Four days in Boston
I'll be in Boston for four and am mapping out my culinary experiences. I'm a foodie and run the gamut from ultra ethnic Ethiopian, Green Smoothies, and Natto-touting Japanese to fancy degustation-menu French and no-frills Seafood.
In the past, I have done L'Espalier and Menton and enjoyed them both VERY much. Boston has great French food. My favorite food is Japanese. I tried O Ya, which I loved even thought I'm a traditionalist at heart, and I've tried Oishii which I found ridiculous (glowing sashimi plates?) and not really Japanese at all (wasn't expecting that at O Ya).
Anyway, here's what's on my itinerary, and I have a lot of holes. Let me know what you'd recommend to fill them in:
Monday evening -- Ostra. This was last minute, since I had just arrived. I loved it. I'll leave a little review below. I really like how they display the fish, and I found the atmosphere lively.
Tuesday lunch -- Life Alive Cambridge -- thinking about trying a Vegan place prior to a bigger meal.
Tuesday dinner -- O Ya omakase -- can't resist a second time, but is it still as good? It's been a couple years, but I remember people claiming it was Boston's best foodie destination
Wednesday lunch -- Toraya -- this is the only semi-Japanese restaurant I could find on Yelp. Is it legit? (Legit to me is Japanese chef and more focus on traditional items over crazy rolls)
Wednesday dinner -- Sarma -- figured I throw in Mediterranean. I couldn't get a reservation at Oleana. Is Sarma as good? I do like upscale for dinner when I can.
Thursday lunch -- West Bridge -- will be in area, looked good and business-y which I need.
Thursday dinner -- very open to suggestions here. Was considering Nepture Oyster bar just to say I did it, and I do love shellfish, however, I'm worried it's a tourist trap and I don't like the idea of waiting although I'll be flying solo or with only one other person
Friday lunch -- Jugos -- was considering doing the green smoothie route on my way out as a weak attempt at feeling okay about overeating all week.
Other restaurants floating on my radar screen are Atlantic Seafood and Toro restaurant.
First review: Ostra.
I really liked how they mixed old-school charm (fish on display) with new-school ambiance and creativity. This was definitely more on the new side to be fair.
Service was pleasant, if on the slow side considering how busy this place got by 8 pm. Water and wine was always filled, but my waiter was not around a ton.
The seafood was standout to me and was a perfect blend of focusing on the freshness of the fish while adding an element of creativity to the dishes. I wanted to try a lot, so this is what I did:
1) Half dozen oysters (mixed) -- first off, the oysters were plump, juicy, and oh so perfectly fresh, as one would expect. The house-made cocktail sauce with fresh horseradish, mignonette (best ever award?), and of course tabasco sauce and lemon brought this to another level.
I complemented all my dishes with a Riesling that went very well. The white wine list is one of my favorites ever.
2) Grilled octopus -- Extremely fresh, perfectly cooked octopus that is not overly covered in oil or cooked too long so is no longer tender. Loved the hint of spice and onions here, too
3) Seafood bouillabaisse -- This was a special, and a rare misstep in my meal. I thought the sauce was too heavy, being cream based, and while the seafood, especially the clams and prawns were tasty, the side of garlic bread and cream sauce was way too much for an appetizer. Too heavy for this rarefied air
4) Whole sea bream -- deboned and head removed, but cooked perfectly with a crispy exterior and succulent white fleshy interior. It is served with a generous portion of root vegetable sides and I added some sautéed greens, which were very sophisticated up to the bitter side considering they wove in some mustard-type greens, which was surprising
Nice list! Wish I were your traveling companion. Toraya is legit--no frills, straight forward sushi and Japanese food (donburi, yakimono, etc). Very different from O Ya! It's a very tiny spot, but it'll likely be OK for a weekday lunch.
You might also look into Shiki in Brookline (Coolidge Corner). Also legit Japanese food. Their "kaiseki" lunch sets are so pretty: tiny bits of different things laid out on a lacquered tray. Only for lunch though. Their dinner menu is more izakaya-style: lots of little bites, like tapas. They have sushi but they aren't exactly sushi specialists, though.
Ittoku further west in Brookline more distinctly advertises itself as an izakaya, but I haven't been yet.
Cafe Sushi on the outskirts of Harvard Square has more obscure fish with a highly seasonal menu. You can get traditional nigiri/sashimi (plus their sushi rice is made well and their dashi stock doesn't taste like it came from a powdered mix), but I think they really shine in their special Chef Signature creations with different paired condiments and sauces (no, not eel sauce and mayo on everything!). Since I've never been to O ya, I'm not sure how it would compare.
I've heard good things about Ebi Sushi in Somerville, but I haven't tried it yet. (Their menu looks awfully authentic. They have a raw grated yam+natto set!)
Definitely not a destination sort of place, but one or two booths in the Porter Square mall have Yoshoku-type dishes like curry and tonkatsu sets along with udon, noodles, etc if you're into having everyday sort of Japanese food.
P.S. I also like Island Creek Oyster Bar.
Toraya is very legit -Japanese chef, I believe he is the owner as well. Outstanding sushi and sashimi, some of the best I have had outside of Japan. He does a wonderful sashimi bento box - makes for a very satisfying lunch at a ridiculously reasonable price. Try to get there early, it's a small place and there can be a wait for lunch (and dinner). The majority of diners at Toraya are Japanese.