by Bovey Rao ‘19
Sushi is simple. A thin slice of fish gently draped over a molded portion of rice. The minimal offers of rich soy sauce, spicy grated wasabi, and refreshing pickled ginger serve as accents to the beauty and purity of sushi. In the modern era, one of the cornerstones of Japanese cuisine is being desecrated. The art of sushi-making has been refined for hundreds of years, and we seem to disregard those traditions as we partake in our California rolls, green dyed horseradish, and pink ginger. I cringe as I watch yet another sushi “enthusiast” take the massive glob of “wasabi” and dump it into their dish of soy sauce. The suffering only intensifies as each meticulously formed nigiri or maki is dunked nonchalantly and left to soak in the soy sauce. These practices not only destroy the essence of sushi but are considered to be disrespectful to the work of the chef.
Oishii Boston is an offshoot of the original Oishii store in Chestnut Hill, and thank god, they chose to expand. After a particularly stressful week, all I wanted to do was to get off campus and rehabilitate my mind. For me, this often involves a long conversation with a friend over a truly magnificent meal, and Oishii Boston went above and beyond my expectations (in price as well, so be prepared financially).
My friend and I ambled through the sunny South End, as we perfectly timed our route for our reservation time. After promptly being seated, we marveled at the lengthy sushi bar and cracked open the menu. Oishii serves an eclectic mix of Japanese cuisine. Japanese techniques like sushi, robata, and tempura are combined with an incredible collection of fresh ingredients, both traditional and nouveau. Similarly, conventional Japanese ingredients like Hamachi kama, enoki mushrooms, and yuzu are given new life through the techniques of haute cuisine. Oishii incorporates the best of both worlds in every imaginable way. After ordering a diverse set of dishes and sushi, we waited for our courses to arrive.
We did not wait long as a bamboo steamer was quickly brought over. My favorite dish to order at modern Asian restaurants is the pork belly bun. The pork belly bun has played an essential role in the rapid dissemination of Asian food throughout the country. It may seem to be a lazy dish of a steamed bun, a slice of pork belly, and some assortment of pickles, but the execution of the simple things characterizes a restaurant. This pork bun was truly transcendental. Pork belly is an incredibly difficult protein to manipulate as the high levels of fat can lead to unappealing textures and oily aftertastes. The first bite blew my mind, and I was left pining as the entire bun vanished quickly into my mouth. The soft sweet bun caressed the tender pork belly as miso provided the necessary salt and umami. With such an indulgent and soft dish, the acidity and crispness from the brined cucumbers left me refreshed, without the cloying oiliness that I have sometimes experienced.
The okonomiyaki that followed also did not disappoint. Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese style pancake with cabbage and miscellaneous seafood. Oishii’s version came with a generous portion of bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, with the thin flakes magically flowing with the subtle air currents. The savory pancake filled with fresh seafood was flavorful and melded wonderfully with the lattice of sweet mayonnaise.
For the last of the hot dishes was a uni cream pasta, which was the most indulgent dish I have ever eaten. With shavings of black truffles over a perfectly poached egg, the al dente pasta absorbed the voluptuous yolk as we made a small incision. While I am normally not a fan of these almost hedonistic ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised as the flavors were not overwhelming. However, it is a dish that makes an incredible impact on the palette that I am unsure if I would order it again.
For once it felt like appetizers truly stimulated the appetite, and we prepared ourselves for our sushi order. At Oishii, they import the freshest seafood from Tsukiji, the famous Japanese fish market, and from various other seafood markets in the US. Thus, they can guarantee the best possible product. One day, I will return for a sushi omakase to truly subject myself to the whims of the chef. However, on this day, I wanted to indulge in my own desires for sushi.
Oishii chooses to not serve minimalist sushi, where it is simply fish and rice. Rather, they choose to include nuanced accessories to each piece of sushi to elevate the flavor even further. Whether it was the thin slice of lime on the botan ebi or strawberry on the Hamachi toro, the already sophisticated taste of sushi was balanced with complex but necessary garnishes. It would be tedious to describe each individual piece, so I will keep it brief and only discuss the highlights. My personal favorite was the chutoro topped with pickled shallots. Chutoro is tuna with moderate fat, so it has the butteriness that is so sought after, while still retaining the natural savory flavor of tuna. Additionally, the tamago or egg sushi was exceptional. The light, fluffy egg was given a deep sweetness that was greatly reminiscent of a cake.
For dessert, we selected the coconut sphere with coffee mousse and yuzu sorbet. A truly interactive dessert, it might have been a hassle to consume, but I enjoyed the process of steadily chipping away at the frozen sphere of sweetened coconut milk to reveal the subtly flavored coffee mousse.
Over the course of the three hour meal, I was delighted with every bite of food that I consumed. While this process may be more time intensive for me than the average person, I can truly attest to the quality and dedication that Oishii puts into their food. It is a pricey experience, and many may scoff at the ephemeral nature of food. But for me, Oishii delivered exactly what I needed. When I wish to receive another monumental sushi experience, I will return to Oishii.
Location: 1166 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
Reservation: OpenTable or Call (617)-482-8868
Stand out dishes: Pork Belly Bun, Chutoro, Tamago, Coconut Sphere
Overall Rating: 5/5