890 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington, MA 02474 (781) 641-7477
There is always something to be said about a quaint neighborhood restaurant that’s close by and comfortable. It is even better when that restaurant happens to be the favorite sushi restaurant in the entire metro area. Toraya is a place that we used to go frequently, but haven’t been back in a while, until tonight.
Greeted with a smile from the waitstaff and sushi chef on entry, we sat down this evening at the sushi bar for a late dinner. We began with what I believe to be the best incarnation of this dish in the world, the agedashi tofu. This is a very common appetizer, found at just about every Japanese restaurant I’ve been to. It’s usually a few large cubes of deep-fried tofu with a dashi-based sauce and some shredded daikon. Toraya steps it up immensely with the addition of tiny enoki mushroom caps, and a rich, savory broth which seeps gently into the tofu, all served in a very hot clay pot. In addition to the tofu, we shared an assortment of Japanese pickles, or oshinko, and awaited our main courses.
I had the chirashi-sushi (pictured above), which is an assortment of sashimi and pickled vegetables over a large bed of sushi rice. It is a dish that I’ve loved since childhood, and Toraya delivers it with the utmost of quality. The quality of fish at the restaurant is unmatched for the Boston area, with every cut incredibly fresh, cold, and succulent. I often omit dipping the sashimi in the soy sauce because in many cases it’s not even necessary. Mixing the flavors of the fish with the pickled vegetables and the vinegared sushi rice made for an excellent meal. Elysabeth had two types of maki, one with yellowtail and scallion (upper- right), and another with toasted eel and cucumber. They didn’t last long enough on the plate for me to get a good look, but I was assured that they were quite excellent, as I suspected.
Toraya is starting to gain popularity around the area, on sites such as ChowHound and Yelp, and some fear that the intimate space is going to explode beyond the small neighborhood spot it is now. The fact that people were still waiting for a table approaching 9 PM certainly seems to suggest that their popularity is growing. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the fresh food and warm service. Highly recommended.