Boston is a seafood town, and sushi is seafood. In fact, if you go to a high-end sushi place in Tokyo, you might see something on the menu labeled as “Boston maguro” - and yes, that is a piece of tuna that was driven through the Ted Williams Tunnel and flown out of Logan that morning.
Which is why it’s unfortunate that through some kind of Craigslist-style missed connection, sushi has not become something we’re known for. But that doesn’t mean that the 10 spots on this guide aren’t worth knowing about. From high-end places that provide some of the best special-occasion meals in town, to neighborhood spots that you’d consider going to two days in a row, these are the best sushi restaurants in Boston.
The grand omakase at O Ya in the Leather District will run you $285 per person before tax, tip, and drinks. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but if $285 is about what you spend every year on streaming services that you forgot to cancel after the free seven-day trial, then it’s absolutely worth it. The sushi at O Ya is stunningly good - perfectly cut and so flavorful you’ll chew each bite as slowly as possible. If $285 is just too much, you can always do the standard omakase at $185 or order a la carte - just make sure to try the salmon sashimi with ponzu and scallion oil. Either way, keep O Ya in mind the next time you have something really special to celebrate, like a new job, a new kid, a breakup, or a divorce.
Oishii in the South End is your spot if (1) you like your high-end omakase experience to have more variety than just nigiri, or (2) you’re celebrating a major life change but can’t get into O Ya (Oishii can usually accommodate walk-ins). The omakase here is $200 for nine courses - which is less than you get at O Ya, but each course tends to be bigger and features more things, like steak tartare with crispy rice, tempura, and poached lobster. It isn’t two hours of simple raw fish, but it is outstanding, and you also have the option of ordering a la carte if you want more control.
If you’ve ever walked through Harvard Square and wondered why there’s frequently a line outside what looks like a standard strip mall sushi place, it’s because Cafe Sushi’s $100 omakase is one of the best meals in town. You’ll get about 18 pieces, including fish cured in-house that’s topped with things like bourbon-soaked cherries and hickory-smoked caramelized onions. You also have the option of ordering a la carte here, with a section of the menu that includes some of the same nigiri pieces you’d get at the sushi counter. Waiting in line isn’t always worth the hassle (like, say, waiting in a security line for a flight to Dayton, Ohio) but it definitely is here.
When you walk into Laughing Monk in Mission Hill and see people eating pad thai while CNN flashes on the TV in the corner, you probably won’t expect that they also serve delicate pieces of nigiri with things like charcoal, pickled figs, and truffles. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at the six-person sushi counter. For about $100 (the price changes depending on what ingredients are involved that day) you’ll get 10 courses, and you’ll struggle to decide which one was your favorite at the end of the night. Like Cafe Sushi, you also have an a la carte menu that includes some of the same stuff you’d get with the omakase.
If you like your sushi to also come with a scavenger hunt, then No Relation is your best bet. This nine-seat sushi counter is hidden in the back of a South End tiki bar, which itself is hidden a few flights below street level. If you find it without walking in on someone in the bathroom, then you’ll get 14 courses for around $100. It’s great and every piece feels particularly special - like the cured sea bream with mango and chili.
Like No Relation, Umami in North Cambridge is exclusively an omakase place. Unlike No Relation, it actually has room for more people than can fit in a van, and it gives you three different menu options: a 15-course meal for $98, an 18-course meal featuring caviar and langoustine for $138, and (most importantly) a 12-course option for just $68. It’s the only place in Boston that offers a high-end omakase experience for under $100, and we love it for that reason alone.
If your friends don’t like sushi, then we recommend that you get new friends. But if that’s not an option because of pesky little things like a lifetime of trust and shared experiences (and you happen to be in a sushi mood) then taking them to Hojoko is the next best option. Hojoko is more of an izakaya than a sushi place, so your friends can start with the dumplings and shrimp toast while you attack the rolls. Eventually, you’ll convince them to give a nori taco with tuna a shot (it comes on a dinosaur) and that’s basically a gateway drug to maki.
Uni offers a high-end omakase experience ($140 per person) but we don’t like it quite as much as the other pricey places on this list, in large part because it’s less fish-focused. But that’s OK, because this is an outstanding place to order a la carte. The fish is excellent and made with all kinds of ingredients that we have no idea where to buy, like bee pollen and spicy jicama. And the rest of the izakaya menu includes a lot of things like scallion pancakes topped with duck carnitas that go great with the rolls.
Pabu in Downtown Crossing has one of our favorite Happy Hour menus in the city. And since sushi usually isn’t something that gets discounted (especially in a place that looks like a fancy spa, like Pabu), it’s worth your time for that reason alone. From 4-6pm you can crush a few $6 hand rolls with a side of $6 chicken karaage and $3 meatballs. When the special ends, move onto their selection of robata skewers and high-quality rolls.
Ebi in Union Square might be the perfect neighborhood sushi restaurant. It’s very good, very casual, and cheap enough that you could pop in once a week without having to renegotiate your rent. Either grab a few of your favorite rolls, or sit at the bar for 10-courses of nigiri for just $38. You won’t get caviar, otoro, or long, personalized descriptions of each course like you do at places like O Ya and Umami, but you will get some great topped with things like smoked lemon and honey.