dufresne’s kitchen. Their deep umami flavor is reminiscent of miso, but sake lees have a sweetness and a lingering note of sake that makes their taste distinctive. They are available at many Asian specialty-food stores. "

                            Here is another quote from http://www.wineloverspage.com/randysw...:

                            (sake master) Gauntner (who writes the sake column for the Japan Times) talks about "umami" - that Japanese sense of deliciousness that you feel when all components gel and activate all the senses, from the nose to all parts of the palate.

                            and

                            6. Ginga Shizuku "Divine Droplets" by Takasago, Japan (scored 88; $60-$80/720 ml.) - Juicy apple and "stony brook" aromas with subtle char; creamy, fleshy and layered on the palate with melony fresh, lively, mildly anise-like flavors, given a bright, almost umami-like (or "savory") definition.

                            here is one more quote, from http://www.sake-world.com/html/sake-f...:

                            "Sake is often described as having umami, or not having umami. This is often linked to amino acid content (which is sometimes listed on the bottle). Sake with a decent umami will tie in well with foods exhibiting similar attributes. What is wonderful about a match like this is its sublety: umami in food and sake generally hovers in the background, as opposed to being an in-your-face flavor. This allows the bonds that tie the food and sake to be more subtle, supporting rather than leading the experience.

                            Umami in a sake is not indisputably desirable. Too much umami is generally related to off-flavors and roughness. Dry, light sake often has little umami at all, and is indeed prized for just that quality.

                            Sake with a solid umami bonds with raw or lightly seared fish, although when baked or grilled with too much salt or sauces, the umami of fish can be obscured. Some sauces, when not too sweet or strong, proffer a nice umami for such sake. (Miso-based and mild cream-based sauces come to mind.)

                            Lighter sake, with less umami, would be better with salads and fresh or raw vegetable dishes, and crisply baked or grilled fish. "

                            1. re: barleywino

                              Sake could very well have umami, I don't know enough about the chemistry of fermentation to know one way or the other. Or it could just be gasbag sake snobs talking, as one would talk about "chocolate notes" on a wine that for certain contains no chocolate. I know John Gauntner, I've gotten drunk with John, so he may be using "umami" loosely in that "sense of deliciousness" or whatever. Umami is a very specific taste, like salty or sweet, or bitter, that is only present in glutamates and glutamic acid.

                              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                Yes, saké has umami. Saké contains the most amino acids (about 20) of any other alcoholic beverage. There are 7 times more amino acids in saké than in red wine. During fermentation, about 55% of the protein in rice is broken down and converted into nitrogen compounds, of which around 45% are amino acids. Saké contains significant amounts of the following amino acids: Glutamic acid, Alanine, Leucine and Arginine.

                                1. re: RichardA

                                  Well, there you go. One learns something new every day. Kanpai!

                                  PS What's with the accent on the e? If you pronounce it like the French or Spanish would (Sakeee), it sounds weird, since in Japanese is pronounced flat, with no accent Sa (as in "Salon") and ke (as in "ketamine").

                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                    i didn't even know that rice *had* protein in it... better living through chemistry... it's true that sake lees has a powerful umami flavor to it. Rachel Yang (of Joule in Seattle, also appeared on Iron Chef) uses sake lees in her dressings, makes an amazing cold smoked tofu dish with it iirc

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      Some use the accent, others don't. I don't believe either way is technically wrong.

                                      1. re: RichardA

                                        It is if you want to pronounce it the way Japanese pronounce. Sake doesn't have a "long e" ending. If you want to pronounce it some other affected way, then I guess you can put the accent there.

                                        If you really want to be a pedant, and want to have the acute accent on the "e" and still pronounce it correctly, the "a" should have a grave accent.

                                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                          One time in my college years when I wanted sake (the drink), I ordered sake, and was delivered sake (the fish, i.e, salmon). Ever since then I order one or the other by pencil on the sushi card or by pointing to the type of "rice wine" I want on the menu as I say its name.

                                          1. re: Mike5966

                                            Even the Japanese get confused. They avoid confusion by calling sake (the fish) by its alternate pronunciation, shake.

                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                              What if you want a drink made with ice cream?

                    2. re: barleywino

                      I go regularly, frequently watch the chef, and have never seen pre-sliced fish.

                      1. re: tdaaa

                        i only know what i saw last Saturday...case was full of pre sliced fish. the only fish I saw that was not presliced was saba. but maybe he keeps unsliced fish below. Is pre-sliced fish bad? i suppose that depends on the person.

                        1. re: barleywino

                          Pre-sliced fish is a disgrace, particularly if used for sashimi or nigiri. Unfortunately Toyara is not the only well regarded sushi/sashimi/japanese joint in the area to use presliced fish in certain dishes from time to time.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            Here is my take on the pre-slicing thing. I never seen at Toroya, but it makes sense on a Saturday.

                            I have eaten many times at Sasabune, which is one my favorites in NYC. When it's busy, he does it. The taste is not dramatically changed and everything is still delicious. It is arguably more consistent product coming out the bar and the customers are getting their orders in a timely fashion.

                            In Tokyo there are over 10,000 sushi restaurants. In NYC there are less than 20 that you would even think to take a Japanese too. In Boston, who knows, but definitely less than 5. So of course these places are going to get jammed up and if it's one thing Americans hate, it's waiting.

                            I have taken pictures at Sasabune and I have a "photographic memory" anyway. I can say for sure that the fish does not sit up the same way on the rice. The way I shoot food, I clearly see how it changes literally second to second. The famed skipjack sashimi appetizer was a little jarringly cold, because it was in a fridge. But it's Sasabune and it was still awesome.

                            Will I take it on a busy Saturday night, having a great time with friends and having some great sushi?

                            Sure.

                            There is no perfect sushi quite honestly and I think it's a bit funny how we demand this from sushi in particular. Perhaps the Japanese have brought it upon themselves.

                            1. re: tatsu

                              i think that i will skip sushi on a friday or a saturday night; sunday night is the best time for me.

                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                go on the weekday night when they get fish!

                      2. re: barleywino

                        I too go often and always sit at the bar if there are seats available and he is slicing fish the whole time. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience there, that has never happened to me. And to the OP, yes, omakase is the way to go.

                        1. re: barleywino

                          It's wonderful to have contrary opinions here and so thank you for your post.

                          That said, your experience is totally different than every one I've had at Toraya (been there at least a dozen times). I find the service very nice, except if you try to sit down at a table or the sushi bar before she's re-set it. I have never seen Muraki-san pre-slice fish, certainly nothing that I've received. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I've never seen it.

                          Something that I particularly like about Toraya is that not only is Muraki-san's fish fresh and excellent, but that cooked appetizers from the kitchen, including their usually outstanding agedashi tofu, are up to the same high standard.

                          What happened with your sake is still unacceptable --- they just should have explained to you that they didn't have the one you ordered and given you the menu again --- but you don't know that they were actually going to charge you the higher price so calling it a "bait and switch" sounds a little extreme. I would, however, feel disrespected if someone tried that on me, figuring that I wouldn't notice.

                          But I am really surprised by your suggestions of Fugakyu and Q as alternatives. It sounds like something wasn't right at Toraya that night, but Fugakyu and Q are nowhere close to the same league as Toraya for sushi ordinarily.

                          -----
                          Toraya Restaurant
                          890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                          Fugakyu Cafe
                          621 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

                          1. re: lipoff

                            maybe some waitresses there are better than others. the one i spoke with was impatient-- i asked her whether they had sanma or sayori (which are supposedly in season now) and she raised her voice and said in an impatient way that the only specials they had were on the board. when she unlocked the door to let me in, there was no customary greeting (she didn't even open the door), she just turned her back on me and went back in. at fugakyu, the key is to sit at the far right back in the separate 2-seat counter manned by the big Hawaiian guy (sorry, forgot his name), he's their head guy, the other guys are not very good e.g. i asked for salmon belly once and they gave me plain salmon and claimed it was belly. I haven't been there for a while though. The sushi i've had at Q (otoro, salmon belly and hamachi belly, among others) was not only good quality and size but the presentation was a cut above most places. that being said, i'm still looking for a "favorite" midrange sushi place around here. Oga used to be a favorite but I know they've had a lot of staff turnover in the past few years (to O Ya and to Oga's sister place in Nashua etc) so haven't been back for quite a while.

                        2. I am not defending pre-sliced fish at a good sushi bar but I think I can explain why it happens. On bussy nights when most people tend to order the most common varieties of sushi and there is only one itamae-san I think they tend to preslice so they can fill orders promptly. I have always liked Toraya but IMHO I think Sushi Island is better. Kenji-san tends to have a wider var5iety of fish. Some of it directly from the Tsukji Market in Tokyo and I think he does the best Hamachi Kama shio Yaki in all Boston.

                          -----
                          Toraya Restaurant
                          890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: RoyRon

                            thanks i will have to check out Sushi Island! good hamachi kama is a treasure.

                            1. re: barleywino

                              Here's a picture of the kama at Sushi Island. Not everything was great that night, but this item was.

                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/7284555@...

                              1. re: yumyum

                                Nice!

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  i wonder if sushi would hold for the 30 minutes that it takes for me to drive home from sushi island? or is sushi best when eaten immediately at the bar?

                                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                    ask 9lives, he eats his sushi fresh off the boat ;)...i have gotten quite ill (very rarely) from sushi that was carelessly prepared so am somewhat paranoid about pre-prepared sushi

                                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                      It would probably be ok for 30 mins; as long as you could keep it reasonably cool..not at high temps.

                                      The 30 mins would let a hamachi kama or eel cool, and colder items to warm.

                                      It would be best at the sushi bar.If I were driving 30 mins to Sushi Island, I think I'd do it when I had the time do an omakase at the sushi bar...where you'd also have the chance to try anything special they had that day.

                                      The 30 mins would let a hamachi kama or eel cool, and colder items to warm.

                                      My opinion is that it would "hold" for 30 mins but not ideal.

                                      Pre sliced is a "no no" for a high end place though it's fairly common; especially during busy times; for why RR said.

                              2. re: RoyRon

                                Agreed, that is one of the primary reasons for the use of the pre-sliced fish. Maybe the restaurants in town who surcharge for thinly sliced sashmim (Fugakyu, Douzo to name a few) should give a price break if they are using pre-sliced fish...

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                                Douzo
                                131 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116

                                1. re: Gabatta

                                  Toraya is the only place I have seen actual Japanese people. My Japanese partner calls Fugakyu her "favorite CHINESE restaurant" as she likes roll sushi but says at Fugakyu they wear their kimonos like Edo period prostitutes. Toraya is a dump physically but the sushi and cooked food is quite good. (We are about 70% Tokyo and 30% Boston these days)....

                                  -----
                                  Toraya Restaurant
                                  890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                                  Fugakyu Cafe
                                  621 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776

                                  1. re: jet lagged

                                    Is that you, Carl?

                              3. Did you ever go cbp?

                                tb