When it comes to personal - really personal - dining experiences, there’s a mother bird feeding her chicks straight from the beak, and then there’s sushi omakase. In the case of the latter, each individual bite is made one at a time. The chef crafts and shapes everything by hand, and it’s passed directly to you and placed on a tiny little plate that’s wiped clean after every course. It’s not quite as intimate as a baby robin’s breakfast, but it’s special (and more sanitary).
But you almost always have to pay for that personal touch, both in time and money. When it comes to money, you’re usually looking at at least $100 per person. And when it comes to time, you often have to book so far in advance that you’re rolling the dice that the ocean won’t have completely run out of fish by the time you get to go. That’s why we love Umami so much. It’s a North Cambridge sushi place that offers the most accessible omakase experience in the city.
There’s no ordering a la carte at Umami. All you have to do is decide between three omakase options. For $68, you get 12 courses. $98 bumps you up to 15 with the addition of foie gras and wagyu beef. And for $138 you get 18 courses that’ll make you feel like a person who has built-in bookshelves in their “parlor room.” Granted even $68 still isn’t cheap. But considering that some places in Boston charge the equivalent of monthly memberships to fancy gyms that provide an endless supply of cucumber water (that would be the $285 grand omakase at O Ya), it’s a steal. And just as importantly, it’s actually easy to get in here thanks to the fact that it’s a bit out of the way and has four times as many seats as Boston’s only other omakase-exclusive place, No Relation.
But despite the accessibility, there’s no drop in quality. You’ll find a lot of small details that make each piece great, starting with the fact that they use house-fermented brown rice instead of white, which turns out to be good in addition to different. From there you’ll find things like otoro infused with bacon fat and sashimi topped with garlic chips. It’s these little pieces that elevate a meal at Umami from a steady flow of high-quality fish (which you get at any good sushi place) to something that makes you happier than Ed Sheeran at an Ed Sheeran concert.
All in all, it makes for a pretty versatile place - something that works equally well for a third date (play it safe and go with the $68 option) or a fifth anniversary (ball out with the $138 meal - you deserve it after surviving 186 fights about the dirty dishes). In either case, you’ll be getting a really good meal and a personalized dining experience - one that doesn’t require eating inchworms directly from the mouth of a bird.
It’s only $68 and, although you’ll miss out on some fancy ingredients, you’ll get more or less the same nigiri selection as the more expensive options.
For an extra $30, you get a wagyu beef course, foie gras, and truffles. That actually ends up being not that expensive for those three ingredients.
Pay $138, enjoy some caviar to go with the fish, and keep your monocle looking fresh.