BOSTON

O Ya
Sushi topped with an heirloom-potato chip or foie gras is anything but traditional, but chef Tim Cushman deftly combines creative flourishes with a very Japanese sensibility. That foie gras, for instance, is seared, giving it a velvety texture somewhere between toro and sea urchin, and a classic eel sauce enhanced by balsamic vinegar and chocolate feels not forced but shrewd. From his downtown sushi bar connected to an open kitchen, Cushman also sends out yellowtail belly from Tayama Bay and spot prawn from Santa Barbara—both of which sit atop a blend of rice that took a year and a half of experimentation to perfect.
9 East St., 617-654-9900

THE BIG BOYS: MASA AND URASAWA

Because of their venerable reputations and conscience-shocking prix fixes—$450 at Masa and $300 at Urasawa—these shrines to fish and rice require their own category. At both places, the format is the same. Thereís no menu. The chef delivers several plates of highly seasonal, jetted-from-Japan esoterica like deep-fried rice-paddy fish, and then a procession of life-altering sushi. But unlike those showy culinary artists who dress dishes in gold flakes, neither of these prodigious talents is trying to justify the mealís expense. Sushi toppings might be exotic (like akamutsu, a rarely seen deep-sea snapper) or almost quaint (like a single shiitake mushroom). Either way, each piece is so perfectly calibrated with vinegar-tinged rice and sweet wasabi that youíll feel like youíre trying the cuisine for the first time.