Saturday, November 05, 2011

Well lit at Samurai Boston

You may wonder (or perhaps not) how I choose which restaurants to write about. Does it depend on the type of cuisine? The cost? The creativity of the menu?

Is it all an elaborate cover-up to mask thrice-weekly visits to Texas Roadhouse?

Actually, it's much simpler: Did I get decent photos?

See, it's one thing to write about the food: how it smelled, how it tasted, whether it was satisfying. But the visual aspect is a huge factor for me, so it's something I like to share. And I'd prefer not to show you muddy or blurry shots that don't do anything to communicate the look of the plate and give you a sense of the experience.

Which is why, despite repeat visits over the past couple of years, I've never written about Samurai Boston, a Japanese-Korean restaurant on Boylston (right next door to the Apple store).

It's a long, narrow, basement space with a small bar at one end and a sushi bar at the other, and tables lined along the wall. The staff is young and cool, the music is varied (last night it was The Killers and Weezer), and diners are a mix of Japanese students, office workers, and hip twenty-somethings.

Usually we get a table against the wall, where the lighting is low. Last night, however, we were lucky: the place was full. So we had a choice of waiting for a table or sitting at the (well-lit) sushi bar. Easy choice.

Samurai, Boston

Samurai Boston has a nice collection of sake and soju. And the glassware is lovely.

Sake glassware, Samurai, Boston

The blue indentation in the carafe is filled with ice, so it keeps the sake cool without diluting it. Love. That.

We tend to get the same things each time we go to Samurai (so I don't feel as bad about not telling you about it earlier). Always on our list are the thin-sliced beef tongue, broiled and salted, over a bed of greens:

Beef tongue, Samurai, Boston

and the grilled yellowtail collar, with a crispy skin and fatty, deeply flavorful meat (and also a good test of chopstick skills if you can pull all the fish out from between the bones):

Hamachi kama yaki, Samurai, Boston

This time we also tried some new stuff. First, fresh, briny oysters with sweet ponzu sauce:

Oysters, Samurai, Boston

And then takoyaki, griddled balls of sticky dough filled with octopus and topped with shaved bonito:

Octopus takoyaki, Samurai, Boston

And then ... "What's ankimo?" we asked our waiter.

"Oh, that's monkfish liver. It's kind of like ... cheese, maybe?"


"Well, kind of soft, but with a fishy taste."

Uhhh ...

"Actually, it's sort of like foie gras."

Fishy foie gras? Sign us up!

It was certainly very pretty.

Ankimo, Samurai, Boston

And indeed it was a lot like foie gras in texture: soft, creamy, very rich. The flavor was both fish and liver, but not overwhelmingly either. Not cod-liver-oil intense, but a milder and very lovely level below it. Definitely one of those why-have-I-not-tried-this-before? moments.

Ankimo (monkfish liver), Samurai, Boston

At some point we might make it past the first page of appetizers on the menu and try out something else; Samurai Boston has a lot of Japanese and Korean dishes, and I always end up coveting whatever the people at the next table are eating.

Oh! And I just saw that the desserts on Samurai's dinner menu include cassata! Okay, that's a definite for next time.

And I'll make sure it's well-lit. Promise.

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