When I blew threw Boston on my way home from Maine, Will Chen gave me one assignment: Go eat at O Ya. Wait, why would I eat Asian food in Boston? As usual, Will yelled at me to just listen to him and do as he said, so off I went.
I knew that it was going to be an upscale experience from the prices, but they are a casual-smart restaurant, so you could show up in jeans and a polo shirt and still be okay. O Ya is in a building that used to be a firehouse, located on a little side street in Boston’s Leather District. Chef Tim Cushman is a Nobu Matsuhisa protegè and his wife Nancy is a sake sommelier, so … yeah. That’s why you should eat Asian food in Boston. Be prepared for a meal that’s creative, authentic and fresh.
You can opt to order ala carte, which I would do if you’re not a big eater. The thing here is the 21-course grand omakase, though, and there are some things on the omakase menu that you cannot order ala carte. So the question becomes, do you want the big prize, or can you live without it? Each course is just one or two bites, but it does fill you up. By the end, I had the waitress coaching me in person and Will coaching me in text to help me finish. Every bite was wonderful, though, so if I’m not describing anything below in detail, it doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. I just loved some things more.
The menu changes slightly with the seasons and I took a printed copy with me, but when I finally sat down to write this, I couldn’t find it. So I apologize that I can’t tell you what a few items are — but again, everything was wonderful, so it doesn’t matter.
I chose the sake pairing, which is $150 extra. It’s a generous pour of various sakes, though, and selected by Nancy Cushman.
To start: a simple Kumamoto oyster with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette.
Hamachi with banana pepper. Who would have thought? More, please.
Hokkaido sea urchin topped with Black River caviar. Need I say more?
Sakura masu, lime, and kinome. You’re probably thinking, isn’t that salmon? It’s also known as ocean trout, cherry salmon, or cherry trout. Never mind the name. Just eat it.
Kinmedai with ume, Japanese plum vinaigrette, and micro shiso.
Wild Maine spring squid (what?) with red yuzu kosho ponzu, ginger juice, and micro shiso. So tender!
I’m not going to guess at what this is. It looks like anago. It was delicious. The end.
Black summer truffle on anything, is amazing.
Foie gras — frozen and shaved, with miso and yuzu. The surprise was the little crunch of tempura flakes underneath. This was so good, I blurted out swear words at the waitress. She understood.
Maguro tosazu with katsuobushi, chive, lime, spruce shoot, and micro shiso.
Ora king salmon with spicy sesame ponzu, yuzu kosho, and scallion oil.
Maine hiramasa with jalapeño sauce, sesame, apple, and myoga.
Shima aji hue style with kaffir oil and table salad.
Bluefin toro with wasabi oil and “lots of green onion.”
Hokkaido scallop with summer black truffle, sake sea urchin jus, and chervil. This melted in my mouth!
Smoked arctic char donabe with furikake, katsobushi, green onion, rainbow trout roe, and quail egg. It looks simple, but it was one of the most delicious things I ate that night. The delicate savoriness was unlike anything I’ve had before.
Warm lobster with ponzu beurre fondue, bonito, and black summer truffle. Not as photogenic as the other items, but outrageously delicious.
“Faberge” onsen egg with ossetra caviar, gold leaf, dashi sauce, and green onion. This was so beautiful, I had to shoot it from many angles before I could eat it.
Seared A5 wagyu strip loin with a tiny sprinkle of salt. I’m glad they cut this into small pieces, because it was one of the best things I put into my mouth that night. Gorgeous balance of fattiness and meatiness.
And then the prize that Will Chen keeps raving about: O Ya’s foie gras nigiri with balsamic chocolate kabayaki, and raisin cocoa pulp. You get this with a sip of aged sake that almost tastes like that sweet Sauterne that usually accompanies foie. It’s a glorious bite; for me, after 19 other courses, it was hard to completely enjoy the experience, but Will, who is always hungry, said he could have eaten two!
Last bite: Something sweet and seasonal to finish the meal. I was dying, but this was so light that it wasn’t too hard to eat.
Would I go back? O Ya, I would! The food was exquisite and, as you can see, also showcased the fresh products that Boston has to offer. Would I do the omakase again? Maybe. At $285 a pop, it’s spendy, but as you can see from the ingredients and the special preparations, it’s quite worth it. (Note that this was the grand omakase; there is a lesser omakase at $185.) The question for me is how hungry I am — maybe I’ll walk the distance to and from my hotel, next time.
9 East St.
Boston, MA 02111