Massachusetts Restaurant Reviews
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Rating: 4 / 5
Zipango is sort of like a phoenix, rising out of the ashes. We loved the Sweetheart Indian restaurant on Shrewsbury street, and were sad when we saw it was shutting down. But we were thrilled to learn that a Japanese sushi place was moving in. At the same time, one of our favorite sushi restaurants - the Shiro in Berlin - was also shutting down. But the sushi chef from Shiro moved in to Jipango and it seemed that everything would work out!
We went there a Saturday night in Oct 2002. We were meeting another couple and got there first, right at 7pm. The owner met us at the door. It's a lovely small restaurant - great woodblock and original paintings on the wall, a sushi bar, tatami lights. Great music, if a bit loud. Very comfortable feeling. We told him our friends would be any minute and he brought us to the small back room (three tables) to sit down.
Twenty minutes later, my boyfriend went to look around to see if they'd shown up. They had shown up RIGHT after us, said they were waiting for two people, and were seated separately! So for twenty minutes the same waitress had been going between our two tables bringing us water and such and never thought to connect the two. Ah well, we both had plenty of time to look at the menu. We ordered.
My boyfriend and I ordered the gyoza (fried meat dumplings) and tuna tataki (sliced rare tuna with sliced onions and ponzu sauce). With that I ordered miso soup with crab meat and tofu. My boyfriend got the chicken katsu, and we ordered a selection of sushi and rolls. Our friends ordered the Hotate-shell Yaki - baked scallop and crab stick on shell with spicy sauce, plus tons of sushi and rolls. We also ordered Bishonen sake - 12oz of chilled sake at $13.95 that was 'smooth, polished, dry'. We're huge chilled sake fans and always glad to see it on restaurant lists. They had several chilled sakes, and only one - the intro Gekkeikan - was served warm. At least according to the menu.
Two notes on the wine/sake selections. First, I try to stay away from Gekkeikan, because I want to try new sakes when I'm out, not try the $4.99 one found in every beer shop. They list 'Cap Ace' on the menu but it's really Gekkeikan sold in a bottle that has a cap on it that you can use to drink from. So sort of their "picnic sake" if you will :) Second, our friends ordered a Pinot Grigio - i.e. a crisp white wine. They were brought two glasses of pink wine. They commented that Pinot Grigio isn't usually pink. The owner brought over a bottle of White Zinfandel and said "Look, it's a white wine". I'm afraid that White Zin and Pinot Grigio aren't quite the same species of drink.
OK, we were now at the same table and the food was ordered. Two of us had water glasses which were rarely refilled. Three sake glasses arrived ... then four. Interesting tall cylinder style glasses. But no sake. Ten minutes during some of the food eating the owner came by and we asked after our sake. He brought us a warm sake. We said no, we'd wanted the chilled Bishonen. They brought over another 4 glasses and another container of sake, chilled.
But back to the food. The miso soup arrived. It was quite rich and thick, with nice tofu chunks and good thin strips of crab meat. I enjoyed it immensely. Then for some reason six pieces of our sushi showed up on a giant plate which took up a third of the table. The gyoza and tataki were next and now the table was full. The gyoza were great too - fresh and crisp, not too oily, very flavorful. The sauce was good. The tuna tataki was also great, delicious tuna with a great breading on it. We didn't have any wasabi or ginger for the sushi so we were stuck for a short while until we asked after that.
The chicken katsu came out next, and while the meat was good, the sauce was one we could all identify as owning in our fridges. Sort of disappointing compared to the food we'd just had. More sushi plates kept coming out, each plate large, each only holding a set of rolls or a sushi or two. We constantly had to wedge things in, and when we tried to help by putting empty plates onto a nearby counter, we were glared at by the waitress. We enjoyed the idea of the presentation, but the tables just weren't made for it. Either serve large plates with more sushi on it, or smaller artful ones, or give us bigger tables :)
The rolls and sushi were really impressive. The cuts of tuna and other fish were huge and very flavorful. The Boston role - salmon, Asian lettuce, cucumber and spicy sauce - wasn't really spicy but was tasty. One of the only disappointments was the tiger eye roll - it had a 'russian dressing' drizzle on it that wasn't remembered from previous visits by our friends and not found to be great. By the end of the evening we were all stuffed. Then four more sushi were brought to us - sushi we'd definitely not ordered. And taking stock, we realized the Hotate-shell Yaki hadn't been brought, and one set of rolls we got we hadn't ordered, but another set had shown up in their place. Ah well, our friends took the Hotate-shell to go.
The owner thanked us again when we left, and I really felt sorry for him. He tried his best to be friendly, to help out, even to clear the table and wipe it down for us so we could sit and talk. And the sushi chefs were great - the cuts of fish were fantastic. But the waitstaff made the whole meal a real chore, between bringing the wrong things, leaving out things we wanted, not having any of the drinks right, not having water when we were thirsty, not giving us room on the table to eat or spacing things out so we had room for new items. It wasn't quite his fault, but with a $160 bill for four of us, we wanted something a bit better than that.
Sort of the thing that summed it all up was the large step between the front room and the small back room. There was a dark sign up on the ceiling that warned about the step. But it was dark in the room, and nobody saw the sign. Just about every person that went between the two rooms either tripped going up or almost fell going down. The restaurant had good intentions, but the delivery was just not right
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