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O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

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Last weekend we went to O Ya for the second (and last) time. The first time we had been was three years ago shortly after O Ya opened.

We went back this past weekend. This time we elected to get the “Grand Tasting Menu,” weighing in at a whopping $275 dollars and 21 courses. It was our 10th anniversary, so it seemed reasonable to get what we liked. This was a mistake.

One of the first things we noticed when we were there, were the number of dishes that were the same as the last time we were there three years ago. The entirety of the meal proved that O Ya had indeed managed the difficult to attain goal of “consistency,” but had whittled it down to the dull art of repetition. This was a shock, because when you’re paying that kind of money, you are paying largely for inventiveness. It appears that the chefs at O Ya had a burst of inventiveness a few years ago, and since then have resorted primarily to repetition. Even the last time I was there, I do remember being surprised that the menu we were offered was identical to the one a friend had gotten several months earlier. This is surprising because O Ya is a sushi restaurant; sushi restaurants typically rely on whatever is freshest to drive the menu. This is not the case with O Ya, at O Ya, the recipes dictate the menu, not the fish. This is one of the gripes that sushi purists (which I am not) have about this type of sushi restaurant—that the additional preparation dilutes one’s ability to appreciate the fish, and at worse masks low quality fish. I would not say that the quality of the fish was bad, but it is not the best, and at a sushi restaurant that dares to charge $275/person, it should be the best—regardless of the fanciness of the dressings.

There were two dishes where the fish really was outstanding (2 of 21), the wild ivory king salmon with spicy lemongrass curry sauce, toasted garlic and sesame, and the shima aji (amber jack) with Santa Barbara sea urchin, ceviche vinaigrette, and cilantro. However, to appreciate the amber jack, you had to remove the sea urchin, which totally overwhelmed the amber jack.

That brings us to another point. There were two dishes with sea urchin (uni). The uni was clearly not live uni, which just doesn’t seem right at an ultra-high end sushi restaurant. I realize that there are times when uni is not in season, but it seems like a restaurant like O Ya shouldn’t serve it when it’s out of season and not fresh—particularly when it is not additive and masks the taste of fresher fish.

The second issue, is again with quality of ingredients, and a bit of near-misrepresentation. Two of the “courses” said they had Ossetra caviar—from the black river. You might reasonably think, and particularly at $275/person, that this would be real osetra caviar, from the Caspian or the black sea. But in fact it is not. That was immediately proved out upon tasting it; it had none of the rich nuttiness of real osetra caviar. Instead it had a briny, sea taste, even a little fishy. Not at all what I had hoped for. Further research shows that the Black river has nothing to do with the Black sea (very clever marketing though, as people might assume such a relationship). In fact, this Black river—or rather Rio Negro—appears to be in Uruguay, the caviar harvested from Russian born sturgeon farmed in Uruguay. I am a caviar purist, and I love really good caviar. I do enjoy the lesser varieties too, and have served them in my home. But when I serve them, I feel duty-bound to refer to the origin of the caviar, both location and type of fish, since it does help people to set their expectations. Clearly no such compunction governs O Ya. The caviar was served in one instance with sea urchin, in which case the bite was a mushy mess of fishiness. In the other instance, it was served on top of an “onsen” egg, which looked to be a slow-cooked egg with a partially set yolk. In the latter instance, it was so sad to have the lesser quality caviar, because the egg was very good and would have been perfectly augmented with real osetra. But the much harsher, fishier taste of the black river caviar only detracted.

I was impressed with one piece of sourcing that O Ya did. There was a lovely dish of a sea scallop served with sake sea urchin jus, chervil and Australian winter perigord truffle. The dish itself was wonderful, and the slice of the Australian truffle was wonderful, a wonderful option for when black truffles are not in season in the Northern hemisphere. We had just returned from Italy, where we got our fill of the Tuscan “bianchetto” truffles, which are much milder in flavor, and this black truffle was a real treat.

Before I close, I have to talk a little about price, because this is honestly one of the biggest issues I have with this meal. Our meal at O Ya rang in at $830 with tip (we were not overly generous as we didn’t think the meal or service merited it, giving only %15). $830 included two $275/person Grand Tasting Menus, one $12 glass of bad, cheap champagne, on $12 bottle of sparkling water (we would have gotten more, but were offended that we were being soaked on water, on a meal that would weigh in near $1000), and $120 sake pairing. I’d like to put this cost into perspective. 275/person is more than it costs to eat at Alinea in Chicago, which rings in at $250/person for 24 courses. Alinea is a 3-star Michelin restaurant and deserves every point of each star, and perhaps more, for every facet of the meal. Alinea is the best meal I have ever had—by leaps and bounds. I would love to go on about Alinea, and how truly wonderful it is, but this is a review about O Ya. The point about Alinea is, if we had both gotten the sake tasting (as we both got the wine pairings at Alinea), this meal would have cost us the same as Alinea, with far inferior food, alcohol and service. Perhaps you are saying that this is not a fair comparison, Alinea is not a sushi restaurant. OK, so let’s compare O Ya to some sushi restaurants. Sushi Yasuda, in NYC cost us less than $200 for two omakase, and 3 carafes of sake. Sushi Yasuda is the best sushi I have ever eaten, where the fish is literally orders of magnitude better than any other fish, and where even the rice is a wonder. Uni, the sashimi bar at Clio in Boston, typically sets us back about $350. At Uni, the fish drives the menu, making the omakase different and interesting, and the wines exceptionally well-chosen. Uni is always a pleasant experience that I savor; at O Ya, rather than anticipating the remaining courses, I felt held hostage by them. Oishii too, in Boston, is a much better value for the Omakase, and is much more inventive.

The final insult at O Ya came at the end of the meal, and came as a one-two punch. First, they asked us if we would like to see the dessert menu. Really? A $275 Grand tasting menu doesn’t include dessert? I had just assumed that they didn’t do desserts, and that the foie gras and chocolate nigiri was our dessert. But nope, you can have dessert, you just have to pay a little more. And then the final insult. We were presented our bill, without anything acknowledgement of our 10-year anniversary—this despite the facts that the person who showed us to our table confirmed the reason for our visit, and that O Ya does engage in such “pedestrian” traditions, as we saw by the people next to us were brought a surprise birthday dessert.

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O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. Excellent post. You sum up many of the points why I enjoyed my first visit to O Ya more than subsequent visits where I felt value and quality were somewhat lacking.

    In another recent thread a poster suggested that a certain word class sushi restaurant was more traditional and less creative than O-Ya. I think your point about O Ya being menu driven, rather than quality fish driven is an excellent one. At other top establishments the freshest ingredients are sourced daily and the menu naturally follows. While O Ya may seem more creative on the first visit, that just doesn't stand up over multiple visits as they don't continue to innovate.

    It is too bad they didn't recognize your anniversary as you would have liked. I will say that I sent my wife there before our wedding as a surprise with her maid of honor and they did an excellent job making them feel special.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gabatta

      there is definitely something to be said about just having superfresh fish, which needs no embellishment. even the most traditional (fish + rice, nothing more) and humble sushi bar in japan, if the fish is fresh enough, can be just as satisfying as a place like O Ya, although in a very different way.

    2. This review made me think; I've also noticed the impressive/torporific consistency and have given it some thought.

      I also see that you've only posted a few times on CH - two of them detailed, thought-provoking and negative reviews. To welcome you and to give perspective, I'd be fascinated seeing you post in other threads about Boston restaurants you enjoyed.

      7 Replies
      1. re: enhF94

        To give O Ya it's due: The presentations they've created are fantastic, and the reason they keep serving many of them (hamachi with banana peppers, the foie gras and chocolate, mushroom sashimi) is that people love them and expect them, and are disappointed when they're not there. Also, I think it's wrong to say there are no seasonal changes, or tweaks on the familiar themes, although it's true that things seem awfully familiar on repeat visits. For me, it would take a lot of repeats, in a short amount of time, to get sick of it. That's not something that is likely to happen at O Ya for most of us.
        That said, at the price point, the comparison to Alinea is probably justified. Though I'd guess not many restaurants would hold up to that standard.
        As far as the freshness/quality of the ingredients; perhaps you've a more divine palate than me, but I've never been anything but wowed by the ingredients, the fish, the beef, the fungi, wow!!

        When you refer to "live" uni, what are you suggesting? Should the urchins arrive live and be shucked there? I've never seen that, particularly on the east coast when serving Santa Barbara uni, which comes to O Ya in those beautiful little wooden cases. And personally, I prefer the delicate flavor of the west coast (or Japanese, I'd guess) urchins paired with the O Ya creations to the coarser east coast uni.
        I defer to your caviar knowledge, however. Sounds like you might be right, though a bait and switch such as you seem to suggest does not jive with everything else about the O Ya experiences I've had.
        Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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        O Ya
        9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

        1. re: justbeingpolite

          I would also vote for non-live Santa Barbara uni over live Maine uni, any day. As far as Oiishi Boston goes, the fish i've been served there has been sadly below average in freshness, which no amount of embellishment can salvage, but that's just my experience.

          1. re: barleywino

            Actually, yes, they do serve it basically live, right out the shell (many times they remove the shell for presentation though), but the difference is staggering. I liked uni before I had it live, unfortunately, after I've really had a hard time liking it any other way. I think the season for uni starts in September. I've actually had it at Uni (which I guess shouldn't be a surprise) at Clio, and it was just to die for. As for the flying in, most of these guys fly even their freshest stuff in, I know for example that Sushi Yasuda in NYC does (they invested in a geiger counter after the earthquake to pacify customer concerns about radiation). Watch for the live stuff, it will change your gastronomic life :)

            And to the beginning of JustBeingPolite's post, I would not have been prompted to post this were it not for the stratospheric price. That price simply forces one to think about the relative value. I think Uni's presentations, and Oishii's just as good, and more varied, and at typically 1/3 to 1/2 the price.

            I would love nothing more than for O Ya to step up its game and be BETTER than it was the first time I went, and justify a $1000 meal. I would do cartwheels. It was actually with that expectation--that 3 years of evolution would be wonderful to experience--that I told my husband we should order the big tasting menu; I wanted to give the chef full reign to thoroughly impress me. Currently, I don't think it merits that cost, and when compared to Alinea, which is the same price point, it has a LONG way to go.

            Of course there are some other restaurants in Boston that are now approaching the Alinea price point and don't come close--but I won't mention any more names :)

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            O Ya
            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

            1. re: divinemissmoe

              I would find it hard to characterize Uni's presentations as more varied than O Ya and certainly not 1/3 to 1/2 the price, I tend to walk out of Uni much hungrier and having spent more than I would have at O ya. Uni does sometimes have more seasonal or imported fish than O ya fwiw. However I tend to run out of interesting things to order at Uni much faster than at O ya. As far as Alinea goes, I think of them more as a laboratory with a few spectacular successes interspersed with items I was happy to try once perhaps, or appreciated conceptually, but would not go out of my way to order again, given a choice.

        2. re: enhF94

          I will work on posting more positive. I tend only be motivated to post when my experience is markedly different from existing reviews, so raving about say, Alinea doesn't seem necessary. But I will do more, lest it seem like I'm just a curmudgeon. I was embarrassed that after three years I hadn't posted any thing positive, and that the next review would be negative--and very much in the same vein.

          1. re: divinemissmoe

            hey, you posted a very helpful review. go easy on yourself....if science and medicine journals posted more "negative" articles, as in "we tried this and it didn't work" humankind would be better off.

            You seem to me to be a person who cares, your review was very thoughtful. I think it is precisely because you are so thoughtful that we'd love to hear what you do like.

            I personally could not pay $250 pp plus and I'll just reveal right now how un chowish I might seem...I spent years around SF and maxed on sushi, and I will not eat foie gras. Otherwise, I'm an adventorous home cook who loves real, complex ethnic (thank you Watertown markets and Paula Woflert) who would not want to go to O Ya even if I could afford it (and getting away from my special needs older adopted child).

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            O Ya
            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

            1. re: divinemissmoe

              I actually don't have a problem with that. Sometimes people do lurk a bit but it takes a really good or bad experience for them to post. As long as it's not a one line slam of "this restaurant sucks" but a detailed explanation of why, it's fine.

              Thanks for the review and I'd agree w/ you if I had the same experience. They should probably take some items off the menu and rotate through them seasonally instead.
              Alinea's been on my list of restaurants I really want to hit when visiting Chicago too, so it's good to know that it deserves the Michelin stars :-)

          2. Thank you for the detailed and balanced review. After reading all the effusive praise of O Ya on this board (and winning a charity auction gift certificate), I ate there about 5 months ago and was very disappointed by both the food and the experience. I'm shocked that they seem to get away with charging what they do for an okay but certainly not phenomenal meal. There are many fine dining restaurants in the area that deliver way more for about 1/3 the price. Beyond the issues with the food and service, the space is weirdly undecorated and uncomfortable for the expense. I wish someone had told me what to expect before I went as it would have saved me the let-down and the feeling of having thrown away money that I would have been much happier spending elsewhere.

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            O Ya
            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

            1. That price sure is eye-popping, and I'd have rolled my eyes at "desserts extra", too. In my handful of experiences at O Ya, I've set a much lower price cap (usually about $100) and felt like I got good value for the money, with a few moments of sublimity each time that are rare in local dining.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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              O Ya
              9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

              1. Thanks for the negative review done right.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Luther

                  Hear, hear. This is exactly the kind of detailed, thoughtful criticism we all need more of.

                  Encouraging someone to write puff pieces does nothing to *improve* the dining experience. If we wish to move (ourselves, or a restaurant) from bad to mediocre and eventually to good, we need to be told what we're doing badly and how we can do better.

                  Thanks, divinemissmoe.

                  1. re: Luther

                    +1

                  2. O Ya might be "dull", but if that means continuing to serve what are, to my taste buds, two of the finest bites of food in all of Boston -- the hamachi and the foie gras -- then I'm okay with that. That said, next time I go, I definitely won't order the alcohol pairing. Not worth it by a longshot.

                    1. Husband and I dined at O Ya last month and were rather impressed - and we used to frequent Sushi Yasuda in NYC before Yasuda-san's departure. We did set a price limit at $100/person at O Ya. We ended up adding a dish (foie gra gyoza, IIRC) but even then it seemed like a pretty good value considering the quality of food. I was also happy with the quality of uni they served. With that said, I can certainly see how repeat visits to O Ya may not seem as impressive. I couldn't compare Sushi Yasuda to O Ya since they are two very different restaurants, IMO, but I will say your bill at Sushi Yasuda was probably near the lower end - I don't think we've ever spent less than $100/person, and only one of us drink. I personally look forward to our next visit to O Ya since there are many dishes on the menu that I didn't get to try.

                      I would have been annoyed about them not including a dessert in a "Grand Tasting Menu" though, for sure! What a buzzkill at the end.

                      1. I'm probably taking my wife there this year for her birthday (having been only once within the first 6 months they were open), and like BostonOtter, the hamachi, and foie dish were phenomenal, and I can't wait to have them again. We picked our own dishes, and bring it up to $100 a head or so, plus a bottle or two of sake. Honestly, we had dessert when we were there, and both of us thought that next time we'd have the foie as dessert and skip the other offerings as it was easily the least impressive thing we ate. I can remember almost everything we had that night. Except the dessert. You didn't miss much by not having one with the tasting (though it is a bit lame).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kimfair1

                          the last time I was there, they were out of the kinmedai, salmon belly drizzled w/ hot oil and otoro w/ scallion & wasabi, but they did have a great squid w/ uni butter/uni powder, although i'm normally not a huge squid fan. Two people for $100 per person can sample 10-12 dishes, which amounts to a tasting in my book. They do have Eiko namasake by the bottle, which I remember as very good.

                        2. Thanks for the thought-provoking and well-written review. We're headed to O Ya in a few weeks for what will be our third visit, and since it's a huge treat for us, we kind of look forward to eating the same individual bites of deliciousness each time. The scallop with the olive oil foam and sage leaf does it for me. I do find the quality of the ingredients to be excellent, but I don't think I'm as well-versed in uni or caviar as you. I don't agree with the posters who disliked the ambiance or decor-- I find it to be lovely place to eat. I guess one thing to keep in mind is that it's really not a sushi restaurant at all. Some people forget that. It's owned by a Caucasian couple who just happen to like Asian flavors and have Japanese chefs working for them.

                          Agree with others- would be interested in your perspective on some great meals around Boston.

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                          O Ya
                          9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                          1. When I first read your post, I thought you meant $275 for two people. Then I re-read it and my eyes popped out! That is an astronomical amount to pay for a meal and then be disappointed. I am so sorry that you had this experience. I was thinking of O Ya for my birthday dinner this fall, but now I am reconsidering.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: Kat

                              you can easily do $275 for two people if you order ala carte instead of the "grand tasting".

                              1. re: Kat

                                That's per se very expensive, especially for feeling you were taken to the laundry.

                                1. re: Kat

                                  Keep in mind that the $275 meal they got was a huge 21-course event. When I ordered the omakase there, I was able to specify the number of courses and special requests; my meal came in at around $175 and I had plenty of food. I can't imagine doing 21 courses there, personally.

                                  1. re: Kat

                                    I dropped $475 there with a buddy once and it was not even close to worth the $.

                                    I DO like the ambience and decor but the prices are just insulting. The fact that the try to stick you for dessert after paying $275 pp for a grand tasting is just indicative of the vibe.

                                    1. re: Kat

                                      Please don't go for your birthday, unless you have extraordinarily deep pockets. Go to a restaurant that won't take you to the cleaners. I took my husband to O Ya for his birthday three years ago and spent upwards of $400. He did a tasting that fell into the middle range (a dollar amount I can't remember, but I do recall the server insinuating we were being cheap) and I ordered 3 or 4 menu items a la carte because I don't eat sushi. I remember mushrooms, chicken, and a fried oyster -- only the oyster being truly memorable. I was starving when we left, and so was my husband.
                                      We'd been to Morimoto in Philadelphia a year or two earlier and he still talks about that meal. Mention O Ya and his immediate reaction, even having sampled about 15 dishes, is about price, not the meal itself.
                                      By our calculation it worked out to between $15 and $20 per bite of food. Unapologetically outrageous and not even close to worth it.
                                      Edit: We were hungry enough that we grabbed a slice on the way home. And looking at the menu today it indeed hasn't changed a bit.

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                                      O Ya
                                      9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                      1. re: ebaba

                                        Odd-- I've been to Morimoto in Philly, NYC and Tokyo and found all 3 to unfortunately be quite underwhelming compared to o ya, despite Morimoto himself being a true genius and master. Not sure I follow your math about $15-20 per bite of food, considering that that's the average price range of most of the sushi/sashimi dishes and each dish is at least a few bites.

                                        1. re: barleywino

                                          To clarify, I mention Morimoto because I see parallels in cuisine and price -- and my husband's memory of his meal there may also be hazy because it was so long ago. My point however is that his first memory of Morimoto is "wow what a meal", and his first with O Ya is "wow what a price tag". If the price of a meal is the first thing that pops into your head then I'd argue the value may not be there.
                                          I think one of the most telling things in the original post is the mention of a $12 bottle of still water. I doubt I'm alone in thinking that qualifies as an indicator of grossly inflated prices.
                                          Would $10-$12 per bite be more accurate? Once tip is factored into the equation?

                                          -----
                                          O Ya
                                          9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                        2. re: ebaba

                                          You should have complained to management. Simple enough.

                                          O Ya is pricy, yes, but also known for being very flexible and working with diners. I know plenty of people who've gone there and said "I want $100 worth of sushi, with these special dishes" and been treated wonderfully. I spent half of what you did on a magnificent meal and was stuffed at the end. But if you chose to only eat three small bites of food, it's not exactly the restaurant's fault if you were hungry afterwards.

                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                            It never would have occurred to me to complain to management, and I'm not sure what you'd have me say. To my mind it's totally unreasonable to complain that I haven't had enough to eat, certainly not when the diners on either side of me are paying the same freight. I'd have to feel pretty entitled to ever dream of saying something along those lines.
                                            We knew we were in for an expensive meal, but I didn't realize just how expensive, and that's my fault and my problem. And I am not by any stretch someone who values quantity over quality, but somehow imagined that the ballotine of chicken, for example, might be more than a thumb-sized piece of meat. I guess my point is that I didn't realize I'd only signed up for three small bites of food.

                                            1. re: ebaba

                                              What would I have you say? "Hi, I just ordered the most expensive meal you offer, and I'm not happy, and here's why." If you can articulate it here on Chowhound, surely you can mention your feelings about your meal to a server.

                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                Yes and no to this point. If something is over/under cooked, seasoned, etc., that is one thing, but if one does not appreciate or identify with the restaurant's overall concept and price structure what is the point in complaining to management? They are not going to change for you, just don't go back.

                                            2. re: Boston_Otter

                                              I have to say that after all of the talk about the prices at o ya, I took someone there recently and was somewhat pleasantly surprised. We basically did omakase (which as I understand it is priced at the same as the items would cost you a la cart) and named 125 pp as our ceiling. We specifcally said that we weren't interested in the high-priced kobe beef or truffle items. Not only was our server very gracious and reassured us that we could have an excellent experience at that price, but we were perfectly full long before meeting that ceiling, at under 100 pp. Then when I went to pay, I found that they had applied a $40 discount to the total price of items we'd eaten, essentially comping the drinks for no particular reason.

                                              It's far from cheap, but if you go in knowing that you'll spend something in this area I think it's possible to have a good experience without even considering the exorbitant tasting menu.

                                              Now, I did have criticisms of the food -- the hot items in particular -- but just felt the need to back up Boston Otter's comment.

                                              1. re: celeriac

                                                agreed. there is a tendency on the board to exaggerate prices for some reason, not only at O Ya but also at other places. Sure, one *can* always spend a lot at these places, but often by judicious ordering one can get a perfectly good meal for much less than what others might be spending.

                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                  To be fair, some people define "full" differently...so you can't really compare unless you define what two people consider to be "enough"...

                                                  1. re: Spike

                                                    agreed. if it helps to calibrate, i can finish a Sam LaGrassa's pastrami sandwich or 3 slices of Regina's pizza for lunch, but i'm pretty full afterwards.

                                        3. very much enjoyed your report

                                          how a grand tasting menu does not include dessert defies logic and the business of hospitality

                                          the old saying, you get what you pay for? not so much

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            For what it's worth, the two or three omakase I've had at O Ya have always included dessert.

                                            -----
                                            O Ya
                                            9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                            1. re: justbeingpolite

                                              so if you order the omikase you get the dessert, but if you spend the big bucks you don't????

                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                We were offered dessert menus after finishing the omakase. As I understand it (please correct me if I'm wrong) the omakase is simply priced by adding up the ala carte prices of whatever you receive, so in that sense it doesn't "include" anything. That said, I certainly share the sense that for over $200, it's inexcusable not to include dessert.

                                          2. i so appreciate your taking the time to share the details of your experience; it takes aLOT of time to write a long post. But i do have to say I HATE THIS THREAD! just kidding. what i mean is, i am so flummoxed when a thread has such huge differences of opinion. After reading all these comments, by many sophisticated diners, I don't know whether to a) rue the fact that I never went there in its heyday, or b)be thankful that i never drank the kool aid about it, OR 3)be propelled to make a reservation. phooey. but thank you again.

                                            p.s. since this thread is likely to be bookmarked by many, i thought this very positive, long and detailed recent review of OYa should be linked here:

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792188

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              one meal experienced firsthand is worth 1000 reviews from people whom you don't know. go, dip your toe in the water and post what you think. take control of your meal: do what celeriac, boston otter, kimfair, uwsister etc did.

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                I think the subtext of the review is that, if you were to dine there tonight, it is essentially unchanged from its heyday.

                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                  Dear opinionated chef; I 100% agree with Barleywino and Bob. You SHOULD try O Ya. I am glad I tried it once. But I wish I hadn't tried it a second time because there is not much innovation in my opionion. That is precisely what I meant by the second half of the title: "one and done." Go once and then your done with the restaurant, b/c it won't offer much different in the future (but if you love some of the bites you can rest-assured they'll be there in the future). I also agree with them that taking charge of your meal is a good idea, and setting a price cap.

                                                  The $275/person grand tasting is a fixe price menu, with the items pre-selected for the evening, and again, I got it because in my other experiences, this type of menu is the one where the chef really has the latitude to show me what he or she thinks is a perfect menu. And it usually is an experience. Occasionally it is a bad experience that tells me I don't need to spend any more or money patronizing that restaurant. That was the kind of "experience" it was at O Ya.

                                                  Also, I have to note that none of the prices I quoted here are exaggerated. That's exactly what the grand tasting menu costs...and the water, and the sake. It certainly left me full (not my judge of a good meal--I was starving after my last trip to O Ya [after 14 courses] but still enjoyed it). What this meal didn't do is leave me with the feeling that this price was justified and I'd gotten a near $1000 dining experience. What I expect for $275/person is that the meal be 3-star michelin quality--I expect art. Those are the only other times I've paid that kind of price. O Ya is not 3-star michelin quality in terms of food or service; O Ya is not art, it is good food. For me, it was a very good restaurant to try once, and if they stray a little from the comfort of their staples, it will be a good restaurant to try again. But it is orders of magnitude away from being able to command the price they set for their grand tasting menu.

                                                  (... oh and avoid anything with the Ossetra Black River caviar if you like Osetra)

                                                  -----
                                                  O Ya
                                                  9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                  1. re: divinemissmoe

                                                    thanks again for your guidance. and again, i am so sorry you had that disappointing experience.
                                                    (i remember going to icob the first time; another poster had mentioned the dessert perks she got there on her bday. we were celebrating a 60th bday and not one perk; in fact, our waitress basically disappeared.)Just curious, did you read through uhockey's glowing review before you went? it does feel a bit like a thesis but a very helpful thesis; i will use it(and all the CH posts) when we do go. thnx again.

                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                      Hi, I did not read uhockey's review before we went this time. Mostly because I'd been before, and I don't usually agnoize over places I've been before--I expect them to be as they were, but hopefully positively evolved :) If they are not, then usually I give them another chance to redeem themselves-- depending on the price, the level of disappointment, and how positive my prior experience(s) were. O Ya won't be getting another chance from me.

                                                      -----
                                                      O Ya
                                                      9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                    2. re: divinemissmoe

                                                      I already ranted in another thread about the fact that I did not enjoy my experience at O-Ya. The price was absolutely killer and completely eclipsed the fact that the food was good, but not quite that good. The bottled water price is absolutely criminal and a true indicator of what kind of a markup they are putting on everything, and keeping the same menu for years and not changing it is weak. What put me over the edge was that our waitress disclosed to us that she chose our omakase, not the chef, my head almost exploded. Also, is it just me or if one is going to spend that kind of money and stay for a long meal, could they at least provide comfortable seating?

                                                      Anyone remember this article?

                                                      http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaur...

                                                      1. re: suzysue2

                                                        Wow, thanks for providing that link! I had not read it. Clearly, as my review states, I'd prefer to spend my money at Uni. Seeing how much of the style of Uni that O Ya poached really sort of turns your stomach. Oddly, when we went to Alinea in Chicago this January, it made me really appreciate Ken Oringer. He hasn't yet done anything quite at that level, but to my mind he comes closest. I say "yet," because he continues to amaze me, and when we went to Clio in 2005 it was as watershed for me as Alinea was in 2011. Without Ken Oringer, I shudder to think what the Boston food scene would be; in fact, I almost had a panic attack when I realized how important he is to my gastronomic enjoyment. This story about O Ya shows how much broader his positive influence is even than his restaurants--but it would be better if people's inspiration weren't quite so literal.

                                                        All right, I guess I went way off topic there :)

                                                        -----
                                                        O Ya
                                                        9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                        1. re: suzysue2

                                                          That was a fun read. I especially enjoyed
                                                          "Constantly looking for dishes to put on his ever-changing menu," considering one part of the OP's complaint!

                                                    3. ***Update*** Yesterday I got a very discombobulating phone call from Nancy Cushman--discombobulating, first, because I wasn’t expecting it, and second, because I was unsure of what its tenor would be.
                                                      The call was in fact a very gracious call. First Mrs. Cushman apologized for our experience, particularly addressing how sorry she was that our anniversary had been overlooked. After a very sincere apology, she equally politely asked me how our experience could have been improved. Our conversation basically rehashed my review, as there really wasn’t much else I had to add, given my rather prolix post.
                                                      I was very impressed by several things. First, that they are watching these boards. I’m sure these boards can be a source of immense pride when the comments are positive, and when the converse is true, a source of great frustration. Naturally, when engaging with the negative there’s an element of damage control, but I believe there is a greater element of continuous improvement. And that to me is very heartening. I was also very impressed with how un-defensive Mrs. Cushman was. No one likes negative feedback, and being able to accept it graciously is a very great trait. I think this must be doubly difficult when you are in fact the “expert” receiving unsolicited (initially) feedback from someone who is not an expert.
                                                      My interaction with Mrs. Cushman doesn’t change the substance of my review—that the experience was not worth the cost when benchmarked against other similarly priced meals. But it does give me hope that a future experience at O Ya may be. Of course there are two levers to pull here. If they do decide to pull one of those levers, it will be interesting to see which one they pull. I would be happy with either.

                                                      -----
                                                      O Ya
                                                      9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: divinemissmoe

                                                        Smart restaurateurs have figured out that there are several ways to deal with negative feedback online, and only one of them helps: reaching out to engage unhappy customers, listening to them without defensiveness, and making the call on whether the customer is reasonable before churning that feedback into how they do business.

                                                        I think just taking the first two steps is often enough to mitigate the sting of a customer's unhappy experience. The third is essential to ensure that the restaurant's ethos is driven to satisfy good customers whose regular business it has a chance of cultivating, and to ignore that small but stubborn slice of the dining public that lives to complain, doesn't understand what actually constitutes good service and value, or is trying to extort comps.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                        1. re: divinemissmoe

                                                          Good for her for figuring out who you were and digging up your info. Slim is correct, you are exactly the kind of customer she can't afford to lose, not some joker mad about spending $200 on four people and posting it on Yelp. If I were her I would send you a $500 gift certificate to come back and give them another try (she can cover that cost in one night's worth of bottled water sales) and hopefully by that time the Cushmans will have had a chance to go out to dinner to find some new menu items.

                                                          I know, I'm bad, and truthfully all chefs are influenced by other chefs, so this is a gray area.

                                                          How about $8 for a bottle of water, still profitable, but not such a slap?

                                                          All jokes aside, pleasing someone spending $1000 for dinner for two (without super high-end wines) is a tall order, there has to be an effort made to give the customer a sense that they have gotten a good value for the money. I'm sure they see these large checks night after night there and after a while stop thinking of it as a big deal that someone is willing to spend so much money on dinner for two.

                                                          Perhaps this review is a great wake up call to all high-end restaurateurs that sure, charge what you want, but make sure that the customer is walking away satisfied, and it seems to mirror daily life in that the little things matter; perhaps when one is having the most expensive dinner available, throw them the second bottle of water gratis, and the three dollar food cost for two desserts and 'Happy Anniversary' written in chocolate would have left them with a sweet feeling at the end of the meal, rather than a need to write a lengthy bad review. Also, not mentioned in this review, but stated over and over is that people are spending tons of money at O-Ya and leaving hungry. Perhaps the omakase could include a noodle or braised meat dish, something filling, but low in cost to the restaurant, which would fulfill a meal's most basic role which is to feed people.

                                                          1. re: suzysue2

                                                            Ah, the water :) That's what my husband asked if I mentioned when I spoke with her. I think it bothered him more than almost anything else.

                                                            It is very difficult to be "worth" $1000 for a meal. I told my mom about this incident, and she said that the price was almost amoral, and I guarantee you, for her the amorality was not in the people serving it, but in the people willing to pay for it. I totally disagree with this assertion. I think that the high end of anything is where people really get to do the fun stuff, to be the most creative. When I look into the kitchen at Alinea, or Avenue and see all of those very young chefs and servers doing such technical things, and learning so much, I know I am looking at the next decade's great restauranteurs. I know they will redefine what great is--at the high end and the low end--and I look forward to it. In the absence of experiencing something great, one feels like a chump, and it is true, a bit of an amoral chump. So now it becomes my "moral responsibility" to ensure that whenever I pay astronomical amounts for food, I get an astronomical experience and don't simply under-write the establishment. Such a weighty burden ;)

                                                            1. re: suzysue2

                                                              If the above posts are any indication, for every person who feels that they spend tons of money at O Ya and leaves hungry, there is a person who feels the opposite. The suggestion that they end an omakase with a noodle or braised meat dish, or something similar, is an interesting one, but runs counter to the whole concept of omakase, defined as "chefs choice". It would be similar to asking a French chef to end a fine prix fixe meal with say a hot dog or slice of pizza. They would say, not only do Americans have to drink diet Coke with their sushi, they have to end with something completely inappropriate to the intended style of the meal. I have nothing against noodles or braised meat, quite the contrary, but omakase is not about those types of "casual" dishes. Kaiseki-style is more along the lines you mention, including both sashimi and more substantive cooked dishes, but O Ya is not a kaiseki place.

                                                              Typically the server will ask the customer towards the end whether the customer would like anything more. Perhaps at that time, if the customer wants to stay within the allotted price, but feels that they are still starving, they can ask to substitute a more substantive dish for the last course or two of the omakase. Or just order ala carte. Of course, for customers who don't eat sushi/sashimi, going to a place like O ya which specializes in those items is bound to be a disappointing experience.

                                                            2. re: divinemissmoe

                                                              and the dessert defense was?

                                                              and I don't understand the lever talk? Did she not offer you something? Did she not have a plan before she went to the trouble of finding your contact info and then contacted you? That she brought no immediate closure is disturbing.

                                                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                No dessert defense, but I didn't press it either.

                                                                When I refer to levers that they could pull, I mean either: a) pricing goes down, or b) quality/innovation goes up.

                                                                She did provide "closure," but when I asked her if she wanted me to mention it on the board, she said no, so in deference to her wishes, I didnt' mention it and won't describe in what form. But I think it would be unfair to them not to acknowledge it in the face of a direction question.

                                                                1. re: divinemissmoe

                                                                  thank you for sharing that there was closure in the end. a very informative and entertaining thread

                                                            3. This post puzzles me. I've been to O Ya many times and each time was better than the last.
                                                              Your focus on water & price seems to take over the review. Were you looking to be disappointed? I've always found the servers and owners very informative when delivering food to my table. I especially like when they explain things that could seem confusing. Winter truffles in summer? Thanks Australia ;-)
                                                              Cheap champagne? Is that all that was offered? I'm pretty sure they have more choices for sparkling wine. Although, I usually let my server or Nancy make my sake selections. She and the servers have always explained them to me in a polite manner and in a way that helped me understand the many kinds of sake.
                                                              It's unfortunate that you weren't able to enjoy your meal. But, I have to say I strongly disagree with your post.

                                                              -----
                                                              O Ya
                                                              9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: Shootflyguy

                                                                You are of course welcome to a different opinion than the OP but I think you mischaracterize her review. She discusses food extensively, especially disappointment about the uni and the caviar. Water is mentioned only once. She is further disappointed by elements of the service and the overall ambition not seeming to fit the promised scale of the meal (a "Grand Tasting Menu"), but this is not a complaint about price. The OP went in to the meal very happy to pay the price but expected a commensurate experience--she is not complaining that the price is too high, but that the experience she detailed didn't match that of other meals in the same class (at Alinea, for instance).

                                                                1. re: hckybg

                                                                  agreed.

                                                                  1. re: hckybg

                                                                    Yes I agree, I think sfg missed the entire point of the original review, which was not in fact price, but overall experience. At that price it should be flawless, and clearly was not.

                                                                  2. re: Shootflyguy

                                                                    I don't know. I quite like the place, have had much better experiences for far less money than the OP, but I would have felt swindled had I experienced the kind of meal they describe, too.

                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      I am reminded of the sage advice I received that when going to a really great restaurant, order the cheapest bottle or house wine. It is much more difficult to find a lower end wine then fill you cellar with impressively expensive and tasty wines.

                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        Agreed, MC Slim.

                                                                        I'll also add that, after many years of going to O Ya, I continue to be wowed—by the original masterpieces that are still being put out consistently and brilliantly, and by the small but interesting smattering of new additions to the menu that I notice every time I've dined there. Not to mention the graciousness of the front-of-the-house.

                                                                        1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                          I feel compelled to add my comment after reading all of the above. When I went to O-Ya I had high expectations. I knew the head chef from Ginza on Beacon Street and from his previous stints in Boston. He had consistently provided me with high quality sushi, leading me toward the better items of the day and presenting them simply so that I could appreciate the quality of the fish.

                                                                          My first disappointment at O-Ya was that it was impossible to get a simple piece of sushi that emphasized the flavor of the fish because they had decided to bring the style (and the prices) upscale. Every order of sushi had to be embellished, whether the embellishment made sense or not.

                                                                          My next disappointment was that several items that I desired were not available, including o-toro.

                                                                          My third disappointment was that I was told that they had run out of ama-ebi when I arrived, but as I ate my meal at the sushi bar I continued to see plate after plate of raw shrimp being prepared and brought to others. After the 12th or 14th order I just sat in frustrated awe.

                                                                          However, I LOVED the onsen egg, and would have eaten several of them if more had been available. There were a few dishes that I liked very much, in spite of the embellishments.

                                                                          Of course, when I was getting excellent sushi from the same chef at Ginza, I would fill up on less than $50.

                                                                          I was thinking of going back this summer, but based on everything that I read here, I think that I will save my money for truly great restaurants like Masa in NYC and Matsuhisa in LA.

                                                                          For me it is all about the quality. I am happy to pay more for good quality, but generally unhappy when the restaurant (any restaurant) uses unnecessary embellishment to raise prices. I generally like simple presentations of high quality, properly selected and prepared fish and meat. It just happens to be my preference.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Ginza
                                                                          16 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                                          Masa
                                                                          439 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                                                          1. re: Buzzy2

                                                                            Interesting comment. The only thing that sticks out in my mind from my meal at O-ya (now more than two years ago), was the onsen egg. In general, I remember our meal there being great, but not overwhelmingly life-changing great.

                                                                    2. I've wanted to visit O Ya for quite a long time, but always said I would wait until someone else was paying. Last night, that finally happened, and since I learned a lot by reading this thread yesterday afternoon I feel that I should add a comment or two.

                                                                      I'll say first and foremost that all in all, I was extremely pleased with the meal. This was no doubt a direct consequence of having my expectations set by this thread, and then met by the actual experience. I was not expecting Edo style nigiri nor the typical selection of makizushi that most places have. Had I been looking for that kind of experience I'm certain that I would have disliked the meal.

                                                                      Regarding price, even though I wasn't paying I don't think that it was hugely out of line. Thanks to this thread (in particular, MC Slim JB's response) we asked for omakase at $125 per person. I've had several omakase meals all over the country that have exceeded $100, so this price wouldn't have bothered me were I paying, nor did it bother my dining companion. I did find the sake prices to be extremely high, so I drank a beer with the meal. (My dining companion does not drink so it seemed rude to have a $60+ beverage.)

                                                                      What we were given for our $125 was a 15-course tour consisting mostly of nigiri preparations and a few sashimi preparations, plus a couple of hot dishes at the end.

                                                                      Most of the flavor combinations worked quite well; nigiri standouts included the famous hamachi with banana peppers, fried oyster with squid ink bubbles, and warm eel with Thai basil. One or two dishes were total misses, in particular maguro with micro greens that was extremely heavy on a citrus flavor that completely overwhelmed the fish. (Reading the menu today I see that it says "bluefin." I would have specifically asked that they not serve us that dish had I realized it last night -- and it really adds insult to injury that the preparation destroyed the flavor of such a special fish.) Another dish that was similarly too strongly flavored was Scottish Salmon with ponzu and sesame oil.

                                                                      Both of us agreed that the sushi rice itself was exceptionally well prepared. It's unfortunate that even many higher end sushi restaurants fail to produce exquisite rice -- which is, after all, the whole point -- and I think that O Ya hit the mark there.

                                                                      My favorite dish of the night was the grilled mushroom sashimi. I wasn't paying rapt attention to the description when it was put down in front of us, and was surprised to learn after eating it that the white pieces on top were not fish, but rather finely-sliced mushrooms. Coaxing that level of complexity and savoriness from mushrooms is quite a feat in my opinion.

                                                                      Service was decent and efficient. Perhaps very slightly rushed. It felt odd to sit at a bar and interact with a waitress rather than the sushi chef. Had I known that was what was going to happen, I would have suggested that we sit at a table instead.

                                                                      We left feeling not especially full, but quite satisfied with the amount of food we'd received. Given the huge range of flavors we experienced I think I was ready to stop eating anyway, even if not completely stuffed.

                                                                      To conclude this review I'll say that O Ya is quite different from any other sushi restaurant I've ever visited. I won't rush back -- I much prefer more traditional sushi experiences (and as a matter of fact I'm craving some straightforward nigiri today) -- but I'm glad to have visited and definitely did enjoy most of the experience.

                                                                      Thanks to everyone here for the various insightful comments. They really were helpful.

                                                                      44 Replies
                                                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                        pro, thx so much for taking the time to do this detailed report. Given the differing opinions on this thread, a report like yours is terrifically helpful.

                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          I agree. Thanks for the great report, davis_sq_pro

                                                                        2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                          go to Cafe Sushi near Harvard Sq. 1/4 of the price and the same quality of sushi. O YA is fantastic but way to pricy for what you get.

                                                                          1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                            Cafe Sushi the same quality as O Ya? Interesting claim.

                                                                            I've never tried Cafe Sushi, but I have never heard it mentioned in even the top ten of area sushi restaurants among people whose opinion on the subject I respect. (I don't count myself a connoisseur.)

                                                                            It would certainly surprise me to hear that they're doing anything remotely comparable to what O Ya does, either in approach or ingredient quality. What are the chances that Cafe Sushi has a James Beard award in its future? Cushman got his this very evening, as Best Chef, Northeast.

                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                              Cushman won a lifetime achievement award tonight in a pool of very weak contenders. And really are James Beard awards how you are measuring talent these days. Does Thai North have a James Beard in their future? The Beards are a popularity contest, not a measure of talent (as Gabrielle Hamilton proved last year) or passion. Go sit at the bar and order off the specials list only and you will see what I mean. New chef who trained in San Fran before moving home to Boston. He has chops, just limited resources and a clientele of mainly Harvard students.
                                                                              I also find it funny that you so quickly defend a restaurants "approach" and "ingredient quality" when their menu has barely changed in three years.

                                                                              1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                I don't really understand how the JBAs are awarded -- I suspect having a good PR organization helps -- but given the achievements and extraordinary talent of many of the past winners, simply calling it a popularity contest is absurdly reductive. I was disappointed that Bissonnette didn't win Best Chef, Northeast, but I'm sure his time will come.

                                                                                O Ya might never change its menu again, but its approach (knifework, creative flavor combinations, presentation) and sourcing of unusual, high-quality seafoods are two things that appear to put in a class quite separate from Cafe Sushi, with its very mediocre reputation and menu full of middlebrow, highly Westernized rolls.

                                                                                So at least on its face, your comparison seems far-fetched. Again, I haven't tried it. Maybe you're onto something brand-new here. (I certainly never expected Strip-T's to ever become more than a place for a nice plate of turkey tips.) Uncovering hidden gems is one of the things we live for on this board. If there's a brilliant, undersung talent here, I'd love to know more about him.

                                                                                How long has this new chef been there? Care to share the details of a recent visit?

                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                  The JBAs are a joke, case in point, #9 Park wins this year for "Outstanding Wine Program". Does anyone believe that they have the best wine program in Boston let alone the country!

                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    The JBAs, generally, seem to take a fairly conservative view of a restaurant scene; the winners tend to be not white-hot, in the heat of their star rise, but rather, those enjoying some staying power.

                                                                                    To call either Jamie Bissonnette or Matt Jennings a "very weak contender" strikes me as a ludicrous observation. But good for a puzzled laugh.

                                                                                    Just on a side note: O Ya has no PR organization.

                                                                                    1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                      Matt Jennings is probably the most talented chef in New England right now. But he is in Providence. It should not be the case, but the major metropolitan areas tend to get the most notice for awards. Rob Evans winning for Hugo's was a surprise because he is from Portland, but at the time Portland was getting national attention for being a great food city. Providence has great restaurants and serious talent in its kitchens, but it hasn't received the attention yet.
                                                                                      And Jamie Bissonnette isn't even on the same level as Matt Jennings. Great marketer and restauranteur, but the quality of the product at Toro and Coppa has diminished as quickly as his star has risen. So inconsistent and poorly seasoned, even on nights when the saintly bissonnette is on the line. Stop worshipping false idols Boston!

                                                                                      1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                        Yes, we get it: you are a bold iconoclast. James Beard Awards are a farce. Cat Silirie doesn't deserve national recognition for the work she's done in Boston over 20 years. Colin Lynch and Jamie Bissonnette are highly overrated. Got it.

                                                                                        So, are you going to offer anything to back up your claim about Cafe Sushi? Maybe describe some of your experiences?

                                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                          Oh no....please don't make her back it up!!!

                                                                                          I was really hoping it would just go away, or get washed out in the undertow.

                                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                            Firstly, I didn't comment on Cat Silirie. I think she runs an inspired, dynamic beverage program. It is the only part of Menton that you might describe as "carefully sourced". Yes they mark up, but for the quality of the wine being served, as well as the level of detail provided by the staff, you are getting your moneys worth. I won't argue with you about others being overrated...

                                                                                            With respect to Cafe Sushi, the first time i went there was mediocre. I ordered off the menu which is full of standard western fare. The second and third times I visited I was with my husband who is quite adventurous and a former New Yorker who, sadly, is proud of his home state. Behind the sushi counter there is a chalk board that lists the special sushi of the night. As many of the fish species were quite unique or hard to find in Boston, we ordered two pieces of each. This caught the chefs attention. He came over and personally described each piece of sushi or sashimi that he was serving us, and he even sent over a few items that were off the menu that he was playing with. One of the most memorable was Otoro with house fermented tofu and cured lime. Varieties of fish that I can remeber were japanese sea robin, gizzard chad, maine sardines, blue mackerel, fluke fin,, maine and santa barbara uni, and scituate scallops taken out of their shells right in front of us. As the chef explained, if he had his way all diners would order off this menu. However, as the majority of the guests are there to eat dollar sushi, or grab a philadelphia roll to-go, he is forced to keep the majority of the menu he inherited. He also said a lot of the fish was shipped in from the tsukiji fish market because of a connection he made while on the west coast.
                                                                                            The meal required no truffles, or foie gras, or kobe beef to leave me feeling satisfied. I should also note that the last time I ate at o ya, it was one of the best meals I have had in the last 5 years. I loved it. But the way they price the tasting menu is borderline robbery. And I needed a sandwhich an hour later.

                                                                                            1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                              Thanks, I appreciate the follow-up. That sounds very different from and much more interesting than any Cafe Sushi meal I've ever heard described. It's also extraordinary that he can keep such interesting stock on hand if the demand for it is so limited. Does he have a Japanese ex-pat following? Do you know the chef's name? Does he work seven days?

                                                                                              And I don't think anyone will argue that O Ya isn't an extravagance. But I have to say I've felt it was a decent value for an occasion place in my last few meals there, moreso than my recent experiences at, say, Oishii Boston or Radius.

                                                                                              And the No. 9 JBA is primarily Cat's award, don't you think?

                                                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                I don't typically give an iota of thought to what yelp reviews have to say, but based on this sub-thread I was curious to see the "trend" over there. There's a definite spike upwards over the last 6 months or so - so either they're doing a good job of astroturfing or there might actually be something to this tale. Another possibility is "it's yelp"

                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                  This thread is so deep now that I can't tell which comment you're responding to, jgg. I'm not following you at all: what "trend" are you talking about? Where did Yelp come into this discussion? Who's astroturfing what?

                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                    Sounds like jgg searched Yelp for comments on Cafe Sushi. Interesting comment about "restaurant community" supporting CS, as I'd heard positive things from restaurant folks as well. May be worth a try.

                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                      You can see how the aggregate rating of a place is trending on yelp. I noted that for what little it is worth, cafe sushi has had a solid spike which is a possible corroboration of ramp girl's tale

                                                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                        yeah, but you lost me at yelp, unless we're talking extortion.

                                                                                                        1. re: enhF94

                                                                                                          Which is why I said "I don't typically give an iota of thought to what yelp reviews have to say".

                                                                                                          However, Chowhound doesn't have a way of tracking sentiment over time so ya gotta go with what's available.

                                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                    My husband and I remember the name Seizi but we cannot remeber his first name. I'm pretty sure he is somehow related to the owners. He works five days a week, but what days he works I cannot remember accurately enough to post it. He said that he has been getting a lot of support from the restaurant community so a lot of cooks etc have been coming in and purchasing more of his special items. But he also said they buy in small quantity and when they run out of a special they run out. It really does seem like the type of place where enthusiasm is rewarded with a great experience.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                                      Well, shoot, Ramp Girl, that's some serious sushi smack you're talking - welcome to the Board and next time, start a new threadas soon as you locate such an interesting find, so we can get over there sooner.

                                                                                                      1. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                                        Thank you for your review. I for one am looking forward to trying Cafe Sushi now. It's right by my office. Any idea if the specials are also available at lunchtime?

                                                                                      2. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                        I've never eaten at O Ya, so I can't compare. But if Cafe Sushi is as good as O Ya, then I guess I'll never eat there then. I wouldn't eat at Cafe Sushi if you paid me to.

                                                                                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                          $10,000?

                                                                                          1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                                                            Sounds like an Indecent Proposal (starring Demi Moore, of course). You're on, I've changed my mind!

                                                                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                              See, every sushi hater has his price.

                                                                                              1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                                                                I love sushi, that's why I don't eat at Cafe Sushi!

                                                                                              2. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                "We've already established what kind of a girl you are. Now we're just negotiating."

                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                          2. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                            You have to be kidding. Unless it's opposite day, since on another thread you pronounce Menton's sauces "inedible".

                                                                                            Cafe Sushi is a medicore neighborhood sushi place. Slightly better than Takemura, it's only sushi competition in that neighborhood. If I still lived in Harvard Square, I would rather walk to Koreana in Central or Blue Fin in Porter. Cafe Sushi is definitely not in the top ten in the Boston area.

                                                                                            There are a slate of (relatively) low-priced places for quality sushi in the Boston area, ranging from take-out sushi at Sakanaya in Allston, more traditional Japanese places like Toraya in Arlington and Sushi Island in Wakefield, to more modern places like Fish Market in Allston. Even Oga's, a fancier sushi restaurant in Natick, or AKA Bistro in Concord, are doing something quite different from O Ya. Those are all quality places, but they take a different approach and use ingredients at a different price point.

                                                                                            If you're point is that O Ya is not the only quality, serious sushi restaurant in Boston, you're absolutely right. The Oishiis and Uni, Oga's and AKA, Toraya and Sushi Island, and more, are all serious places at a variety of different registers. If you're point is that you don't find O Ya a good value, that's absolutely your opinion. I respect Troquet, for instance, but I don't find it a good value for me. But to compare the quality of the meal at O Ya with Cafe Sushi is like saying Frank's Steak House in North Cambridge is as good as Menton.

                                                                                            1. re: lipoff

                                                                                              Cafe Sushi has a long history of being a mediocre neighborhood sushi place when it was run by Seiji's father (who still owns it). Seiji was an artist and a chef in San Fransisco and felt the need to come back to Boston and take his father's business by the reins. I would compare it to Peach Farm in the sense that if you were to go there and order General Gau's Chicken and Lo Mein you would not be impressed, but the salt and pepper calamari (or anything for that matter) and surf clam with vermicelli are a whole different ball game.

                                                                                              I went there on the recommendation of the owners of Hungry Mother looking forward to what I thought would be a good meal and was shocked at how excellent it was. A renovation and elimination of lunch specials would be a game-changer for that place.

                                                                                              1. re: suzysue2

                                                                                                suzy, your comments above were the ones that totally won me over to trying this place, so thk you. Might you consider reposting the above in a new thread so more people will see it? seems like CS is well deserving of some new CH customers.

                                                                                                1. re: suzysue2

                                                                                                  Seiji is clearly passionate about his work. I believe he trained at Sushi Ran in Sausalito before coming back home to Cafe Sushi. He has always been willing to create interesting dishes for us to try based on what he has on hand. I agree that it's a bit of a hidden gem that could benefit from some updating.

                                                                                              2. re: Ramp_Girl127

                                                                                                I love Cafe Sushi. Seiji is a fantastic chef and an interesting and charming guy to chat with. We have had a few outstanding omakase there, they are batting .1000 so far. On par with Uni and Oiishi, a total hidden gem. The ambiance is pretty standard sushi bar, but the food is far from it. Beautiful fish, and tons of finesse and subtlety in the preparation and a good sake list. I have been meaning to give this place more love here, so thanks Ramp Girl for the opportunity.

                                                                                                1. re: suzysue2

                                                                                                  Thanks for the report!

                                                                                                  (But I think you want to say batting 1.000, or batting a thousand. Batting .1000 gets you sent to the minors in a hurry.)

                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                    No more baseball references for me! Thanks Slim.

                                                                                                  2. re: suzysue2

                                                                                                    Alright, you've convinced me. I'm going to try to get over there in the next week or two for dinner. Does Seiji do omakase?

                                                                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                                      I'm coming too! I'll give you the CH wave(???)oh boy oh boy. Anyone know when he gets his fish deliveries?

                                                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                        This thread has me sold. I've been looking for a new sushi place for a while and this thread definitely has me intrigued.

                                                                                                        Looks like it will be another game of try to spot the other CHs in the room.

                                                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                          cn y gv m th CH wv 2?

                                                                                                          1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                                                                            absolutely, but only if you promise to wave back! i'll be wearing a black jumper.
                                                                                                            and it will be on a weeknight.

                                                                                                        2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                                          Yes, sit at the bar and engage him, he is a total peach. That being said I have had great omakase in his absence as well.

                                                                                                          1. re: suzysue2

                                                                                                            So did you folks go?! We're having a debate at the office today, about where to get some decent sushi in Harvard Square. Majority favors heading to Shabu-Ya on JFK St (yecch) because it's close and it's a million degrees outside, and I'm losing my bid to try Cafe Sushi due to the longer walk. If I can report that reputable chowhounds gave this place two thumbs up recently, that might help my case. Help!

                                                                                                            1. re: Dea

                                                                                                              search on Cafe Sushi http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849031

                                                                                                              1. re: barleywino

                                                                                                                Thank you! Twas a search that brought me here. Don't know why that thread didn't show up in my results. Probably operator error...