Oishii was my first—and to date, only—haute cuisine sushi experience in Boston. This Best of Boston sushi restaurant has two locations, a large restaurant in the South End and a small sushi bar in Chestnut Hill. I have had great experiences at both.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012. The day after Christmas, my boyfriend and I made a spontaneous visit to Oishii’s South End location with his mother. My first two serious sushi experiences had been at Bar Masa in New York City. I was itching for a similar sushi experience in Boston, and from everything I had heard from friends and bloggers alike, Oishii was the place to go.
To kickstart my love for Oishii, we got the toro tartare with ossetra caviar ($25) served atop an ice block. What an impressive beginning! This giant ice block was almost as high as my chin and glowed green from a tiny light frozen inside the block at its base.
The photo doesn’t quite show the toro because it was covered under a layer of caviar. There was only a small amount to split between the three of us, but luckily I got the couple of bites at the bottom: the coldest and the yummiest, because the juices had trickled down. Serving the toro cold added a new dimension to the flavor that I hadn’t tasted before, furthering the sensation of having the toro melt in my mouth. I also got to eat the berry—which, per my after-meal research, was a yangmei fruit, also called Japanese bayberry.
Next was the lightly seared salmon, drizzled with hot olive oil and yuzu juice, topped with crispy shallots. The only fish I ate before becoming a foodie were salmon and tuna, and I wasn’t eating especially good salmon or tuna, so those two fish always need to overcome my childhood preconceptions. I was head-over-heels for Oishii’s olive-oil preparation. The hot olive oil seared the salmon—how cool is that?—adding a smooth olive undertone. The crispy shallots helped develop the texture. Phenomenal. 10/10.
Next came the one of the day’s specials: fugu blowfish sashimi with lemon foam and me-negi (scallion sprouts). If cooked incorrectly, blowfish can be lethal, so I was curious and a little nervous. Who wants to die in a restaur…you know, actually that might be an okay way to go.
The presentation was beautiful, even more so than this photo can show. The thin strips of blowfish were about as wide as my little finger, striped with carefully-aligned scallion sprouts and garnished with bright little flowers. The lemon foam was bright and pucker-inducingly sour with an almost-spicy aftertaste. Together, I don’t know of a better way to describe it than to say it tasted pretty.
We ordered three pieces of tempura: avocado ($2), shrimp ($10), and lobster ($6). I loved my avocado tempura! Light, fluffy, melted in my mouth. My boyfriend enjoyed his lobster and shrimp tempura, too. He shared none.
The most fun course was the ishiyaki ($50): small strips of wagyu beef cooked on a “stone top fire pot” right at the table. The cooking time 10 seconds for rare, 30 for medium. You don’t want to spend fifty dollars on meat and then overcook it, so watch out.
The wagyu was fun to cook and yummy to eat, and it made for a great splurge, but I wouldn’t feel it was a necessity for every single visit. It’s expensive. I don’t mind spending money for taste, but above a certain line I want to feel like I’m also getting filled. The taste was spot-on with the wagyu, but six strips were small and I was ready for the next course.
My boyfriend’s mother ordered a plate of sashimi for her entree. Oishii’s a la carte sushi menu has one piece of sushi per order, and sashimi is an additional $4 and has two pieces per order. All of the sashimi was delicious. My boyfriend ordered a few pieces as well. Collectively, they ordered:
—maguro tuna ($9/order/order)
—tennen tai, a white fish; ($13/order/order)
—white salmon ($12/order/order)
—baby yellowtail ($10/order)
—aji mackerel ($10/order)
—kohada mackerel ($11/order)
For my entree, I chose the sautéed uni over homemade pasta ($30) with shaved truffles and topped with a poached egg. I loved this! It was reminiscent of pasta carbonara, one of my favorite Italian dishes. I love creative twists on old favorites.
Four years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that someday I’d enjoy eating sea urchin. The uni came in small orange pieces, spongy and soft in texture and subtle in flavor amongst the other flavors of the dish. Poached egg is one of my favorite ingredients, and this one was cooked perfectly. I stuck my fork to pop the hot, runny yolk and let it leak all over the pasta.
It would be almost three months before I returned to Oishii, and at another location with different company. I looked forward to it. In fact, my friend and I had specifically planned to go to Oishii. I mention this because some restaurants leave you with that craving to return. This was that.
Sunday, March 17, 2013. Befriending with classmates is tricky in community college because as commuters, you probably don’t live nearby each other, and two-thirds of the students will withdraw during the semester so you may never see them again on campus, either. With this in mind, I am exceptionally glad that I had the opportunity to forge my friendship with Raquel before graduating. As lab partners in the back of our biology classroom, we bonded over banana DNA extraction and paternity tests. (Yes, those were two different unrelated experiments.) We met at Oishii’s other location, a small sushi bar in Newton, because nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like sushi!
As we pored over the menu, we were drawn to the Chef’s Special Menu:
Oishii baby hamachi sashimi ($20) with jalapeño, spicy radish and soy sauce. Raquel likes spice, so between the spicy radish and the jalapeño, she was a happy diner. I enjoyed the silky hamachi, too. Little did I know, the real spice for me would come with my next course.
Under a section of the menu titled Customer Creations, an item called Barry’s Passion Shooter ($9) caught my eye: sea urchin, quail egg, Tabasco, and light soy sauce. I was drawn to it partly because I like sea urchin, and partly because it combined four ingredients I wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole three years ago.
I raised the glass, eyeing the bright yellow yolk shining merrily at me through the glass. I don’t drink alcohol so I’m not accustomed to drinking from shot glasses, but then again, I don’t make a habit of drinking egg yolks either. What am I, Rocky?
Just do it. Bottom’s up!
It was weird. I can’t think of a more succinct description, so that’s the one I’m going with. The texture of the raw egg yolk and spongy sea urchin, mixed with the spiciness from the Tabasco that settled in the back of my throat…it was weird, but somehow, I liked it.
Next up was the Oishii tuna chip ($11): seasoned minced tuna with pickled radish, served atop homemade potato chips. This was one of my favorites. The waffle-style potato chip was definitely the loudest flavor on the plate, but hey, I like twists on snack food.
Fluke carpaccio ($20): thinly-sliced fluke with shiitake mushrooms and aged soy powder. I loved the earthy flavors of the mushroom and soy matched with the smooth-as-silk fluke, and the olive oil gave the dish just the right touch of umami. The carpaccio and the aforementioned tuna chip were my favorite courses of the meal.
Lastly, we got an order of the scorpion maki ($11): eel, cucumber, and roe, covered with shrimp. Our orders up to this point had been relatively complicated, and this simple sushi roll was a divergence from that. But it’s reassuring to see that Oishii can do the simple right alongside the fancy! For Raquel, the scorpion maki roll was tied with the baby hamachi for her favorite course of the meal.
A sushi restaurant at the level of Oishii is an experience for the artistic side of my brain similar to visiting an art museum. The presentation is creative and colorful and artsy. Every restaurant could take a lesson from good sushi places and capitalize on the opportunity to impress their diners: “we eat with our eyes first,” goes the adage. Even the ones that aspire to rarely succeed with Oishii’s deftness. Try Oishii for yourself and see.
INFORMATION as of August 2013