A taste of Japan and Mexico
The combination seems crazy at first. Sushi and tequila? Sounds more like a recipe for a seriously upset stomach than the concept for a high-end hotel bar. But that's exactly what's going on at the chic new Sushi-Teq inside the InterContinental Boston . And we're pleasantly surprised to report that, for some reason, it really works.
The place was jam-packed Tuesday after work, partly thanks to the fact that Mix 98.5 was giving away three shots of tequila to every person who walked in the door -- or in our case, to everyone who tried to walk in but had to sit in the hallway because all the tables were taken. And this was no run-of-the-mill Jose Cuervo they were serving; these were sipping tequilas -- for some of us at least.
And, we soon realized, this was no run-of-the-mill sushi. The first item on the menu is the tuna mozzarella , which sounds more like a diner special than sushi. It didn't have much of a taste, but the layer of tomatoey sriracha sauce underneath it added an interesting kick. And how could we not try the Big Dig , an inside-out roll of eel, cucumber, avocado, shrimp, and asparagus that, we were delighted to see, comes in the shape of a bridge. "Structurally more sound than the actual Big Dig," one of us noted.
Finally, after the shots and a round of margaritas had nearly disappeared, we got a table inside. And as we sat down, we realized that two of the translucent walls were changing colors, from yellowy green to light blue, cobalt, purple, and, with a seizure-inducing flash, bright red -- all in the span of about 20 seconds. And it wasn't just the walls that were changing colors, it was everything: our skin tone, our sushi, the view of the water out the floor-to-ceiling window. By the third cycle, I was practically homicidal.
But when the sushi started coming, the strobe lights were forgotten. The yellowtail ceviche -- thin, rolled slices of hamachi dotted again with Thai hot sauce -- was unbelievably good. And the omakase platter came with some of the most melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fish we've ever had. The true test was the spicy tuna roll, which is accented with barely-there tempura chips and cucumber and has a clean, vibrant flavor. It was so tasty that the wasabi, normally a key ingredient, was all but unnecessary.
Every dish that rolled out from behind the sushi bar was beautiful and simple, and each had its own delicately creative touches, from soy-sauce brushstrokes to dried threads of red pepper. When we learned that the chef is the inventive Toru Oga , part owner of the Ginza restaurants who also has his own place in Natick, it all began to make sense.
We wondered what the chef thought about his raw-fish artistry being paired with tequila. But after our first sips of the perfectly mixed cosmolito , a salty tequila take on the sweet cranberry-juice cocktail, we stopped caring. The frozen tequila mojito was passed around until the glass was drained, as was the raspberry caipirnha with Patrón Silver, brown sugar, and raspberries.
Sushi is the only thing to eat at Sushi-Teq -- there's no tempura, no miso, not even any sweets. When we asked a waiter if there was any dessert to be had, he pointed at our minty, sugary mojito. But we didn't come away wanting more.
In fact, despite the color-change walls, we had fun. The lively salsa soundtrack adds to the festive cross-cultural atmosphere, and apparently the staff will give quick on-the-spot lessons if asked. Tuesdays in June are a good time to check out the place, actually, because the radio promotions -- and the complimentary tequila -- are going on all month.
We still don't think sushi and tequila go together all that well, but when the fish is this good, and the drinks go down so easily, it really doesn't matter.
Sushi-Teq, InterContinental Boston, 510 Atlantic Ave., 617-217-5150 , intercontinentalboston .com . Sushi $1-$28; tequila $9-$200 a glass.