Wednesday, August 24, 2011

O Ya? Oh yes!

Ok I know what you are can someone who calls themself the 'frugal foodista' manage to end up at one of Boston's most expensive spots? To set things straight right from the get go, I was treated to dinner by a couple of friends of mine who are big time foodies.  O Ya happens to be on the top of their list of favorite places in Boston and they decided that I needed to at least experience it, if not for frugal purposes, for the food itself...and I was not about to put up a fight:) 
Part of O Ya's appeal is it's modest and understated look.  You would expect something grandiose and intimidating, a place no doubt that would have you feeling small and (if you are frugal) way out of place.  Let me tell you that this is absolutely not the case.  With a tiny sign on a brick wall, O Ya's entrance boasts nothing more than a large wooden door. It's interior is set up Japanese style; deep reds and wooden accents - it is very comfortable and just the right size for proper attention and intimicay.
Now, enough with the décor descriptions let's get down to the food!

Ordering at O Ya may be quite intimidating. Luckily, I was with two people who had an amazing handle on the menu and they took care of the ordering. I just made sure we had an order of their signiature Fois Gras Nigiri...more on that later!
The first item we had was their Kumamoto Oyster with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette.  This was my first taste of O Ya and consequently, the first time I have enjoyed watermelon in a dish.  The oyster was meaty and full-bodied, the pearls of watermelon were somehow strong enough to add a fruity essence while the cucumber mignonette added a welcome tang. The whole thing went down an absolute treat, no awkward slurping with this little guy!

Next up we had the Hamachi with spicy banana pepper mousse.  Another revelation albeit more traditional.  Although this was only our second item, I was coming to notice part of O Ya's infamous appeal: little bites of potent pleasure, each piece is prepared to the nines with flavors that compliment and evolve.  Each different plate is an experience in itself.
So as not to overwhelm you, I will go in quicker succession (or wait...will that be even more overwhelming??) The scarlet sea scallop(right) came outlined in red with white soy yuzu sauce and yuzu tobiko (fish eggs).  Below we have the Peruvian style bluefin Chutoro Takati topped with aji panca sauce and cilantro pesto.  The great thing about this one was the different tones you got out of the pesto and cilantry, Bluefin is also one of my recent was a hit!
Their rendition of a diver scallop toyed with genius as it was topped with sage tempura, olive oil bubbles (I love this technique from molecular gastronomy!) and meyer lemon.  Here, the softness of the scallop contrasted perfectly with the crunch of the fried tempura and the olive oil bubbles gave just a hint of decadence.
Around this point in the meal I noticed another fascinating characteristic of O Ya's restaurant.  Their style of dining, which is obsivously focused on ingredients and innovations of the highest quality also manages to promote conversation flow.  I find that sometimes carrying on conversation is difficult when you have a plate of food in front of you. At O Ya, this is not an issue.  They have somehow managed to strike the perfect balance between focus on food and the fact that you are out to enjoy the company of others. In other words, their food is not a distraction, rather, it is a complement, something upon which relations bud.
Moving right along we come to one of my favorite pieces: the Fried Kumamoto Oyster.  The same oyster I had tried earlier with the watermelon party was now presented fried with yuzu kosho aioli and squid ink bubbles.  When I first saw this I thought there was a little rock on top.
Here is a close up of the squid ink bubbles, just so you can be sure I didn't swallow a pebble:)

O Ya also serves some larger, more traditional fare, for instance, here we have their take on 'pork and beans'. In O Ya fashion, it is Okinawan Braised Pork with boston baked heirloom rice beans, house kimchee, soy maple and kinome...pork and beans? Hardly! This dish was hearty and full-bodied, and there were more than a few bites:)
And now...for the pièce de résistance! The Foie Gras nigiri, complete with Balsamic chocolate kabayaki, claudio corralo raisin cocoa pulp and served with a sip of aged sake is one of the more expensive pieces (at 22 dollars) and has been feature in the Improper Bostonian as a splurge on multiple accounts. 
I am actually not going to go into further detail with this tribute to indulgence.  Suffice it to say that after I had finished this relatively small combination of ingredients, I didn't quite know what to do with myself.  It took me about five minutes to compose myself at which point I had to battle against the urge to bombard into the kitchen pleading for more.
In all honesty, I would go to O Ya and spend 22 dollars on this item alone. I know I am frugal, but I also recognise a phenomenon when I encounter one. It is without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences.
The desserts came and went without much fanfare (how could they after the Foie Gras symphony?)
We finished off our meal with some green tea and satisfied banter.
Various members of the O Ya team came by and inquired as to how we liked our meal.  By the end of the evening, we were all apart of a big, happy family.
O Ya embodies many of the important things I look for in restaurants: it is inventive, delicious and comfortable.  The fact that each of its dishes takes you on a sensory journey is truly what sets it apart, that and the friendly and attentive service.
If you are looking for a place to celebrate something significant, or just to experience something rare and special, O Ya is the place to do it...this is one splurge even I would take:)


  1. Are these "couple of friends" available to take me? Seriously though I'm very curious about the total bill? and it sounds like you think it was worth it? Thanks for the post it was better hearing about it from you rather than some upidty food critic.

  2. I am not sure what the total cost was...although I did keep an eye on the price of each item. Of course there were a couple things I thought could have been cheaper, but most were so amazing that I found myself justifying their worth!
    The only thing I would avoid is there dessert, finish with the Fois Gras and you will be good to go!

  3. wow, looks amazing. definitely on my restaurant bucket list

  4. O Ya is one of my very favorite places ever. When we had the omakase it was truly out of this world. Definitely a splurge, but totally worth it! Glad you were able to try it and enjoy!

  5. great review, Rachel! I had quite a few of the same dishes!! I adored both preparations of the Kumamoto Oyster, the hamachi and the foie gras nigiri immensely. How nice of your foodie friends to treat you to this meal!

    PS officially following you now!! :)

  6. Yes, the oyster = dinivity in a bit and there are no words to describe the foie gras...
    I was incredibly spoiled, my friends are way too generous!