Chirashizushi showdown: Toraya (Arlington) vs Oiishi (Chestnut Hill)
Happen to have the Chirashi at both Toraya and Oiishi this week which allowed me to do a nice side by side comparison.
Price: $12 at Toraya for lunch vs $25 at Oiishi for dinner. At first I balked at the $25 price at Oiishi but was really in the mood so I decided to see if it was worth it.
Miso: Every time I have miso soup at 99% of Japanese restaurants I cry a little inside. Why oh why do restaurants not make homemade dashi? It's cheap, easy, and tastes so much better. But alas, both used instant dashi. A draw.
Service: Oiishi, with four chefs working, had my Chirashi out in 5 minutes from when I sat down (granted I ordered 5 minutes before while waiting for a table). Toraya, with one chef, took a painful 35 minutes and it wasn't even that crowded inside.
Rice: Toraya wins this for me. Most sushi rice in the states I find too bland or too sweet. Toraya was balanced but with a slight hint of vinegar ie. just the way I like it. Oiishi was too sweet and had undissolved sugar in it, a huge miss.
Presentation: Oiishi, by a hair. They both came out in traditional Chirashi bowl with an eye towards presentation. Oiishi had a nice flower on top and had a wide color contrast.
Selection of fish: Oiishi definitely offered more, but was also twice as expensive. I believe Toraya was eight different types and Oiishi was twelve (approx). Neither offered anything beyond the standards/classics though. Oiishi by technicality.
Quality of fish: Oiishi's fish definitely seemed fresher, with the exception of one fish which had a distinct iodine taste to it. Toraya's was fresh enough, above average, but not sparkling fresh. Oiishi wins this round.
Cut of fish: Here is where I really enjoyed Toraya. Oiishi's cuts were just way too big. They were long and twice as thick as a standard American cut. Each piece was the size of two of my fingers together. While for some people this might be a pro, I found it detracted from the enjoyment as so much chewing was involved it took away from the flavor. The chef at Toraya, on the other hand, did something interesting, he cut the pieces in half so each piece was the size of three quarters stacked on each other. While smaller and squarer than what I'm used to, I really enjoyed it. It allowed me to savor each type of fish in a short punchy bite. The slicing was also very well done and everything was extremely tender including the octopus.
While I enjoyed both, I have to recommend Toraya (which was recommended to me on Chow). Cheap, delicious, authentic. Feels just like Japan.
Thanks for this report! Chirashizushi seems like kind of a neglected option for sushi fans, but it's an old favorite for me because it was my introduction to sushi via a Japanese college friend at BU.
That was back in the days when any Boston-area Japanese restaurants were all of the teppanyaki persuasion. I had heard of sushi and wanted to try it, and she enjoyed cooking at home, so she made chirashizushi for me a couple of times. (Her big company-for-dinner specialty was shabu-shabu, though.) I've had a hankering for chirashizushi recently - I should check out Fish Market's rendition.
Thanks for this. I've had both but not within the span of a week. Agree with pretty much everything you say though I've found the freshness of the fish comparable. Toraya is slow and I was surprised at how fast Oishii was especially in off hours (i was there ~5:30. Toraya is a real gem and wish I were closer. Oishii is a treat but as you said, twice the price and almost too much food for one person.
SHHHHHH! - Toraya is getting really crowded these days (full at 9:30p last night - Wednesday! Arlington!) - and sometimes they can't even accept takeout orders (or need you to wait a couple of hours, literally) since the sushi chef / owner is it and has a finite capacity (those cuts take time)...also, the dinner chirashi there is $18 IIRC and a great value dinner option if you're not rushed.
Both are excellent options for sure.
You can ask for the fish to be thinly sliced at Oishii (no extra charge). Each big piece becomes 2 pieces.
As far as price is concerned, Oishii doesn't offer Chirashi as a lunch special. However you can get a sashimi lunch box (with miso, salad and watermelon) that is almost enough to feed 2 people for $18. If you want Chirashi, Toraya is much cheaper, however if there is flexibility on what you are ordering Oishii can be every bit as inexpensive for lunch.
Thanks for the heads up; I will definitely ask for thinly sliced in the future. Yeah, if I wasn't alone I would definitely split the Chirashi and just round it out with something else; it is a lot of food for one person.
I'm curious to try Cafe Sushi's Chirashi for lunch now ($12). Anyone try the chirashi there? We love their sushi and it tends to be our go to spot.
Chirashi was my stand by order at sushi restaurants when I still could eat raw fish. Haven't been to Oiishi, but we do enjoy Toraya. Went there this past Sat for a late lunch and it was packed. I agree that their rice is nicely balanced and firm.
Fish Market in Allston also has a good chirashi. The classic selection of fish, but fresh and a manageable cut. If I recall correctly Samurai on Boylston also has a good one.