Perfect sushi, imperfect concept
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  February 13, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
TAKE FLIGHT: Sushi-Teq's flights are far out.

Sushi-Teq | 510 Atlantic Avenue (Intercontinental Hotel), Boston | Open Tues–Sat, 4:30–10:30 pm | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Valet parking, or validated self-park in hotel garage | Street-level access; limited low seating | 617.217.5150
PerSushi-Teq starts with a really mediocre idea — pairing sushi with tequila and salsa music — and drops it into a glass cube with a two-wall color organ. It’s like being inside a Japanese cartoon. The salsa music is pretty good, and the tequila selection is impressive, too. But salsa and tequila don’t really go with each other (Mexico versus Cuba and Puerto Rico), and neither goes with sushi. Thankfully, this strange concept is saved by consulting-sushi-chef Toru Oga and some of the best sashimi and sushi I’ve tasted in Boston.

You might think that tequila, a fairly basic spirit, would work with sushi as does sake, a rice wine that also smells more like alcohol than anything else. After all, straight tequila is a mouth burner, and so is the wasabi we like with sushi. But I gave three levels of tequila and all kinds of sushi a try, and I didn’t taste any enhancement either way. Tequila is good with lime and salt and mariachi music. Sushi is good — not great — with sake, and goes with Japanese classical music or the new-age sounds of Kitaro.

Ignore the “Teq” and revel in the sushi, then. It comes out in random order, so we started with a “signature roll,” the Sushi Teq ($12). It looks like maki, but the wrap is jade-green soybean skin instead of nori (seaweed paper). Inside is avocado, cucumber, and salmon. Spicy cooked salmon and a single leaf of cilantro top it off. Right away we could identify really proper sushi rice, with a bit of seasoned vinegar to pick up the fish taste.

A platter of à la carte selections showed some other new tricks. Salmon sashimi ($8) was cut to show a kind of cross grain, a technique I’ve seen two or three times in Boston over the years. Zuke-salmon ($10) was three pieces cured in pickling sauce and sliced, with some skin left on for extra flavor. The chefs here seem to know just how much skin to reserve in order to make it both look pretty and have a balanced, enticing flavor — that’s a level of mastery I haven’t encountered elsewhere. A couple of finger sushi with grilled eel ($6) were a bit better than those at other sushi bars because the rice here is better. Red-snapper sashimi ($6) was served with some of its scalloped skin, and was only slightly less extraordinary.

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