Saturday, November 28, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: O Ya: Haute Japanese Cuisine

Some people in life simply eat to live. Others live to eat. Diners at O Ya definitely fit the latter category. Nestled into a former fire station, this Japanese gem has shook up the dining scene in Boston. Frank Bruni's reviewed O Ya as the NYTimes's 2008 Best New Restaurant in the United States, quite an accomplishment for a charming, unassuming restaurant in Boston's Leather District. We arrived for our 9pm reservation a few minutes tardy and were promptly shown to our seats at the chefs' counter.

Like any good foodie, I had spent a few hours pouring over O Ya's menu, as well as reviews on Yelp, Citysearch and numerous publications. Ordering your courses is a significant investment; each course costs between $8 and $38-thus, not a decision to be taken lightly.

The menu is divided up into user-friendly categories; nigiri, sashimi, vegetable, pork, wagyu beef, poulet rouge chicken, truffles & eggs, other stuff, something crunchy in it, salad and soup. Although I would have loved to get items from each category, I couldn't bring myself to order soup&salad at such an inventive place.

Tamago Omelet Roll with Dashi Sauce, Burgundy Truffles, Robiola and Chives

Tamago is a sweet egg omelet. Here, chefs at O Ya prepare it with burgundy truffles, a light and delicate truffle. They are typically served raw and shaved over dishes as a finishing garnish. Dashi is a broth made from bonito flakes-a deep cold water fish, usually skip jack tuna. Robiola cheese is soft, creamy and aromatic. The tamago was a sweet, earthy bite with a savory aftertaste left in your mouth from the dashi.

Shrimp Tempura with a Bacon-Truffle Emulsion, Chive Oil

Tempura is deep fried vegetable or seafood, which is commonly eaten in Japan. An emulsion of truffle and bacon is made by mixing two substances that normally would not go together, such as fat and water, and mixed together until they become viscous, forming an emulsion. The tempura were perfectly crunchy upon biting into them, the bacon-truffle emulsion was delicious-I could eat an entire platter of the tempura, sadly, 2 shrimp were all I experienced.

Peruvian-Style Toro Tuna Tataki with an Aji Panca Sauce and Cilantro Pesto

Toro is an incredibly tender cut from the tuna's belly. In tataki, the outside of the fish is seared (in our case, with a creme brulee torch) for just a few seconds. Aji is a hot chili pepper from Peru. The aji panca sauce was smoky but unfortunately overpowered the fish.

Tea-Brined Fried Pork Ribs with
Hot Sesame Oil, Honey, Scallions

The chefs at O YA first brine these ribs in tea, then fry them, resulting in tender, moist and succulent bit of heaven. With a gentle poke of a chopstick the rib meat fell off the bone. Honey enhances the sweetness of the pork fat and spicy sesame oil complements the meat's richness. This was by far my favorite dish of the night. I could have eaten this meat candy all night long. I think my boyfriend caught my longing gazes (at the ribs, not him!) and offered me up some of his...good boyfriend!

Fried Kumamoto Oysters with Yuzu Kosho Aioli and Squid Ink Bubbles

I have gone through most of my life thinking that I didn't like oysters. Big mistake-turns out, I love fried oysters. The Kumamoto oyster tasted mildly fruity, has a rich, buttery texture and a slight mineral finish. A squid ink foam bubble covered the oyster; below was yuzu kosho-a combination of yuzu, a sour Japanese citrus fruit, and red or green chili peppers and salt, all over nori-wrapped sushi rice. It was a playful bite of crunchy, sweet and salty oyster, foamy squid ink and sour-spicy sauce. It was the kind of bite that makes you go, hmmm, afterwards while your brain deconstructs what just happened.

House Smoked Wagyu with Yuzu Soy

Wagyu refers to several breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to yummy-ness-that is, to intense marbling and a high percentage of unsaturated fat (some would argue that actually makes it healthier for you than a typical piece o' meat). It has enhanced tenderness, flavor and juiciness. The smoky beef was velvety, it melted in my mouth like a foie gras. The yuzu soy cut through the fattiness with just a hint of sour. I would definitely come back and try the other wagyu offerings-such as their petit loin with potato confit, sea salt and truffle oil, mmm...

Venison Tataki with Porcini Crema and Ponzu Oil

Venison was thinly sliced and briefly torched, then drizzled with ponzu oil, porcini crema and topped off with microgreens. Ponzu is a sour sauce made of Japanese citrus, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin and dashi. The venison's flavor was mild-not gamey at all, which was my fear, and tender. I felt somewhat underwhelmed, having mentally prepared for a strong flavor; I think that a second try would leave me with a more definitive decision about this dish.

Kyoto Style Enoki Mushrooms with Garlic and Soy

Enoki mushrooms have a mild, delightful flavor and a crunchy texture...and they remind me of spaghetti...or possibly a cute little cuttlefish (now picture a cuttlefish swimming through the ocean....adorable, isn't it?)

Wild Bluefin Maguro Tuna with Soy Braised Garlic and Micro Greens

A mature bluefin tuna can outweigh a pony! That, I certainly did not know before some research. At O Ya, micro is huge. I saw on numerous plates the smallest possible version of a salad I can think of atop various nigiri and sashimi dishes. Supposedly they are much more intensely flavored than normal salad greens-plus they fit much better atop sashimi ;)

Shrimp Sashimi with Golden Caviar...I think!

I didn't eat this dish-it appeared as we were waiting for our last dish, but my what a beauty! I was blown away by the intricate presentation of the dishes at O Ya-every morsel deliberated placed for maximum flavor and visual appeal. Golden caviar garnishes what I believe to be shrimp...anyone out there want to venture a guess at to this little fella's origin?

An hour and a half later, as we finished our meal, not a single table had left, nor had they attempted to acquire their checks. They seemed completely won over by O Ya. After some serious thought, I would declare that I too could fall in love with these small bites with big taste...if I could somehow find a sugar daddy or otherwise wealthy benefactor to pay for the bill (O Ya...oh boy, you are pricey!).


  1. What an incredible meal! I love love love O Ya! We had an excellent dining experience here as well!

  2. oh my goodness....I keep on staring at those ribs...I wish O ya would deliver by mail! What a wonderful time you had!

  3. Natasha-I noticed you enjoyed your meal...when researching what to order I came across your post : )

    Christine-so far, they do not offer mail delivery (to my knowledge) but I think the ribs would be a pretty easy dish to make at home, at least when compared to the rest of their dishes (squid ink bubbles...)! I would love to replicate them or see you do it!

  4. fantastic meal! everything looks delicious

  5. Thks for sharing these beautiful & yummy food!

  6. Oh wow - this sounds like an amazing meal.

  7. oh that squid ink bubble makes me wanna hop on a bus and get to Boston right now! will def check the place out next time I'm in town!

  8. I'd definitely check it out-if you come to Boston shoot me an e-mail and I can recommend oh, 20 or so places/menu items to check out ; )

  9. I would love to go to O Ya at some point, for a super special occasion :) Everything looks so incredible!


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