O-makase, Leather District Style
Record snowstorm + Veuve Cliquot tasting (Thanks Richard & George!) + birthday check (Thanks Mom & Dad!) = impromptu dinner at the LD’s latest and greatest: O-Ya. Previewed here in February and open just a few months, O-Ya is already a double “Best of Boston” winner; garnering accolades from beyond Boston, and comparisons to top sushi restaurants near and far.
What better way to get to know the chef, the restaurant than O-makase? For an explanation of O-makase, see here.
In its essence, O-makase means “to entrust” which is what you do when you order an O-makase meal. You put your dinner in the hands of the chef and you go along for the ride. This is nothing to do on a whim. Unlike a “prix fixe” dinner this will not be a bargain. I would only order o-makase at the best sushi restaurants, such as Morimoto (Philadelphia), Hatsuhana (NYC), Yasuda (NYC), Oiishi (Boston) or O-Ya. This meal was expensive, but still a great value. Think Nobu- not Costco – value. This offers a meal that is an experience.
It was early when we entered the restaurant and the reggae music was a surprise. Were we too early, perhaps? No, it played, looping twice, before the switch to some Patsy Kline, then blues. I actually loved the choices. They did what music can do, set the tone and told us in a subtle way that we were going to experience something different tonight. Tim Cushman is a Berklee-schooled jazz musician, so I would bet this is deliberate musical table-setting. This kind of thoughtfulness is evident throughout, beautiful Japanese pottery, quality hashi (chopsticks), choice of sake cups, even the handsoap in the washroom smells delicious!
Tonight’s O-makase menu:
- Kumamoto oyster, watermelon pearl, cucumber mignionette. (Probably my favorite oyster so we’re off to a good start. Kumamoto’s are also known for the melon or cucumber finish, this was a fine taste to begin the night.)
- Wild buri hamachi, spicy banana pepper mousse. (Buttery hamachi and just enough heat from the pepper to wake your taste buds up.)
- Salmon, O-ya “mayonette” wasabi tobiko, shiso. (The shiso was a microgreen, and a perfect foil for the richness of salmon. I don’t care for the slightly medicine-y aroma of shiso which is all you get when they lay a huge leaf between your rice and your sushi. Here, the delicate herb had both a visual appeal and just the right hint of aromatic bite to complement the salmon.)
- Warm eel, Thai basil, kabayaki, fresh sansho. (Who doesn’t love eel? The sansho, like shiso, is a unique Japanese aromatic leaf. The microgreens garnish cut the kabayaki – itself delicate – and unctuousness of the eel.)
- Homemade La Ratte potato chip, Perigord black truffle. (Tim, can we make a bag of these for my birthday?)
- Kin medai, white soy ginger, myoga, lemon oil.(Golden eye red sea bream, myoga is a shallot-like Japanese vegetable, shavings sat on this course.)
- Scottish salmon, spicy sesame ponzu, yuzu kosho, scallion oil. (When a condiment is compared to crack, you know it’s good! I believe the pepper added to yuzu is shishito pepper.)
- Shima Aji & Sea urchin, ceviche vinaigrette, cilantro. (Shima aji is Amberjack, part of the Yellowtail family. I get to tell a new sushi chef about my virgin Santa Barbara Uni experience, which always gets a laugh. This uni and shima aji lived up to the memory. Nigella seeds provided an oniony crunch to offset the buttery uni. Shima aji is more common on the west coast, be sure to get this here.)
- Wild bluefin tuna tataki, smoky pickled onion, truffle oil. (Just the hint of truffle oil on top of the smoky onion…can you say umami?)
- Wild bluefin o-toro, wasabi oil, lots of green onion. (Like buttah.)
- Shrimp tempura, bacon truffle emulsion, chive oil. (I love the head, what can I say? Ama ebi – elevated.)
- Chopped Tea-brined chicken thighs, cucumber, avocado, carrot, ponzu vinaigrette. (The chicken here is a special heritage breed Poulet Rouge – and the thigh is the tastiest part of the chicken, anyway. We held each other back from licking the bowl.)
- Grilled sashimi of chanterelle & shiitake mushrooms, rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, homemade soy. (Umami is the savory flavor – the fifth taste – named by the Japanese scientist who first discovered it. Mushrooms have it in spades and this was another lick the plate dish.)
- Seared petit strip loin, tiny smoked potato, grilled onion, fresh wasabi. (Gorgeous, perfect – did I mention it is Wagyu?)
- Foie gras, balsamic chocolate kabayaki, raisin cocoa pulp, sip of aged sake. (Heaven. the aged sake was raisin-y in the nose and paired perfectly with the foie, proving sake’s versatility. A very clever reminder of the good hands we had put ourselves in.)
The first sake Nancy (a sake sommelier) paired for us was a Kusumi extra dry. This took us through the sushi courses. The second was Shichihon-yari. This was a really interesting sake. Earthy on the front-end, clean on the back end. Full mouth-feel was wonderful and unexpected. The third accompanied our foie taste.
This was an exquisite meal and showcased the skills of all the staff, from server to sushi chef, to kitchen to chef to sommelier.
The menu is very large and offers many different dining options, none of which are inexpensive, but not all are prohibitive. Don’t be dissuaded by the price point from going and trying a dish or two. This is a very gracious staff. One fellow tonight stopped in for a beer. That was it.
This is food that is transporting, save your ravenous cravings days for Gourmet Dumpling. Save your pennies and your celebration days, even a weeknight when you want a lift, for O-Ya.
At the end of a great meal we say “Gochiso-sama!” which is Japanese for “this was a feast!”
And it was.