Bashing Basho - Very Disappointing
Basho was a big disappointment. I know a lot about Japanese food, and a Japanese friend who had not been to the restaurant suggested that I check it out. He had heard about it, but never visited. I chose to sit at the sushi bar. Although I was there at about 7PM on a weekday, there were no more than about 4 people eating inside the restaurant and a handful outside in this cavernous space.
I ordered three types of sushi: O-toro, Uni and Ama-ebi.
The O-toro was not O-toro. It was a much lower grade of tuna, perhaps not even chu-toro. It may have come from the tuna belly, but that is not the key criterion. By passing it off as O-toro and charging O-toro prices, they are cheating their customers. The O-toro was not visible in the display case.
The Uni was from Maine, not California. Tthey should be able to provide the higher quality California Uni which is much creamier and sweeter. If they want to sell uni from Maine in this 'high end' restaurant, the charge should probably be a little less, they should be more selective about the quality and the uni should be visible in the display case.
The Ama-ebi had a nice flavor. One shrimp per piece, but larger size shrimps. It wasn't super fresh, but it was good. It was not served with the cooked heads, as is customary with this size shrimp.
The rice that was used for the sushi was a bit too dry for my taste, but worse, in my opinion, was that there was too much of it in each piece. Sadly, in Boston, this is a common theme. It's as if the restaurants want to show the customers that they are getting more for their money, so they give you about twice the amount of rice that you would get in Japan or in an authentic Japanese restaurant in NY or L.A., and they often give you a larger piece of (therefore) lower quality fish. Personally, I would prefer a smaller (bite-sized, as is traditional) piece with higher quality fish or other ingredient (neta.)
When the chef asked me if I was pleased with the sushi, I told him exactly what I stated above. He agreed when I said that the Uni was from Maine, but that was pretty much the last word I heard from him. He never offered to give me a better piece of O-toro, something that I would hope for, but perhaps he didn't have any. There was also no adjustment to the bill, at least not a reduction.
The highlight of my meal was the Shishito Pepper appetizer. It was absolutely wonderful. I was just in Barcelona, where grilled Padron peppers are in season and wondrous, and the Shishitos brought back that fantastic memory. Basho's chef cooked them perfectly, still holding a little crunch and varying from mild to medium in the heat category. They were in a delicious, spicy sauce that reminded me of Nobu's Peruvian-inspired Anti-Cucho sauce.
I had Miso soup, which was a good sized portion and perfectly fine. I ordered Monkfish pate, which was the usual (sadly) monkfish liver roll sliced up and it came with too little ponzu sauce. It had very little flavor and seemed a bit harder than it should have been, perhaps from prolonged storage.
I was excited by the description of the Yellowtail Usuzukuri l, so I ordered that as well. It was described as yellowtail with yuzu sauce. Simple and perhaps exactly what I needed - NOT! The raw yellowtail slices were laid out on the plate with too much of a cloying, almost gelatinous thick 'sauce' on each and a slice of jalapeno pepper. It was a bad interpretation of Nobu's Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno. Note that the menu description did not even mention Jalapeno and, by the way, the yellowtail had little flavor.
On to 'Robata.'
I'm also a big fan of Yakitori or grilled chicken. Typically a Yakitori house in Japan prepares almost every part of the chicken on skewers. One of my favorite selections is grilled chicken skin. When properly prepared and crispy it can be sublime. It was on their 'Robata' menu, but the waiter, who was excellent and very attentive, by the way, told me that an hour before he had been told that they were taking it off the menu. Really????? So I asked him to ask the chef, who must still have had chicken and chicken skin, if he could make it for me. No.
I then ordered 4 skewers - Chicken Thigh, Kobe Beef, Pork Belly with Mustard and Shrimp.
The chicken thigh was skinless (so where was my chicken skin???) and dry - it had been marinated but perhaps for too long and the overall result was poor. Chicken thigh in a good restaurant is often a whole chicken thigh wrapped in its own skin and grilled to the point where the skin is crispy and the meat is tender. This was terrible by comparison. Bleh.
The Kobe Beef, supposedly not Wagyu but actually from the Kobe Prefecture in Japan, was mostly tough and chewy and without a lot of flavor. If it was Kobe, it was a low grade. Bleh+
The Pork Belly was a bit burned and the meat portion was mostly dry and overcooked. I had just had some very nice Pork Belly at a Chinese restaurant that day for lunch and this didn't come close to the Chinese quality.
The shrimp was not fresh. Simple grilled shrimp on a skewer can be great. This wasn't.
Overall, I have to say that the quality of the ingredients was poor, with a few exceptions. I felt cheated by the 'toro', so that set the tone. Some of the items, which I have had many times in many places, just didn't meet expectations. The chicken thigh was worse than that. It was just bad. If not for the Shishito peppers, I would never consider going back.
The service was excellent and if you are in a drinking mood, I am sure that this can be a fun place to hang out due to its full bar and huge space, but if you are just planning to come for a meal, don't bother.