We didn’t know much about the Oishii in the South End before our dinner there over the weekend. We had been to the Oishii in Chestnut Hill, a very satisfying experience, and were expecting something along those lines with a bit more of that South End chic. We had a $200 gift certificate and were feeling quite confident that this tidy sum would stuff our swelling bellies with enough fish to slip us into mercury-induced comas. Little did we know.
Taro, broccoli, sweet potato, eggplant, and uni tempura (1 piece each)
2 pieces foie gras w/black truffle sushi, 2 pieces sea urchin sushi, 2 pieces freshwater unagi sushi
Appetizer of raw salmon and sliced strawberries in a watermelon sauce
Kobe Beef with red wine pear maki
White Tiger Maki
Sockeye Salmon covered Maki
Molten chocolate cake
A $35 bottle of Spanish Verdejo
I’ll start from the top. The tempura was tasty, but not noticeably different than the tempura I could get at any number of lower priced sushi restaurants. The sushi pieces were similarly uninspired. To be fair, the foie gras pieces were$15 each and certainly contributed disproportionately to the heavy bill, but they also didn’t impress. Sushi rice with a thin sheet of foie gras and a slice of black truffle. No seasoning (needed a little salt), no sauce. Meh. Certainly not worth $7.50 a bite. The unagi and sea urchin were good, but again, didn’t stand out from other cheaper versions. Same goes for the Sockeye Salmon and the White Tiger (Though I will say that I was having an incredibly difficult time tasting the fish all night. This could be due to the fact that Liz made me walk half hour to get there and the -5 degree windchill may have frozen my tastebuds) . The Kobe Beef with red wine pear maki was a waste of money, that is unless you really want to pay $30 for a mouthful of julienne pear. Maybe you do. Maybe you love pear, and paying more for it makes it taste all the better. I only like pear, so I was disappointed. Which brings us to the molten chocolate cake. This one’s our bad. Who orders a molten chocolate cake in a sushi restaurant? The waitress even had the audacity to commend us on our ridiculous selection. To justify our selection, I must give credit to the menu designers at Oishii for a clever little marketing ploy for which we certainly fell. The menu said that we would have to wait 15 minutes for the molten chocolate cake. Paradoxically, this has the effect of exciting the diner… Oooooo, you mean I’ll have to wait extra long for my food? That must mean it’s going to be extra good. The kitchen must have to temporarily shut down so the line cooks can concentrate on all the components of my complicated and time-intensive dish. We would have continued to operate under this delusion had our molten chocolate cake not arrived in 3 minutes, and so obviously been microwaved. There was a thin layer of not so warm crust surrounding a completely soupy and occasionally scorching hot interior. Nothing screams microwave like the totally unbalanced distribution of heat.
So in sum, we will not return to Oishii in the South End. One caveat. It may very well be that I am not sufficiently familiar with sushi to be able to discern its relative quality from establishment to establishment. It could be that what tastes good to me in Chestnut Hill is of a lesser quality or conception than what tastes good to me in the South End, and that I’m not just paying for the neighborhood. But here’s what I do know. O Ya in the leather district is a lot better than Oishii. A lot better. And the price tag on a dinner for two at O Ya is only marginally higher. So if you’re in Boston and looking to pay $250 + for a great sushi dinner, you’d be a fool to go to Oishii instead of O Ya. Skip buying the second Starbucks latte for a week and you’ll have saved the difference.