O Ya Earns Its Reputation as a Top Restaurant in Boston
With all the kudos O Ya (9 East Street) has been getting, we clearly recognized our need to at least see the bandwagon, never mind get on it. Rated Boston’s No. 1 restaurant by Boston magazine, as well as getting bests from Bon Apetit, New York Times, and Food & Wine, clearly this Leather District sashimi place was worth a visit. We wanted a chance to see Chef Tim Cushman shine, especially since he and partner Nancy Cushman are invading NYC’s sushi scene with another O Ya outpost.
Talk about tiny. With a small sushi bar and table seating for only 20, this small spot apparently didn’t get the memo that it’s a big deal. But its intimate size in a 100-year-old fire station and unassuming decor (filled with business guys and trendy couples) is just fine. The menu pulls off all the pomp and circumstance it needs.
Since the menu changes daily, our night was full of decadent choices like Black River ossetra caviar, Japanese big fin squid, spotted knifejaw, and Kumamoto oysters. We chose four from the nigiri and sashimi selections, and four from the “other” menu.
To start we had the hamachi with banana peppers and salmon with unfiltered wheat soy moromi. They weren’t showstoppers, but were pleasant enough to start us off right. Then came the sashimi – Suzuki sea bass with spicy cucumber vinaigrette, avocado and cilantro, and dayboat scallops with sage tempura, olive oil foam and Meyer lemon. These two were instant favorites, the first both a feast for tastebuds (a generous bam! of spice) and eyes (a delicate floral topping), while the second were gorgeous little dew drops of sweetness with a tiny crunch hidden inside.
As we moved on to homemade noodles, we were warmed up by our choice of seared Spanish octopus with squid ink soba, bonito, mentaiko and sudachi. An immediate love, this was a generous portion of black murky noodles topped with a nice cut of octopus that complimented the comforting soba flavor with a smoky toughness. Warning: this dish moves. “Don’t worry. It’s not alive,” we were told. “It’s just the air moving the bonito flakes on top.” Oh, okay. To lighten up things, we ordered the chilled daikon “dumpling” with miso nut “cheese” and kimchee. With the daikon’s natural vinegary flavor in full effect, we didn’t really love the mix with the nutty grainy filling and wished the kimchee was more represented. The next dish was foie gras gyoza, a welcomed change from the typical cabbage and pork. Heaven in a crisp little packet.
Unlike most small plate places, the meal was dish-focused. Instead of an onslaught, each dish was brought…one…at…a time. Painstakingly slow if you’re hungry; perfect timing if you want to ponder your selections. Some dishes even take 45 minutes to prepare. All in all, the time is definitely worth the trip, since all those accolades are certainly deserved.
Should you bring your finely-tuned palette and conversation to this high-end sashimi house? Our answer: O Ya.