Sushi Oyama 大山鮨
Address: 2/F, 20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu /東湖路20號2樓, 近淮海路
Tel: 5404 7705
Hours: 6:30pm – 10:30pm (closed Sunday)
Price: 800 RMB/person, drinks extra
Once in a while I eat a meal so perfect that I can’t help but grin from ear to ear until long after the meal has finished. Such was the case after my dinner at Sushi Oyama, an omakase Japanese restaurant with menu that changes nightly. It’s a small but elegant place. The decor is simple, the air is filled with light-hearted jazz, and the focal point of the room is an open sushi bar where Oyama-san and a couple of helpers slice, scorch, press, fold, and roll with determined confidence.
I’m charmed by Sushi Oyama beyond remedy.
Business card case
Work station with fresh ingredients
Oyama-san at work
Sushi Oyama serves only one 800 RMB seasonal set menu every evening. For those sitting at the counter, the menu becomes more of a reference – just tell Oyama-san your cravings, and he’ll do his best to satisfy.
The meal started with a trio of meticulously prepared appetizers. Cashew Nuts Tofu with Sea Urchin stood out as the most memorable one for me. A dot of sea urchin, with its intense orange color and soft, sensual texture, rests languidly atop a piece of slightly sticky tofu punctuated with cashew nut bits.
Cashew Nuts Tofu with Sea Urchin
Smoked Whelk in Plum Sauce
Grilled Pike Eel
Then came a small cup of Edamame Soup with Kelp, which glided smoothly down the throat, leaving only a trance of fragrance. It was equal parts hearty and refined.
Bonito Soy Bean Soup with Kelp
The assorted sashimi - needle fish, toro, red clam, flounder – was a plate of specular seafood with contrasting flavors and textures.
Needle Fish, Toro, Red Clam, Flounder
I could easily down a bowl of rice with these Japanese pickles. Happily. Everyday.
Then commenced the glorious, glorious procession of nigiri sushi. Each a luxurious sensation in the mouth, almost unbearably delicious. Oyama-san hits the ideal fish to rice ratio and adds a little spark with the perfect seasoning – a glaze of soy sauce, s few slices of shiso leaves, a bit of ginger, a few flakes of dried bonito, or a sprinkle of sesame and scallions…whatever he placed in front of us, we placed in the mouth without hesitation. There was always a moment of silence, then a satisfied smile would sprawl across our faces, followed by the slow nodding and “mmmm…oishiii.” Oyama-san just grins on the background.
We were then given a short break from sushi with a bowl of warm and crunchy roasted conch.
Then continued with the glorious, glorious procession of sushi.
Grilled Sea Eel
Towards the end, Oyama-san fixed us something special from his hometown Hiroshima – a squid and cucumber roll with sesame and shiso. It was an exceptionally clean flavor that marked a perfect ending to tonight’s sumptuous sushi galore.
Squid & Cucumber Roll
Somewhere along the meal, we were also served a bowl of steamed egg with clam, thoughtfully prepared with refreshing bits of orange peel.
Steamed Egg with Clam
And a bowl of Fisherman Soup – a variation of misoshiru with shrimp heads and other goodies which made the soup that much more delicious.
There was also a sweet and fluffy tamago yaki with an almost cake-like texture, different from any tamago yaki I’ve tasted before. I wanted to ask Oyama-san how this was done, but the question got lost somewhere admist the conversation…
Lastly, panna cotta with caramel to finish. Simple. Perfect.
Though there are private rooms available upon request, counter seats are the best way to experience Sushi Oyama. Watching Oyama-san’s dexterous hands form each piece of sushi (he even did a slow motion to show me how the steps are done), and conversing with him about his cooking and life stories make the meal all the more enjoyable. I rarely say what my “favorite” restaurant for any cuisine is, but Sushi Oyama is most definitely my favorite Japanese restaurant in Shanghai. This is a dinner that I’ll be dreaming about for days to come.
Sushi Oyama & Kappo Yu