34. Café Sushi: Sushi that inspires soliloquy.

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There were a few Boston 50 restaurants that I marked in my mind as good places to go with friends. Most places on the list are a bit spendy and a fair few are for special occasions only, but there are a handful of places that seem low key, affordable, and fun. There’s a barbecue joint in Fenway, and a friendly, delicious Chinese food truck-turned brick and mortar. There’s also one pizza place and this humble little sushi spot.

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On Wednesday after work, my coworker and I tried Café Sushi. On reflection, the Boston Magazine description is spot on. It’s a terribly unassuming place. It’s on the second floor of an office park with a blocked-and-locked first floor door and perpetually fogged glass windows that add to it’s disguise. Inside, it feels casual, but sleek and pristine. After a brief wait, we were lucky enough to snag two seats at the bar.

I didn’t know much about Café Sushi, and initially, it seemed unremarkable. I’m certainly no sushi expert, but at first glance, the menu had the usual array of maki, sashimi, and nigiri. Nothing stood out to me.

Then I flipped the menu over.

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On the back was a full second page of “Signature Maki” and “Signature Creations.” Suddenly I was intrigued and overwhelmed by all of the unique and exciting choices. There was a piece of trout sashimi topped with ponzu, shaved fennel, blood orange, and smoked salt; a hamachi crudo with grape tomato, basil oil, and aged balsamic. Some of the signature maki had iced onion or thin sliced lemon, or truffle salt. The combinations were thrilling (and apparently, seasonal) and it was hard to figure out which ones I should try!

Ultimately, we each chose two pieces of sushi and shared two signature maki rolls. I chose Maguro Tataki (seared tuna/truffle oil/lemon juice/kizami wasabi/black salt) and Nibitashi (marinated beech mushrooms/kizami wasabi). Each was a lovely bite of loveliness with a brief burst of heat.

That was not my best description but… well… you know how some people just get you? When you’re a little weird, like I am, you really appreciate when people get you. And my coworker and Café Sushi dining partner is one of the precious people that’s flying on my shared frequency. That really came out during this meal.

We kind of started soliloquizing nonsensically about how lovely the food was. And I quote:

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“Oh yes, crunchy. This is what it means to be in Japan!” [Salmon-Avo Aburi Maki]

“That was like a fresh ocean day with lemon.” [Orata Fresco]

“What’s weird is that I don’t taste the individual flavors and I don’t even want to. I just want it all to make happiness in my mouth.” [Salmon-Avo Aburi Maki]

See what I mean? And lucky you, you get to share in our ridiculousness.

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The Salmon-Avo Aburi Maki stood out as a mutual favorite. It was the seemingly odd and overzealous combination of spicy snow crab, oshinko (pickle), and marinated eggplant, topped with seared avocado, seared salmon, scallion, and aburi ponzu. I saw the eggplant and I thought it sounded weird and I just had to order it. But it wasn’t weird or overzealous. It was amazing. The flavors and textures melded together into a rich, but not overbearing creaminess, with slight hints of freshness and tartness. So good. So so good.

After what felt like an iffy start with the Boston 50 restaurants, dinner at the deceptively low maintenance Café Sushi was a surprising slam dunk.

Café Sushi
1105 Mass Ave
Cambridge
617-492-0434

Rating: Like a fresh ocean day with lemon.

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