Friday, May 23, 2008

Life with Food and Drink goes on vacation! First stop: Oishii

This being a delightful and much-needed three-day weekend, I took the opportunity to go home to visit my parents. "Home" (i.e., the place where I grew up) is Sudbury, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. I got in yesterday evening, and I requested one of my favorite places for dinner: Oishii Too Sushi Bar.

Oishii Sushi has another location in Brookline, closer to Boston, but this tiny sushi bar is all our own. It recently underwent a renovation, resulting in a restaurant that is much more comfortable than it used to be.

The somewhat unassuming entrance

The space is very small, but what used to be a room crammed with tables shoved against one another is now a darkened, serene restaurant with large tables offering ample elbow room. We wondered how they could have afforded to take away so many tables. Unfortunately, I sort of know the answer to that question: Oishii sushi is very, very good, but it is also very, very pricey, and that's coming from someone who lives in Manhattan.

One of the sushi chefs, hard at work behind the bar

Oishii gives each table one set of laminated menus. They have a system where you circle what you want on the menu using a provided grease pencil, which makes it so that your order is always right. Genius! I knew exactly what I wanted, and my mother and father selected their dishes. We were on our way.

No confusion here...

They brought over our drinks first. I went with tap water; my mother ordered Perrier, which they served in a classy wine glass. My dad ordered a diet Coke, which came in a tall, elegant, and...thin glass. Maybe this is part of their cost-cutting plan.

Itty-bitty little bit of diet Coke

Soon, they brought over my first selection: a small green salad. I love the ginger salad dressing at Japanese restaurants, so I almost always opt for the green salad. This salad was certainly small, and it came in a beautiful little bowl (all the ceramics at Oishii are really beautiful), but it was exceedingly difficult to eat. The salad was cut into basically one large chunk, so you couldn't lift it out of the bowl without everything falling everywhere. Eventually, I pretty much dumped the salad onto another plate and ate it as best I could. Once I got the hang of it, it was delicious. Oishii didn't disappoint.

Green salad... you can see the head of lettuce hiding under there

My other selection, a seaweed salad, was hot on the heels of the green salad, leaving me with two dishes while, momentarily, my parents had none. This seaweed salad was ample, gleaming, and vibrantly green. I didn't end up getting to the seaweed until after I had finished my veggies and sampled the other offerings on the table (read below), but when I did, it was fresh and delicious, with a delightful tang. THIS is what I wanted when I ordered seaweed salad at Tao!

Greens, but a different type of greens

My mom had ordered broiled eggplant, another delicious Japanese appetizer. Oishii makes this very, very well. It comes in small chunks of eggplant surrounding a pile of field greens. There's some sort of creamy or mayonnaise-based dressing on top of the eggplant and a bit on top of the greens. I'm not sure I really want to know what's in that dressing, because it's too good. I stole a few pieces of this eggplant and dug into the greens in the middle. The eggplant was silky with a bit of broiled char, and the creaminess of the dressing makes the whole piece just melt in your mouth. Mmmmm.

Eggplant, transformed into DELICIOUSNESS

My dad had ordered pork Gyoza for his dinner. It was a small order, but he said he wasn't hungry. I didn't try any of it (obviously), but he polished off the small dumplings and declared them the perfect thing for a not-that-hungry dinner.

Pork parcels with glossy dipping sauce

Finally, my mom's sushi arrived. She had ordered a soft shell crab roll, an Alaskan roll (with salmon), and a sweet potato tempura roll. Oishii is famous for its sushi-- it's well known in the area for being some of the freshest and highest-quality around. I tried a few of the sweet potato tempura rolls; while the potato was slightly undercooked and thus a bit too hard, the nori and the rice were delectable. My stomach won't tolerate sushi in quantity, but the few bites were just enough for me to get the delicious flavor of Oishii.

Soft shell crab in the back, Alaskan in the middle, sweet potato in front, with a dollop of pickled ginger

Soon, our table was nothing but a graveyard of empty plates.

Nothing but memories

Our servers allowed us to linger for a while, which was somewhat counterintuitive because all of the few tables in the restaurant were full. But after a while reclining with our bellies distended, we asked for the check and paid. The final awesome part of Oishii is the check comes with my favorite kind of mint, those things that look like M&Ms but instead of just chocolate inside there's a mint center with a tiny bit of chocolate under the candy shell. You know what I mean? Whenever I encounter them in restaurants, if there's an unguarded bowl I always take an inappropriately large fistfull of them. Sad, but true.

So where does Oishii come down in the overall scheme of my dining life? It's not in Manhattan, true, but it's definitely a place I like to return to again and again. The food is incredible. The atmosphere is much improved, and while the service isn't so much a selling point, it definitely doesn't detract from the experience. For all this, and basically just for the pure deliciousness that is Oishii, I award this Sudbury institution four Offset Spatulas.

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