Local Japanese food revisited

Interesting question from a reader today, reacting to my post about the Boston Zagat survey and the presence of Japanese food near the top:

How about Shogun, in West Newton Square, a few storefronts to the left of Blue Ribbon BBQ? We've been going there for 16 years. The sushi chef and the older woman have been there the whole time. My impression is that they are Japanese, not Korean.

the last time I was at Shogun, about eight years ago, the owners were Taiwanese (!). I spoke with the older woman and asked her about where she came from, because I recognized she was speaking Mandarin.

A lot of Chinese and Korean restauranteurs know the money isn't in Chinese food (too much competition, and low prices) and Korean food (little local interest). So they do sushi. Most people here can't recognize physical or linguistic differences, so it's easy for them to pull off.

Of course, a well-trained American or Chinese or Korean sushi chef can make fine sushi, but I am not convinced that a newcomer to Japanese cooking is as familiar enough with the ingredients and techniques to do a good job with sushi. Shogun, and that Japanese restaurant on Galen Street near watertown Square are run by Chinese, and the sushi bar at "Asian Taste" on Moody Street in Waltham has a Korean chef and owner. Frankly, I don't think these places are that good, especially considering the prices charged for sushi.

We always go to Sushi 21 on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown Square, or, even better, Blue Fin in Porter Exchange in Cambridge. Both are Japanese owned and operated. They are a little more expensive, but we feel the quality -- and taste -- is worth it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yokohama in Brookline Village (on harvard street just off the D-line's brookline village stop) is very good.

I don't know about their "traditional" sushi, but their chirashi sushi (sashimi over a bowl of sushi rice) was as good as anything I've ever had in Japan, with very authentic (if not as tasty to me) side dishes.

The waitress and cook were calling out to each other in Japanese throughout our meal. And my companions' dishes (sukiyaki and chicken teriyaki) weren't Americanized either.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been finding almost all of my sushi land here

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yuck to Sushi 21. I don't care if they're Japanese and New Ginza and Shogun aren't run by Japanese...they're far superior to Sushi 21. Sushi 21 can't even make decent teriyaki which is a bad sign and their ingredients don't seem very fresh.

And just because the owners are Taiwanese does not mean the sushi chef is.

Your generalizations are asinine. Would you not eat at a burger joint because the chef is Mexican? Would you eat pizza made by an African-American? What makes you think that all Chinese/American/Korean sushi chefs are newcomers anyway?

11:48 AM  
Blogger Borderline said...

Anon #3: I disagree with your assessment of Sushi 21. Furthermore, you're confusing your Japanese food types -- ordering teriyaki at a sushi restaurant and whining about the quality is like complaining about the quality of the burgers at a seafood restaurant.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Borderline said...

A hint as to my new favorite sushi place: Rte 9 in Chestnut Hill. I am not going to say the name, because the place already can't handle the business, but it puts everything else to shame. Do a little research, or stroll around the south side of Rte 9 in Chestnut Hill, and you'll find it.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yea that spot is great, i mistakenly went with my parents, sister and sisters friend, never again, only one or two people in a group!

1:48 PM  
Blogger Hidemi said...

As the current owner of Shogun, We would like to set a few things straight. One of our waitstaff enthusiastically posted an ad for the recent chinese New Years festival; we are 100% Tokyo Japanese.

Shogun Japanese Restarant in West Newton is Japanese owned, and has been since it's inception in 1981. Ito-san, our current Sushi Chef, has been with Shogun from the beginning. Ueda-san, also a sushi chef of the highest order, has recently joined our staff in order to kindly help us with the ownership transition. Prior to joining us, Ueda-san was the owner/operator of Roka, on Mass Ave in Cambridge. We are one of the oldest Japanese restaurants in the boston area, and the only place where your sushi is prepared solely by a top level sushi chef; there are are no assistants or helpers.

We have very close ties with the Porter Exchange Japanese community. As most every Japanese person in boston knows, Bluefin and the assorted shops in Porter Exchange are the most authentic taste of Japan anywhere in New England.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Borderline said...

Hidemi, thanks for the clarification. I will make a point of revisting Shogun in the near future to taste your sushi!

8:54 PM  

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