- Name: Toraya
- Address: 890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington MA 02474
- Phone: (781) 641-7477
- Prices: $15-20
Toraya is a very discreet Japanese restaurant located in Arlington. I went there without knowing anything about what to expect. There was not a lot of parking around, however you will find free street parking on week days. I suspect you shouldn't expect to easily find a spot on weekends or evenings. The parking is free for up to an hour, which is far enough.
The restaurant was extremely modest and simple: tiles on the floor, old furniture, random things posted on the walls with tape and a small whiteboard with the daily specials. Notice in the picture above how the daily specials were also written in Japanese. I was surprised to find that all the staff and most of the clientele were Japanese. I believe the old chef behind the counter was the owner and the waitress his wife. Generally this place made me feel like I was eating in a tiny sushi place in the suburbs of Tokyo (this is a good thing).
I ordered a lunch special assortment of sushi (~$10) as well as a crunchy roll (~$5). Those came with free green tea and miso soup. The soup and tea were good, generally very simple and unsophisticated.
I have to say that one thing immediately astonished me when I put those sushi into my mouth. The rice was just really surprising. It had the perfect softness and moisture, in a way that I had never encountered before. However the eel and the shrimp sushi were dry, too bad.
The chef didn't cheat using food color for the ginger nor used corn-syrup-based eel sauce to make his sushi pop like fire crackers. So on the first try the sushi might feel a little bland. However the fish is very fresh and the ingredients are good. So this is really old-school sushi without any fusion flavors or new-age sauces.
I've had a lot of sushi and I knew these were great, but I got used to all those ginger-eel-corn-syrup-new-age sauces and I realized how my flavor preferences had shifted over the years. Those 30 minutes in Tokyo-suburb-Toraya made me rethink my current food orientations. If you feel like going on a small epiphany quest, or going to Tokyo is too expensive for you, try Toraya.