O Ya, Boston

Frank Bruni wrote that O Ya was one of the best new restaurants in the country.  The chef and owner, Tim Cushman, of O Ya was also honored as best new chef in 2008.  There is good reason.  O Ya is one of the best culinary experiences I have had.  Definitely up there in one of my top ten food adventures. 

The restaurant sits between the theater district and Chinatown.  I am not sure we would have found it on our own.  An old warehouse on a random corner but once you open the door, you have the aha moment.  Warm, serene, lots of wood, great lighting, Asian in feel.  We sat at the sushi bar that light literally resonates off of.  Also, sitting at the sushi bar allows you to watch the preparation of each dish.  Live theater.

Nancy Cushman, who is Tim’s wife, the restaurant is run and owned by both of them, is an expert on sake.  We told her how we like our sake, and she chose a bottle for us.  We ended up with two different bottles both incredible.  The first bottle was called Yuki no Busha, fruity yet crisp and dry.  Delicious.  The second bottle was called Sato no Homare that was also crisp and dry but the aromas were delicate and more subtle in regards to the fruit.  Both excellent.

Jess and I discussed each plate and then ordered.  We started off with two pieces, one each of a peruvian style shutoro tuna tataki that was deep red, almost burgundy that was over a warm piece of rice with an aji panca sauce (spicy chili sauce) and a small dollop of cilantro pesto on top.  The intense flavor of the tuna with the spicy flavors of the cilantro and chili sauce were incredible.  We both look at other and said omigod.  With the tuna was also had two pieces of sea urchin from Santa Barbara that had a blood orange homemade soy sauce over the top and fresh wasabi.  Another hit.  The flavors that he pairs with the fish are creative yet keeps the flavor of the fish as the singular taste that stands out. 

Next up, warm eel.  This was brilliant.  Warm eel served over the warm rice and served with thai basil, kabayaki and fresh sansho.  The basil gave the eel an ever so slight hint of tasting Thai food.  Clever.  We also had the sea scallop which was scarlet in color served with a white soy yuzu sauce and yuzu tobiko.  Wow. 

Next round was hamachi belly that was topped with a dollop of sea urchin that had been marinated in yuzu soy.  The combo of textures were really interesting.  Also out was the Scottish salmon.  Salmon, 3 pieces, served with a spicy sesame ponzu and scallion oil.  The spicy sesame was interesting.  We had been watching a salmon dish get made over and over again which we didn’t order but perhaps should have.  One of the chefs kept taking a butane lighter and charring sliced tomatoes and seaweed weed and dressing it over the salmon.  Then he would take sesame oil, heat it and pour it on top of this dish.  It would sizzle and be served immediately.  It was really something to watch.

Next out was hamachi tartare.  This wasn’t my favorite.  Chopped hamachi shaped like a cylinder and mixed with a ginger sauce and spiced chile oil.  Different and spicy but not my fave.  We also had the Japanese cherry trout which I had never heard of before.  Red trout that had been miso cured and served with a sansho leaf.  The trout had an interesting texture with a very mild flavor.  It was sublime.

The last two plates of sushi was kim medai which is a big eyed red snapper served with a white soy ginger and lemon oil.  The lemon really opens up the taste of the fish.  Last was the hamachi served with a mignonette and thai basil and shallot.  Simple and a take off of the classic Nobu hamachi.  Really delicious and one of their best sellers. 

Last up was a few non-fish items.  Yuzi brined chicken wing that is boned and then stuffed with a mixture of napa cabbage and shitake mushrooms.  The chicken is caramelized and cut in two pieces served over homemade kimchi which is not like your regular kimchi.  No garlic per se and more like pickled cabbage.  This was incredible, different and delicious.  We also had a round of zucchini sticks which were mixed in a grated fresh wasabi, ground sesame, green onions and citrus zests then deep fried.  Different but not something I’d necessarily order again.

Last out was the highlight.  The concierge at our hotel said tears came to his eyes when he ate it because it was so delicious.  A small piece of warm foie gras served as a piece of sushi, over warm rice with a balsamic chocolate sauce and a dusting of raisin cocoa pulp.  With this you are given a small sip of aged sake.  One bite and the entire piece just melts in your mouth.  Washed down with the sake is an incredible treat.  The sake reminded me of vin santo from Greece.  Genius.  Lucky for me, Jessica doesn’t like foie gras so I got two pieces.  Just incredible.

A beautiful restaurant that plays Beatles in the background and serves some of the most creative food I have seen or had in a long time.  A culinary festival.  If you are in Boston, get there.  It is worth every penny and the experience will be remembered for years to come.