LTH Home

Oh Yeah! Perfection at O Ya in Boston; Japanese/fusion

Oh Yeah! Perfection at O Ya in Boston; Japanese/fusion
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • Oh Yeah! Perfection at O Ya in Boston; Japanese/fusion

    Post #1 - September 15th, 2010, 6:36 pm
    Post #1 - September 15th, 2010, 6:36 pm Post #1 - September 15th, 2010, 6:36 pm
    If you happen to visit Boston, do not miss an opportunity to dine at O Ya restaurant. O Ya is far from your traditional sushi restaurant – more like Japanese/sushi fusion. But no matter the precise cuisine, O Ya is turning out some amazing food, and certainly food of a type that I have not experienced in Chicago and which in my opinion surpasses anything I have had at Nobu or the like.

    Now while O Ya certainly meets my definition of fine dining, you should know that this is by no means a fancy, dress to the nines restaurant. You’ll certainly feel comfortable wearing a nice shirt and nice jeans. And O Ya is no fancier in appearance than any sushi restaurant in Chicago – perhaps even less so. And the ragtag selection of music, including hits from the 70s, 80s and more, comforts and amuses, but does not distract. But O Ya is really about the food, and the food is fantastic.

    O Ya’s chef and co-owner, Tim Cushman, has apparently cooked for Lettuce Entertain You, Nobu and others. And he was one of the 2008 Food & Wine Magazine best new chefs. Luckily for Boston (and probably for my wallet), he is firmly planted at O Ya. I did not notice too much in the way of kitchen gadgets – sure, there was foam, a kitchen torch, a broiler and an immersion circulator, but I would not say there is any leaning towards molecular gastronomy.

    My friend and I opted for the tasting menu which is comprised of 17 small tastes and does not include dessert. We shared two desserts and added one additional course (the Onsen Egg which mesmerized us from the moment we sat at the sushi bar and stared at the immersion circulator registering 62 degrees celsius). We left full, but by no means overstuffed. All told, we spent about $265/person including tax and tip, with the tasting menu running approximately $175/person.

    Our tasting menu started with beautiful Kumamoto Oysters, garnished with watermelon pearls and a cucumber mignonette. These light oysters delivered a subtle buttery taste and were about as perfect as oysters can be, just light enough to be a great introduction to O Ya. And I should note that while every dish involved multiple elements, that is not to say that O Ya focused less on the quality of the fish itself – almost every single piece was pristine. (I apologize in advance for the sometimes less than perfect photos from my cell phone. My pictures hardly do the beautiful presentations justice, as the plating was always to be admired).

    Kumamoto Oysters

    We moved on to hamachi which was topped with a banana pepper mousse. You’ll notice some blackened spots on the otherwise raw fish. The chefs often employed the kitchen blowtorch to add a slightly seared flavor to many courses. And after only a couple sights of this full size torch, I (an often-aspiring pastry maker) began to develop a case of torch envy. I will no longer attempt crème brulee for a crowd using that tiny torch from Williams-Sonoma. I’m ready for the big leagues. In any event, a very nice piece of hamachi and the not-very-spicy-at-all mousse was a tasty accompaniment.


    Next up was an outstanding salmon tataki with torched tomato, smoked salt and an onion aioli. Every element of this dish was just perfect and worked so well together, and the salmon stood out well against the light onion and gently seared tomato.

    Salmon tataki

    Warm eel with Thai basil, kabayaki and fresh Kyoto sansho delivered the perfect mix of buttery sweet eel with just the perfect dose of heat from the sansho and the Thai basil worked as a nice bridge from the sweet to the heat.

    Warm eel

    And while the Kyoto style Enoki mushrooms with garlic and soy (not pictured) were excellent, they were easily surpassed by the Wild Cape Cod Bluefin Chutoro with Republic of Georgia herb sauce. This was a fantastic rich piece of fish, and the herby sauce with a hint of citrus made the fish taste even better.

    Wild Cape Cod Bluefin Chutoro

    Shima Aji and Santa Barbara sea urchin with cilantro and ceviche vinaigrette convinced me that I can love sea urchin . . . it just needs to be prepared this well and silky smooth. I wish my photo adequately showed how beautiful the fish and sea urchin were plated.

    Shima Aji and Santa Barbara sea urchin

    The next course was this very simple homemade La Ratte potato chip with summer truffle and it was just the perfect combination of buttery richness, potato and excellent truffle flavor. After eating this bite, I will be less likely to scoff at the notion of “summer” truffle.

    Homemade La Ratte potato chip and summer truffle

    I didn’t know whether the taste of the fried Kumamoto oyster with yuzu kosho aioli and squid ink bubbles could match the beauty and elegance of the dish. But it came so close – a great combination of crunch, warmth, funkiness, heat, sweet, salt and sour. I preferred the simple and non-fried Kumamoto oyster which started the meal, but this was still excellent. And watching the chef delicately spoon the squid ink bubbles atop the oyster provided at least a little drama, drama which can be enjoyed only while sitting at the sushi bar. (Note: sit at the sushi bar!)

    Fried Kumamoto oyster

    A couple of other dishes without explanation, other than to say that they were delicious (particularly the tuna):

    Bluefin tuna tataki with smoky pickled onion and truffle oil

    Hamachi with Viet mignonette, Thai basil and shallot

    The below pictured Scottish salmon belly with cilantro, ginger and hot sesame drizzle was one of my favorite tastes. The fish was just so silky smooth and the richness of the fish and sesame drizzle paired with the gentle spice and lightness from the ginger and cilantro could not have paired better.

    Scottish salmon belly

    Not to be outdone by the salmon, the chilled Maine lobster salad with avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, peppercress and cucumber gelee was as perfect as a lobster salad could be, and not so unlike your traditional Maine/New England lobster roll (albeit without the roll).

    Maine lobster salad

    Just when I thought a fill-in portion of the meal had arrived, the grilled sashimi of Chanterelle and Shiitake mushrooms with rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth and homemade soy blew me away – easily the best mushroom dish I have ever tasted . . . rich, homey and difficult to stop eating. This is one of those “vegetarian” dishes you eat and never realize it’s vegetarian.

    Grilled sashimi of Chanterelle and Shiitake mushrooms

    Then, the very best dish of the night: seared petit Wagyu strip loin with potato confit, sea salt and white truffle oil. This was the very best beef I have ever tasted . . . ever! So good I was left speechless, although perhaps shaking my head in disbelief.

    Seared petit Wagyu strip loin

    Next, foie gras, balsamic chocolate kabayaki and raisin cocoa pulp, served with aged sake. This was delicious and rich, and the sake provided an interesting alternative to Sauternes, and one that worked well with these rich flavors. Kudos to O Ya’s sake sommelier, Nancy Cushman, who co-owns O Ya with her husband and O Ya’s chef, Tim Cushman.

    foie gras

    As I noted at the beginning, we were mesmerized by the immersion circulator and asked about its use. One of the sushi chefs explained that its only use was to prepare Onsen eggs. So we ordered the Onsen eggs with dashi sauce, truffle salt and homemade pickled garlic. The eggs cook for one hour at 62 degrees Celsius. They were just sensational – poached perfectly, unbelievably soft, delicate and creamy, and the dashi, truffle and pickled garlic was sparing and just enough to accentuate the flavor of this terrific egg. I was so entranced by the egg that I forgot to take a picture, but at least I got a picture of the immersion circulator.

    Immersion circulator cooking the Onsen eggs

    The desserts we chose were no less impressive: an outstanding chocolate gelato with sesame and something called a fu perdu, which featured strawberry and was a delicious take on French toast.

    Chocolate gelato

    Fu perdu

    Service was excellent – very friendly, efficient and welcoming. Interestingly, when they asked where we were from and we responded “Chicago,” they immediately pulled out a menu from Alinea. Apparently, one of their sous chefs had recently left to join the Alinea team . . . hardly surprising given the talent in O Ya’s kitchen. This was a fantastic evening of great food and I would highly recommend that you visit O Ya when in Boston.
    Last edited by BR on September 16th, 2010, 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - September 16th, 2010, 9:02 am
    Post #2 - September 16th, 2010, 9:02 am Post #2 - September 16th, 2010, 9:02 am
    Gorgeous stuff, thanks for posting. I'm hardly ever in Boston, but if I go, O Ya is now at the top of my list.

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #3 - September 16th, 2010, 8:01 pm
    Post #3 - September 16th, 2010, 8:01 pm Post #3 - September 16th, 2010, 8:01 pm
    Thanks for the complements, and although I find so many reasons to go to Boston (love the city), O Ya will absolutely be on the top of my list for a return visit.
  • Post #4 - September 19th, 2010, 2:16 pm
    Post #4 - September 19th, 2010, 2:16 pm Post #4 - September 19th, 2010, 2:16 pm
    I, too, loved the food at O Ya, but not the space or the service. I found the space rather cramped, and the timing of the dishes unsatisfactory. Sometimes the dishes were served in rapid fire order and sometimes with long gaps. I would certainly return, but not with a group as large as that night (I think there were six of us at a prime time).
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #5 - September 19th, 2010, 6:54 pm
    Post #5 - September 19th, 2010, 6:54 pm Post #5 - September 19th, 2010, 6:54 pm
    I couldn't tell how comfortable the table seating was. But the seats at the sushi bar were comfortable enough and spaced well enough apart so that I didn't feel the least bit cramped.

    Spacing between courses was really perfect for us, with plenty of time between courses to observe the chefs working and to reflect upon what we had just eaten. I could understand your frustration GAF - when dropping heavy coin, you expect not only high quality food but also a matching level of service. Hopefully, your sub-par service experience was a very rare occurrence at O Ya.
  • Post #6 - September 19th, 2010, 7:05 pm
    Post #6 - September 19th, 2010, 7:05 pm Post #6 - September 19th, 2010, 7:05 pm
    Even at top restaurants I find that when there are more than four diners, service can be spotty. Coordination can be difficult, and if I recall correctly from a few years ago, diners had different numbers of courses, which probably contributed somewhat, although it shouldn't have led to long delays for those who had more courses. No complaints about the food, though.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik