o ya, Leather District, Boston

We were celebrating the trifecta, belated Lunar New Year, Valentine’s and President’s Day weekend and after narrowing down restaurant decisions we decided it was time to visit O ya, once listed as 10 Best New Restaurants in the World. Was the experience worth the $150-$200 per person? The experience was worth it.

In 2008, James Beard Award-Winning Chef Tim Cushman opened California Japanese restaurant o ya and offered it’s creative sushi and tasting menus. What put o ya on the Nation’s map was Frank Bruni’s New York Times review. Our sister visited o ya and had  great experience (BMH’s 2010 review of her visit to o ya).


The menu is divided by nigiri, sashimi, vegetable, pork, Japanese Wagyu beef, poulet rouge chicken, truffles and eggs, other stuff including chilled homemade squid ink soba noodles, something crunchy with tempura, salads and soups.


In terms of price, the Grand Omakase is $285 per person. For an additional $150 per person, there is a beverage pairing. The Grand Omakase includes a Kamasu wild Japanese Barracuda (we thought of the Blue Barracuda team from Legends of the Hidden Temple), Tasmanian Ocean trout, Warm lobster with ponzu bueerre fondue, black winter truffle and bonito and Wagyu seared petit strip loin.  The 17-Course Chef’s Selection goes for $185 per person with an additional $80 per person beverage pairing. _MG_4806

We were seated at our corner table (we decided to hold off on the chef seating for another time). Our waiter greeted us an gave us the option of still or sparkling. We ordered still (thinking it is tap) and it was Aqua Panna still water for $12. Next time, we will spend the $12 on another vegetarian sushi roll or dessert and be will be clear we love our tap!

We also enjoyed a 200ml bottle of Hou Hou Shu Sparkling Sake for $39 (by the glass $12). The sparking sake was was clean, effervescent and a nice pairing with all the dishes we tried. We considered another bottle, but decided to savorr it throughout the meal. O ya holds a Sake 101 class and teaching on unmai, ginjo, and daiginjo and the percentage of the original rice grain is used in the brewing process.


The opener was the Scottish Salmon Belly cilantro, ginger, hot sesame oil drizzle for $20. The warm dish was our absolute favorite. The Scottish Salmon belly is a high complex dish, with layer and layer of flavor. The heat hits you, the butteriness of the salmon belly coats your entire month, there is the garlic flavor and roasted onion after taste. This is what Frank Bruni should have stated is o ya’s signature and destination dish. We would return to have this dish for lunch or dinner alone. _MG_4808

The next dish was a warm braised shiitake mushroom anise hysop, truffle honey sauce for $8. The shiitake was warm and had a nice sweetness from the truffle honey and a wasabi kick. Although tasty (and one of the more inexpensive plates, it wasn’t overly memorable).


The next special item on o ya’s menu and signature was the Fried Kumamoto Oyster yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles for $14. The bite was was buttery, airy and smokey, the squid ink and reminded us of calamari. The oyster was nicely fried and the right temperature, creamy and lushious. Another must try.


The Suzuki sea bass spicy cucumber vinaigrette, avocado, benitade, cilantro for $20 was crisp, had a sesame hint, clean and watery from the cucumber, but nothing spectacular to order again. We would take another Scottish Salmon belly.


Our other favorite was the Peruvian Style bluefin toro tataki aji panca sauce, cilantro pesto for $18. Another must order. This was rich, smokey and had a barbeque flavor. The fatty bluefin chutoro tataki had a lightly salty finish. Really special.


We then tried the Kampachi jalapeno sauce, sesame, apple, myoga for $18. This sushi was was literally rolled in rice paper, had a very fresh and clean flavor.  The kampachi had a heat after bite and reminded us of fresh rolls. The minty flavor was also refreshing and cut the heat. _MG_4816

One of my favorites was the Hamachi Viet mignoette, thai basil and shallot and our waiter’s suggestion for $21. The minty, sweet spicy flavor was very enjoyable and the fried shallots was so Viet. The tender Hamachi was complimented by the combination of flavors and tasted like a great representation of Vietnamese cuisine.


One of our sister’s favorite was the Hamachi spicy banana pepper mousse for $14. Our initial reactions and comments were a mmm. Nothing more. The combination was buttery, smooth, lightly torched and had a smokey flavor. _MG_4829

We noticed the Bluefin Maguro with Republic of Georgia herb sauce for $18 was on the Grand Omakase, so we ordered it. The dish had a hint of sesame and was slightly sweet. The pesto had sesame and a pine or fir tree flavor. The pesto reminded of the crust of a lamb’s rosemary crust. We jokingly labeled this plate as a tiny fish sushi version of a rack of rosemary lamb. _MG_4831

Another signature which exceeded expectations was the Homemade Fingerling Potato chip with black winter truffle for $18. Both of us had a thumb up midway threw our taste. The sushi was nicely seasoned and had a crisp texture.  The tender truffle and burst of flavor from the richness of the mayo. The oil helped coat the flavor and was not greasy from the vinegar in the rice. There was also a hint of green, slight glassiness and pleasant fresh note. _MG_4834

The dish Frank Bruni wrote up as his surprise favorite was the grilled chanterelle and shiitake mushroom sashimi with rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy for $24. The plate was visually stunning. Absolutely gorgeous and we both exclaimed wow. The crispy roast garlic and rosemary garlic oil flavor really was lovely and this element is what made the earthy, meaty chanterelle and shitake sashimi harmonious.


The tea brined fried pork ribs for $16 had hot sesame oil, honey, scallions on top and the combination was nice. The sweetness and smoke tea flavor of the ribs was balanced and the bbq sauce was more like Southern BBQ sauce. The pork meat had a firm texture, chunky and smokey sweet. Although the ribs were good, we prefer the ones at Myers and Chang (BMH’s review of Myers and Chang). _MG_4841

Our sushi tasting was at its denouement, but decided to add a warm chive blossom omelette sweet dashi sauce, shiso for $9. The egg was delicate and was one of our favorite egg tomago we have eaten.


We noticed a fellow diner enjoying the Aragawa Style strip loin with frites. for $299.99. We were torn, is that steak excessive or luxurious dining to pay $300 for one person. No judgement,  since our o ya experience was the most expensive dining experience we had just paid for, just food for thought.


We had room for dessert and our waiter asked if wanted tea. We were served two warm cups of smokey tea to go with our dessert for $4 each.   _MG_4857

The Yuzu curd with shortbread crumbs, raspberry gelato and meringue for $12 was brilliant. Unlike the lemon meringue we had at Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, the citrus flavor was delicate, the crumbs were nice and buttery and the meringue was light and not too sweet. This was the perfect dessert to end the meal.


The warm chocolate bread pudding, banana tempura and goma (sesame) gelato for $12 was also delightful. The bread pudding texturally was similar to chocolate molten cake. The dessert itself was slightly salty and savory which was really unique. _MG_4861

Before we received the bill, we sampled the housemade chocolates which were rich and the salted caramel was the perfect ending._MG_4862

Purchasing a la carte versus tasting menu, our bill, with sake, dessert was $175 each  including tip. We were happy and o ya put on a solid concert. Again the highs salmon scottish belly, fried kumamoto oyster and desserts were awesome.


We paid for a well orchestrated food concert, and although there were some average notes, there were a few highs that make the experience worth it. We had high expectation of o ya, and recalled one of our all time favorite sushi meals and dining experiences at Uchi, Austin and we are still yearning to return to Austin and visit Uchiko headed by Top Chef winner Paul Qui.

On our way out we learned about the Sake and Unexpected Food Pairings events. Once a month  2:00pm to 3:30pm $145 per person, o ya serves sake with other cuisine such as Thai, Mexican and Italian (apparently sake and pizza is unreal). We would definitely consider attending this event!

O Ya on Urbanspoon

Ramen Underground, Chinatown, San Francisco

After contemplating dinner options from Chinese, Vietnamese to Italian, we decided on some noodles at Ramen Underground. After passing Ramen Underground during lunchtime, where there was a line out the door and folks were bustling in and our for take out.

We arrived at the entrance and noticed the waiting list. There were a few names running down the column and as we etched our name down, the server took a quick glance and since other parties were not fully arrived, there was next to no wait and we were in.

The small, dark room with chalkboard paint lined walls was full except for a few stools and a few seats at a shared table. The menu was just killer. The menu was visual, fun and outlined the additional toppings from egg, pork, butter. Our favorite sign was the one which said MSG and had a little LOL under the G.

We enjoyed a small rice bowls with Chicken Teriyaki. The small is $5 and a large $8 (Ramen sized bowl). If one orders a ramen, the small is a dollar off, for $4.  The Chicken Teriyaki was perfectly charred and flavorful and loved the bits of scallion with the rice. The salad was almost detracting from the main event, but would have been better with some sesame ginger dressing.

We ordered the Spicy Soy Sauce Ramen for $8 (and Spicy So Sauce for an additional $1.00). We just wanted the basic ramen with the inclusive one slice of BBQ Pork and some green onion. The ramen itself had slices of mushrooms as well which was a nice surprise. The deep red clay colored broth was really flavorful.

After slurping the perfectly prepared yellow noodle, there was a well of broth remaining. For an additional $2.00, we got another serving of chewy, lightly yellow noodles to meld with the spicy soy soup. Naruto will be proud that we finished the bowl up completely.

We had to order the only dessert on the menu. The Matcha Tiramisu came with a fewstive pink cocktail umbrella and was quite rustic in form ($4.00). The layers of soft sponge cookies, lightly sweetened whip cream and matcha powder. After enjoying the dessert, we realized we could make this style of a matcha tiramisu any time.


Ramen Underground makes solid ramen, rice bowls and matcha tiramisu. All items we deeply enjoyed and felt they executed everything well. We’d definitely return on an off hour.Ramen Underground on Urbanspoon

Katana-ya, Civic Center, San Francisco

Katana-ya is one of the most popular ramen joint in the Union Square and Civic Center. After passing some unsavory aspects of the Civic Center, we browsed the menu outside the restaurant, as the restaurant had a wait time.

From soba noodles, sushi to ramen of all sorts, Katana-ya is a small space that utilizes all its space to accommodate more guests.  There is a sushi bar in the back and a series of tables in the front. Guests place their name on a list and then wait outside until it is time.

The varieties of ramen are great from green onion, kimchee, butter corn to spicy tofu ramen. We decided to share a Katana-ya ramen with Deep fried chicken, a pot sticker, BBQ pork, egg and corn for $12.90. The individual components were delicious standalone. The fried chicken was flavorful, the pot sticker had juicy meat, the pork was tender and the egg and corn combination added nice texture, sweetness and richness.

The homemade pan-fried gyoza pot stickers had a nice crust, flavorful meat filling and was served with a chili oil ($6.00).

We also shared a BBQ Pork ramen ($10.50). The salty broth was full of scallion, nori and tender slices of barbeque pork and was just missing a bit of chili, which we added after the fact.

The smaller combo sized Katsu don was delicious and just the right size. The panko crusted pork covered in a rich layer of egg, bits of scallions over a bed of rice and was very tasty.

Katana-ya was a soul warming meal. The servers were attentive, food was served quickly and next time, we’ll try some soba, another ramen. agedashi tofu and sushi.

Katana-Ya on Urbanspoon

Takara, Japantown, San Francisco

Takara Restaurant in Peace Plaza is a moderately priced Japanese restaurant with a great selection of lunch options and dinner selection.

We loved the orbs of light throughout the dining room and the Sapporo beer spout.

Upon sitting down, we received a warm towel to freshen our hands. The menu is extensive offering sashimi, tempura, pork, Nabe table cooking, teriyaki and Chirashi sushi.

The soba noodle was perfectly prepared and inexpensive for $8.95.

The katsu pork cutlet was nicely fried and crusted and very tender. The dipping sauce was creamy and the bit of lemon made the katsu have an additional layer of flavor.

We ordered a Tofu Steak dinner which was served with green salad, rice, miso soup and dessert for $12.75. The green salad was refreshing with a carrot ginger dressing and a side of daikon.

The tofu steak came with a fantastic sticky gravy and bonito flake. The tofu steak had a nice coating and a tender, soft center.

For dessert, we enjoyed another glass of matcha green tea and a scoop of icy green tea ice cream. The sweetness of the ice cream and a sip of hot tea was a great combination.

Takara on Urbanspoon

Ryoko, Nob Hill, San Francisco

Ryoko is a kitshy Japanese sushi restaurant and sake bar, located in Nob Hill. The restaurant is quite popular and we had to put our name in and wait for our seating. In the back of the restaurant are semi private rooms and there are several groups enjoying sake bombs.

The bar area features a hanging puffer fish and ceramic Japanese cats. The restaurant also has a baby grand piano in the dining room.

We started our meal with a warming glass of hot green tea with brown rice ($2.00) and some edamame. The boiled soy beans were lightly salted for $3.50.

We really enjoyed Ryoko’s agedashi tofu. The fried tofu with bonito flakes and scallions in tempura sauce ($5.00).

The mebachimaguro (Big eye red tuna) and Fatty Tuna (toro) seasonal sashimi were both melt in your mouth and amazingly fresh. We had to order a second order of the Big eye red tuna.

The Jumping California was Crab and avocado rolled was fresh and creamy and even more decadent when deep fried. The center was now warm and lush for $7.50.

The Dragon roll with Crab and cucumber with avocado, roe, and BBQ eel on top ($12.50) and the Pokemon roll with Salmon, mango, avocado, and green leaf lettuce, wrapped with soy paper were fresh and well crafted ($11.50).

The chicken karaage or Japanese styled fried chicken was wonderfully tender with an airy crisp exterior. With a sprinkling of lemon, these chicken karaage disappeared in seconds ($8.95).

The homemade pork pot stickers ($6.00) had a nice crust and tender pork dumpling inside.

The Jumpling Tuna with spicy tuna, cucumber, and shiso was a fantastic combination and after being deep fried, the tuna and shiso melted even further and then offered a crispy textural contrast ($7.50).

The wait time for our meal at Ryoko was exceptionally long (almost an hour) and although our meal and the sushi was fresh, unique and well-executed, it is better to visit on an off time.

Ryoko's on Urbanspoon

Pikaichi, Allston- Ramen

Pikaichi is a ramen shop that specializes in ramen, curry, and donburi. It is located near the food court of Hong Kong market (formerly Super 88). The decor inside is playful because of the red walls and the large dragon on the main wall when you walk in. Because of how small the ramenya is, they can only seat twenty people at a time. You may have to wait a little bit to be seated if you come during peak dining times. If that is the case, you can check out the food court or the market if this happens. The other plus is that there usually plenty of parking if you drive. When you enter, don’t be surprised when the wait staff loudly greet you with irasshaimase, or welcome, in Japanese.

They serve four types of ramen- shoyu or soy flavored, shio or salt based, and miso, Jingoku or hell flavored- with yuzu shoyu being offered seasonally. The broth is chicken, pork and vegetable based. You can add on extra noodles, a half or whole boiled egg, three extra slices or pork, ground pork, a butter cube, wakame seaweed, corn, nori or seaweed sheet.

Pikaichi uses the wavy yellow noodles made by Sun Noodles, one of the three major companies in the USA that produces ramen noodles. They state that they offer a larger portion of noodles, six ounces per order, instead of the standard five ounces that most ramenya offer. Personally, I never finish all the noodles in a standard order and think that Pikaichi’s noodle portions are more than generous. Every table has signage that encourages Pikaichi’s customers to start eating their ramen right away because they care about the texture of the noodles change the longer they sit in broth. I like that they care how their ramen is are experienced.

You can also add on a small side order of curry-don, curry over rice, or chashudon, chashu over rice, to your ramen for $2.

Spicy Pika miso ramen- homemade Pika miso flavored ramen with six ounces of noodles, three slices of pork, scallions, corn, and nori.


Jingoku or hell ramen pictured in the front and spicy miso ramen with ground pork in the back. Both with extra meat and half an egg addedspicinessally enjoyed how hot and spicy the jingoku ramen was. There was plenty of kick and afterburn. I always enjoy how the spiciness makes my nasal passages tingle.

The tatsuta curry rice is very good. I usually get medium hot or hot depending on my mood. The medium hot has a nice kick and the hot has a bit of an after burn. There are nice pieces of flattened chicken and only a few onions in this curry, no other vegetables. The sauce is not too thick or runny, just the perfect ratio that allows the sauce to coat the rice. The one thing I will warn you about is that it comes with one order of rice and usually there’s enough sauce for two orders of rice if you are so inclined. Extra rice for curry or donburi orders are free.

Pikaichi is one of the few ramen shops in the area that allows take out. Most ramen shops do not let you do this in order to preserve the quality of their product. Pikaichi has no such qualms.

Pikaichi is one of my favorite ramen shops in the Boston area because their food and service is very consistent. The staff is very friendly. It’s a great place to have a simple bowl of ramen.

Hong Kong Market
1 Brighton Ave
Allston, MA 02134

Pikaichi on Urbanspoon

Matcha White Chocolate Cookies

These matcha white chocolate cookies are absolutely lovely for tea. A keeper. The green tea cookies taste a flavored short bread cookie with a hint of caramelized sweetness from the chocolate.

Adapted from Just One Cookbook

Prep Time: 20 minutes and overnight refrigeration Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 36 cookies

    • 2 1/3 cup or 240g all purpose flour, sifted
    • 1/8 cup or 15g matcha powder, sifted
    • 2/3 cup or 150g unsalted butter, softened
    • 2/3 cup or 130g powder sugar, sifted
    • Pinch of salt
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Sift the flour and matcha powder.

Cream butter, sugar, and salt until soft and light. Add in the yolks and beat well. Gradually add in flour and matcha. Add the chocolate chips and fold in together.

Shape the dough into 2 logs and wrap them in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Set fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 300F and cut the cookies to 7mm or 1/4 inch thickness. Bake for 17-20 minutes and let them cool on rack.