It’s long been my dream to eat nothing but chocolate for an entire week—or, if not absolutely nothing but chocolate, then at least as much chocolate as I could possibly want. The goal would be to attempt (though I’m fairly certain it’s impossible) to overdose on chocolate, with the idea that such an overdose might tame my future chocolate cravings.
Still, I’ve grown up since then, however, and given up childish ways—I’ve since decided that chocolate is nothing in life compared to sushi, and that my sushi cravings were significantly more serious than my chocolate ones. So, I recruited some of my favorite sushi-eating buddies—Robert, of course, and Jef, Bob, and Debbie—and suggested the idea of an all-sushi week.
Robert laughed at the idea, but nonetheless was game. Bob and Debbie were interested, but not committed. Jef, however, was sold. Robert, Jef, and I managed to do three days in a row with sushi, but however hard we tried, it seemed that other people, places, and things combined to prevent us from achieving our week-long quest.
Sushi Buddies Christina, Jef, Robert
My dream of a never-ending sushi week will live on in my mind, however, and I believe that someday (with or without my trusty sushi companions) I will be able to realize it. In the meantime, for anyone who wants sushi once in a maguro moon or every night of the week, I offer these notes on sushi-eating in the Boston area.
You may also like to visit our sushi-making FAQ, along with brief reviews of sushi restaurants in Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Boston (old), and our photo gallery of sushi-making (process and product) in our kitchens in Boston and Los Angeles.
[10/07 NOTE: The following reviews are OLD; see our newer page for more current information.]
Sea to You, on Fish Pier in South Boston/Fort Point, past the World Trade Center
Sea to You is a wholesaler, supplying sushi fish to restaurants around Boston. Friday and Saturday mornings, however (usually 9-2, but hours vary seasonally), they are open to the public, and you can have hunks of fresh fish cut to any size you want. Their prices are the best in Boston (around $10-30/pound, with special weekly sales), and their fish always high quality—go here to buy enough fish for a party, to sample three or four different kinds of tobiko, to taste some of their premade salads (tako or seaweed are the most interesting), and to stock up on some soft shelled crabs and unagi for the freezer. For endless amusement, sign up for their weekly sale email, and get great news Thursday or Friday nights about cheap toro, etc.
Market, in the Porter Exchange building (1815 Mass Ave) Kotobukiya
is a clean little Japanese market in the back of the Lesley College/Porter
Exchange building at the Porter Square T station. In addition to lots of noodles,
tea, crackers, and cookies, they sell nice fresh onigiri and small packages
of sushi fish (usually 3-4 kinds, for $15-30/pound). Clearly they’re
more expensive than Sea to You, but the fish is fresh and present everyday. (closed May 2009)
Bread and Circus stores, especially the Symphony and the Cambridge Riverside locations
Some of the Bread and Circuses stock specifically labelled sushi-grade tuna for about $16/pound. By this they mean that the fish is extremely fresh and has been handled properly and kept isolated from other kinds of fish. This is a great last-minute sushi-night splurge, but if you’re planning ahead you can do better (variety, price, and quality-wise). In addition, they frequently have other tuna, scallops, and salmon that are fresh enough to eat as sushi—just ask the guy behind the fish counter when they came in, and use your judgement. Similarly, any fish market or supermarket with a clean display, very fresh fish, and trustworthy fishmongers can give like results.
Above are two of our recent (February-April 2003) home-sushi feasts, with all ingredients from Sea to You except for the scallops (Bread and Circus Symphony). At left, a Korean-Japanese extravaganza for six people, with beautiful chotoro nigiri and maki, hotategai (scallop) nigiri, maguro and sake nigiri, maki, futomaki, and pressed sushi, accompanied by various salads (seaweed salad, pickled mushrooms, spicy pickled cucumbers, bean sprout salad, soused spinach, sweet boiled black soybeans, edamame, and octopus salad). Of course, we had pickled ginger and real (not the horseradish/mustard/food coloring kind) wasabi). At right, a more modest meal for four, with chotoro nigiri, maki, and spicy maki, hamachi-wasabi-tobiko pressed sushi, negihamachi maki, and amaebi nigiri with the fried heads on the side (not pictured).
************REVIEWS BELOW ARE NOT CURRENT--SEE OUR CURRENT, NEWLY-UPDATED PAGE FOR THAT!************
All of these places follow the same pricing scheme—essentially 32 pieces of nigiri for $25. You almost always want to order your rolls separately, as each roll (even in the $2.80-$4 range) would otherwise count for 6 of your 32 pieces, thereby greatly lessening the cheapness of the place. The quality sometimes varies--typically the octopus at these places is on the chewy side, and the uni is better or worse depending on the day--but everything is fresh and sweet-smelling and, obviously, completely safe to eat.
Shino Express, 144 Newbury Street (5 blocks from Mass Ave)
Slightly funky atmosphere with lots of manga to read while you wait or eat at the high counters. Small, with pieces of fish that seem slightly smaller than the Porter Square place even though I believe they’re related. Fast service, and they hustle you out when you're done. (Last visited 6/03)
Sushi stand in the Super88 Food Connection in Allston, at the corner of Comm and Brighton Aves
No table service, but hey, that means no tip. Very slow sushi making, but very good—slightly bigger nigiri than some of these other places. The food court location is a plus—boba right around the corner, and non-sushi options for those picky friends. Besides, you can linger at the tables all night and no one will kick you out. This gets my vote for best of the cheap places just for the fun factor. In addition, they always have a woman pushing samples of teriyaki chicken on you, and who can resist a free skewer of chicken while waiting for their sushi? (Last visited 8/04)
Bluefin, in the Porter Exchange building (see above)
Classiest atmosphere of all of these places, but there’s always a long wait. Thankfully, you can wander around the mall and have ice cream of boba or onigiri while you wait. The service tends to be a little rushed, but it’s still the best service of these sit-down-and-give-a-tip cheap places. (Last visited 9/04)
Sushi Express on 1038 Beacon Street in Brookline, just past Kenmore Square
Really no atmosphere at all, very small, uncomfortable tables, and not great service. Still, if you’re in the area and craving, the price is right. (Last visited 2/03)
Minado (webpage here). in Natick on Route 9
A suburban place more in line with the nicer Asian buffets of California than the midwest, Minado is pretty new and is housed in a cool high-ceilinged warehouse-like building in a mini-mall. The sushi was great, with a very good selection (read: not just maki) and fast turnover for a buffet. Plus, you can see the chefs making it right in front of you, which is nice. You can order temaki (handrolls) made to order from the chefs, which is a nice touch. There's also a ton of non-sushi food, from yakitori to lots of Japanese salads to desserts. Unfortunately, they had pretty slow service when we visited, and the hostess who kept us waiting five minutes to be seated at 8:10 on a Sunday night (with the posted closing time of 9:00) neglected to mention that the buffet closes at 8:30. If you don't get there just before closing, as we did, it is worth the $24 each, though. (Last visited 7/04)
Sakkio Japan, 800 Boylston Street
You sit at tables and for $25 order what you want from the sushi bar. The fish is good, but not spectacular, and you aren't even in sight of the sushi chefs. The service was lackluster and the restaurant almost deserted; we went once after moving back to Boston, and have never felt the urge to return. (Last visited 5/02)
Garden, inbound side of Route 9 at Chestnut Hill
All-you-can-eat sushi at the sushi bar or at six small tables near it, only on Wednesday and Friday nights through the end of July, when they're going to close the restaurant for renovations. $25, but you can order whatever you want (quail egg, uni, toro, and real crab are excluded, but all the basics plus shrimp tempura rolls, rainbow rolls, etc. are allowed) as long as it's in increments of 5 orders (e.g., 3 maki and 2 orders, each consisting of 2 individual pieces, of nigiri) a person. Warning: the service here is incredibly slow. We frequently leap up from our table to hand our order to the sushi chef ourselves. The tea is never replenished, and on our last visit, three of the six water cups at our table leaked horribly. Sadly, it's the best ayce Boston's got at the moment, without going way out to the suburbs for a buffet. (Last visited 6/03--now closed)
Kayuga, 1030 Comm Ave in Allston
This place is still pretty new, and as of this writing the "Grand Opening" banner was just removed. It's my vote for best new sushi place in Boston in a long time--great appetizers, cooked and sushi alike, with nice preparation. Perky but good service, and though the dining room can get noisy (remember we're in the heart of studentville), the small semi-private Japanese enclosed tables are very nice and atmospheric. Great fish, including albacore (white tuna), and a willingness to make pretty much any kind of roll you ask for. Fun for groups and parties, and did I mention their fabulous tempura-coated fried green tea ice cream? Sushi plus desert--that's good enough for me. (Last visited 7/03)
Ginza (Chinatown location)
Overrated. Pretentious service, usually a long wait, and good fish, but not exceptionally better fish, nor at better prices, than any of these other places. (Last visited 1/03)
Fugakyu, Beacon Street, one block inbound from the Coolidge Corner T at Harvard Ave
I'm still not sure what to make of this place. On the plus side, everyone raves about the fish here. And yes, we went, and it was very good. There seemed to be a lot of variance among the pieces, though, with some nigiri and rainbow rolls fairly twice the size of others, depending on which chef made it. The rolls are way better than the nigiri here, overall, and the deep-fried (nigiri) sushi is unusual and the sashimi, tataki, and salads, look really lovely. But it has an odd factory-like vibe, and the loudness and the crowds and the lack of contact with the sushi chefs--even when you sit at the sushi bar--and the waitress who couldn't answer a question about a fish really put me off. There's a swinging bar, delivering mixed drinks to patrons all over, and a line outside down the street. We'll go back--the food was good, after all, and I want to try their tasting menu--but it's certainly not my overall favorite place. (Last visited 7/03)
Takeshima, on Harvard Ave one block toward Cambridge from the Coolidge Corner T
I love this place for sentimental reasons--it was where Robert and I went for our first anniversary, and Valentine's Days, etc., back in college, and they frequently have a Valenine's Day sushi for two special. The chefs have been there forever, and you can talk right to them when you order. Their monkfish liver sashimi is excellent, and they're one of the few places around that let you ask for a pressed sushi with your choice of fish--Sakurabana, for instance, limits you to just unagi or just mackerel. They're an overall good place that's solidly in the not cheap, not expensive, not sloppy, not fancy middle ground. And hey, they're right across the street from JP Lick's! (Last visited 5/03)
Oishii, 612 Hammond Street (just off of Route 9) in Chestnut Hill
Sigh. I really like this place. I like the chef, I like his attention to the fish, and I like the tiny BYOB restaurant with the sign-your-name-and-wait-till-dawn philosophy. What I hate are the crowds, for two reasons. Reason #1, quite simply, is that a lot of really dumb people come here. You hear them a mile away, like the loud-mouthed character in Dilbert: "THIS IS A GREAT PLACE. OOH, RAW TUNA. TEE-HEE. WOW, LET'S HAVE MORE SUSHI. SUSHI IS SO COOL. THIS GUY WORKED WITH NOBU. . . " Reason #2 is more serious, because I could deal with Reason #1 were it not for this: with so many people, and such a rush to turnover chairs and move people in and out, the chefs do not have the time to pay their signature attention to fish. Several times we've been told we can order the shako, but the chef doesn't have time to fry the heads, or he just doesn't have time to make a torched nigiri (truly heaven in your mouth). Other times, we haven't been warned, yet the torched nigiri or the special salad or sashimi or whatever it is we asked for arrives lackluster--fresh, yes, but without the nice garnishes we've come to expect. I don't know what the answer is, except maybe to find a time (clearly impossible) when none of the crowds are there and order with abandon. (Last visited 7/04)
Oga, Framingham, on Route 9 just off of the Mass Pike in a stripmall
From the owner of Ginza, a really exciting Japanese place that does sushi and then some. Order the tasting menu, or just order sushi and appetizers. Spectacular presentation, with special New Year's menus and spring menus, and overall a true treat. This place is not cheap, but on the sushi side does some great things like a whole squid stuffed with warm sushi rice--melt-in-your-mouth good. The cute little private booths with sliding doors are a nice touch, too. (Last visited 1/03)
Another of these Korean-Japanese combo places, but with very nice, unusual, and reasonably priced sushi. Order some of the sushi specials, like the novel sushi pizza on rice. (Last visited 3/04)
Osushi, Copley Mall
Our current favorite place--sit at the bar and ask the chef for omakase. He'll do a fabulous plate for around $50 for two people. Alternatively, just order from the menu--great sashimi salads, nice rolls, good fresh nigiri and sashimi, and special fish Thursday-Saturday nights. The chef's a character, and will happily talk to you about sushi knives and anything else, so just make your way past the annoying black-clad hostess. Also, all prices include tax--how cool and unusual is that? (Last visited 8/04)
Suishaya, Chinatown, 2 Tyler Street
This is a fun place to go with a big group. It's typically our choice for a late dinner with a group of disparate people before a midnight movie at the Boston Common. They have specials after 10:00 that are good deals for the people wanting a non-sushi meal--nice boxes and bowls of Korean and Japanese stuff, mostly, including a good hwe dup bop and a nice yook hwe bibimbap. Their sushi is generally not cheaper after 10:00, but is always good--lots of great, different rolls, and usually some very good scallop nigiri are our main choices. (Last visited 11/04)
Sakurabana, financial district, 57 Broad Street
Really excellent fish, with half-price ($9 instead of $18) sushi deluxe plates (some nigiri and two rolls, no choices allowed) Mondays and Tuesdays from 5:00-7:00. Humongously crowded at lunch: get there at 11:40 at the latest or don't bother showing up until close to 1:00. Pretty much the only decent sushi option in the neighborhood, though it's not cheap. They do have great, unusual rolls: try the signature Sakurabana maki, tear-drop-shaped with seaweed salad and tuna, or the spicy green maki, or the orange maki (salmon and real oranges). (Last visited 7/04)
Eddie the good chef at New Lei Jin Restaurant in Chinatown
Weird story behind this place. Annie and I once, ages ago, wandered in to this Chinese restaurant on the corner of Kneeland (in the building with the pagoda on the top) to see what it was like. It looked pretty mafia-like to us, with tables of Chinese men in suits smoking and drinking, and no apparent customers and no one eating. We left. Then, in June of 2002, Robert and I and Bob heard that there was a sushi bar in the place with order-as-you-go all you can eat sushi. We immediately went. And went back. And back. And back. Between June and August of 2002, we must have gone to this place twice a week. The fish was good, fresh and firm and nice, but the place was absolutely empty. Whether it was Robert and me; Robert, me, and Bob; us and Jef, George, or anyone else, we were almost always the only patrons in the sushi-bar area, and seemingly in the restaurant as well. We never saw the chef prepare sushi for anyone else, so the service was fabulous--like we hired a private chef for an hour or so. Occasionally bad karaoke would float out at us from the interior of the restaurant, but we ignored it. The chef's name, we soon came to find out, was Eddie, and he was from China. He'd been in the US for a couple years, studying English and working in restaurants. He didn't normally work at this place, but while the regular sushi chef (who we immediately, in absentia, hated) was away in China for the summer, he became the chef in his place. Eddie was great--he'd make temaki by the dozen, almost, and nigiri with or without wasabi according to all our friends' specifications. He was quiet when we were buoyant and birthday-ish and chatty when we were slow and sleepy at the end of the meal. On at least two occasions, we personally ate him clean out of fish. All good things come to an end, however, and at the end of the summer the regular chef returned, and Eddie went away. We went back once or twice, but it just wasn't the same. "No, we don't do handrolls," was returned to me as an answer, and the nigiri were cut skimpier, and the service was less friendly. We stopped going, and when we tried again--probably in October of 2002--the mafia-like men met us at the door and explained that the sushi bar was closed for renovation. "You should hire Eddie again," we said, "and then everyone would come back." Week after week we were told the sushi bar would reopen soon, until finally we were told the entire restaurant was closing for renovation and would reopen without a sushi bar. An era ended, and at that point we realized we would never again have sushi made by Eddie. All other all you can eat sushi places have seemed anti-climactic, after this place.
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Created: 7/9/03. Last Modified: 6/1/09.