Exotic Sushi and Tapas

A little bit of everything, from Europe to Japan
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  June 10, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars

09602_sushi_ain
GIANT MONSTER The Godzilla roll has something from each of the four basic junk-food groups, deliciously transposed into seafood and Asian themes.

Exotic Sushi and Tapas | 184 High Street, Boston | 617.272.9978 | exotic-sushi.com | Open Monday–Thursday, 11:30 am–10 pm; Friday, 11:30 am–midnight; Saturday, 4 pm–midnight; and Sunday, 5–10 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI | full bar | ramped access to the right of main entrance | valet parking “pending,” $16.
Exotic Sushi and Tapas doesn't have the most exotic sushi, but the combination of Japanese bar snacks with their European small-plate counterparts is an unusual angle on fusion that can be worked into a square meal. The restaurant is already packed at lunch; at night it's just waiting for the throngs to find their way out of the bustle of Quincy Market.

The menu features a number of items for those looking to graze, such as the al dente edamame ($6) served in the shell and salted on the outside like peanuts. The Japanese eggplant ($6) is thinly sliced and simply grilled. And shishito peppers ($7) — careful how you pronounce that — are grilled and just slightly spicier than bell peppers, with an addictive bitter edge. You get quite a few, but pay attention before your dining partners eat them all.

Larger appetites will want to try the Godzilla roll ($13), a filling combination of grilled eel, avocado, mozzarella, and spicy tuna, rolled up inside out with sushi rice. The lot of six or seven slices is fried and dressed up with "exotic sauce," likely a fiery mayonnaise. Our waitress — who loves this dish — compared it to a Whopper, because it has everything, isn't good for you, and you could eat three or four every day. In fact, the comparison makes a lot of sense. Protein, grease, starch, and salt — the four basic junk-food groups — are subtly transposed into seafood and Asian themes. I wouldn't call this exotic, but it's awfully delicious. As is the more classical Sake Salmon Robata Yaki ($9), three skewers with grilled fish and shishito pepper, plus a dip that works a lot like tartar.

Again on the fried side, Spider Wing ($12) is really your basic soft-shell crab with superior tempura batter. Three dips (citrus-soy, teriyaki, and peppery aioli) are more fun than just one. The shrimp tempura ($12) actually has less protein, but lots of fried vegetables. If you are in the mood for dinner, this is possibly the way to go.

The tuna shumai ($12) really is an exotic dish. These have the barrel shape of the Chinese dim sum and the thin dough wrapper of the Japanese version (which look like bay scallops), but the flavor is all seared tuna instead of the typical shrimp/pork. Citric yuzu does it nicely.

The most expensive dish on the menu, however — the Sashimi Deluxe ($28), promising "16 pieces of chef's special selection" — was frankly nothing out of the ordinary. Some remarkable knife work went in to making the squid into lacelike frilly objects, which hold the dipping sauces well. But the salmon, where some sushi chefs show cross-grain patterns, was just cut into slices, as was the dark tuna. A little skin left on the hamachi added flavor and allure, though sashimi is where the chefs are supposed to excel working without the safety net of flavored rice.

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