O Ya: Hamachi Banana Pepper

New England prides itself on seafood—so it shouldn’t be a surprise that its hub features some phenomenal sushi offerings.

For those seeking an over-the-top, no-holds-barred sushi experience that places taste above all else, look no further than O Ya. Tim and Nancy Cushman’s Financial District star has racked up national awards and even a NYC sibling—for good reason. A maki-free menu promotes bite-sized delights brimming with indulgent flavor, like a scallop sashimi topped with shaved truffles and sea urchin jus, or the deliciously different potato chip nigiri. To experience O Ya at its extravagant best, opt for a 17-course omakase or 20-course “grand omakase,” which clock in at $185 and $285, respectively.

It’s literally called “Cafe Sushi.” It’s located on the second floor of a strip-mall-style building in Cambridge, right above a Subway. It has a carpet. But judge it at your own dining peril: This spot features one of the city’s greatest—and most accessible—omakase experiences. Those who undertake the 8-course journey will be rewarded with near-perfect sashimi and nigiri specimens enhanced by microscopic toppings the chefs add with tweezers. On the non-omakase side, this delightfully unpretentious gem also offers affordable sushi entrees and lunchtime bento boxes.

What Ken Oringer launched as a tiny underground sashimi bar downstairs from his acclaimed Clio proved so popular that it took over the restaurant’s space entirely in 2016. The new Uni is greater both in square footage and in menu, with an almost daunting roster of sushi, sashimi, and maki plus izakaya-inspired small plates. The signature Smoked Uni Spoon is among the city’s most decadent bites, featuring its namesake sea creature cozied up with a quail egg and caviar in a single spoon. Unwilling to be fenced in by tradition, Oringer enlivens his offerings with unusual and indulgent accompaniments like black truffle and pork belly croutons.

Oishii Too shares owners with the Oishii restaurants located in the South End and Chestnut Hill. Just don’t call it a sister restaurant; it’s more of a favorite cousin. While those two Oishiis prize high-end experimentation, this Sudbury-based locale elevates both the simple and the classic. You’ll find a plentiful a la carte menu stuffed with hand rolls, nigiri, and maki selections that run the gamut from spicy tempura to Tokyo-style soft shell crab. Those in search of land-based Japanese classics will find chicken katsu and perfectly cooked pieces of wagyu beef.

Oishii Sushi Bar

While a larger outpost sits in the South End, Oishii’s Chestnut Hill location steals the show. But you might not realize it upon walking into the tiny, relatively unadorned space centered around a humble, traditional sushi bar. The fare is neither humble nor traditional, though; expect seaweed-wrapped foie gras and lobster tempura sushi. There’s even an entire menu section devoted to torched, caviar-topped selections. Think of it as low maintenance meets high experimentation.

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