photo credit: Tina Picz
If you go to Hojoko in the Fenway, there will be a movie playing on the back wall (likely an '80s movie, because the '80s = irony). There will also be a disco ball, really loud music, a menu that uses the word “sandos,” and dishes that are begging you to post about them on social media, like the wasabi roulette, a hamachi roll that contains one really spicy piece of sushi that some unfortunate person at your table is going to get.
If you have a gimmick radar, it will be blaring. But here’s the thing: gimmicks aside, the food at Hojoko is really, really good. And if you turn off the radar for a few hours when you come here, you’ll end up eating well and having a great time.
Hojoko is from the same people behind O Ya, a Leather District sushi place that’s so good (but so expensive) that you’d consider going without wifi for a month to eat there. Think of Hojoko as O Ya’s funnier, chiller little brother - it’s got the same genes and smarts, but its parents were way lazier with the discipline and it spent its high school years getting high, jumping off roofs, and sneaking into the office to give the morning mono report over the intercom.
You won’t get artwork-quality pieces of nigiri at Hojoko like you do at O Ya, but the fish is excellent and incorporated into some really interesting fusion dishes. Take the taco made with a crispy nori shell, for example - it’s the rare fusion dish that swaps out a common ingredient for an unusual one, not just because it’s interesting, but because it’s good. And it isn’t only the sushi-adjacent stuff that’s worth eating, either. The fries are outstanding and you’ll be talking about the shrimp toast a long time after you have it, partly because you can’t figure out how they got the shrimp inside the toast, and partly because you can’t figure out if it should be eaten for breakfast, dinner, or dessert.
It’s all served to you inside a place that’s essentially the opposite of a sensory deprivation tank. Along with the music and whatever Brat Pack classic they’ll be showing, you’ll be dealing with a lot of big groups, Fenway crowds, and, if you sit on the pool deck in the summer, some potential cannonball splashback. It can be overwhelming, but worth it for a spicy tuna burger that rivals any burger made from a cow.
Hojoko is the type of place that you’ll react to differently depending on what mood you’re in. When you’re feeling jaded and cynical because you got bitched at by your boss, sat on the Green Line for an extra 20 minutes, or accidentally read the news, Hojoko might seem like it’s trying too hard. But when it’s one of those days where you’ve been laughing with friends, the Sox bullpen actually holds a lead, and the site of a caterpillar crossing a leaf makes you want to write poetry about the wonder of existence, then Hojoko will only make you happier. It’s so good and so fun that you may even decide you can skip O Ya and keep the wifi for a while.
Crispy Nori Taco
It’s stuffed with tuna, avocado, and onions, the shell is made of nori instead of flour or corn, and the end result has us wondering whether there’s anything that nori can’t do. (Oh, and sometimes it’s served on a dinosaur.)
Spicy Tuna Burger
It’s made of a patty that’s got that seared-on-the-outside, red-on-the-inside tuna, topped with spicy mayo, and served alongside some outstanding fries. This is a damn good burger.
How did the shrimp get in there? Magic? Science? A special syringe that injected little baby shrimp inside the toast where they then grew up ignorant to the fact that their bready world wasn’t actually the Gulf of Mexico? The answer is beyond our comprehension, but this is really good.
Five pieces of perfectly nice hamachi sushi that would hold the door for you and offer to pick-up the check, and one piece that’s just an asshole. At least it comes with a baby bottle of horchata to keep your mouth from melting.
Not everything on the menu has fish in it, and you won’t complain about that when you get a skewer of these chili and cumin-rubbed lamb cubes.
Spicy Miso Ramen
The chicken-based broth simmers for 48 hours. Hopefully some poor line cook doesn’t have to stay up the whole time watching it, but if so, it’s worth the sacrifice of his health, energy, and sanity.
Perfectly fine dumplings (the char is an especially nice touch), but there are better things on the menu. Get a second round of fries instead.