There are few restaurants in Boston that carry the allure of O Ya, the Asian fusion restaurant so adored by the press and foodies alike. And since our days traveling through (and getting lost) in Japan, we’ve always adored going out for Japanese food in Boston’s sea of Asian restaurants. So when we got the chance to ask restaurant owners Tim and Nancy Cushman a few questions about their risky venture gone goldmine, we leapt at the chance like a samurai. The following questions were answered by Nancy via email:
MP: As an American, what influenced you to create a restaurant that is so filled with Japanese and other Asian influences?
Since Tim’s first visit to Japan 20 years ago, he has been fascinated by the Japanese culture and its cuisine. The Japanese focus on quality, freshness, attention to detail, and respect for products is incredible. Early on in his culinary career while living in Los Angeles during the mid-1980’s, Chef Tim also worked with a number of great Japanese chefs. Over his entire 28 year career, Tim has developed menus for over 40 restaurants, but when it came to doing time in his own restaurant, he had a lot of passion for creating a Japanese-inspired restaurant.
MP: O Ya has gained the identity as one of Boston’s most expensive restaurants. The Improper even named it the best placed to go when price is no limit. Is this a position that you revel in, or wish to separate yourself from?
Contrary to popular belief, we are not actually the most expensive restaurant in Boston. We offer an Omakase, or Chef’s Tasting Menu, that include an extraordinary variety of ingredients, like the highest quality Japanese fish from Tsukiji Market, foie gras, truffles, and wagyu beef. The The pricing varies but averages between $140-150 per person for 15 plus courses. It’s a great way to enjoy the restaurant for the first time, or the tenth time as the menu changes a little daily. Expensive is relative. We offer a dining experience commensurate with the prices, prices which are based on sourcing and creating unique dishes with the highest quality products from around the world.
MP: The praise for O Ya is extensive. What did you think/feel when the New York Times named it the #1 new restaurant in the US? Do you find it challenging living up to this recognition?
We still can’t believe it. It was incredibly exciting and humbling at the same time. The expectations are higher now than before, and we work very hard every day to try to exceed those expectations.
MP: What is your response to the accusations of recipe plagiarism?
We are happy to answer this question. This accusation is silly and completely unfounded. The alleged “accusation” came from Chef Ken Oringer, so we’ll address him. First, Tim does admit that Ken Oringer is a better dresser than him. Second, Ken has never dined at O Ya, so it is unclear to us how he could make any comparisons. We are a completely different type of restaurant. At O Ya, we offer over 70 dishes on our menu, including sushi, wagyu beef, pork, Poulet Rouge chicken, truffles, foie gras, vegetables, soups, salads. [At Uni] Ken Oringer offers mostly sashimi. Every recipe at o ya is original and based on Tim’s decades of experience around the world, including Japan, France, Thailand, Italy, Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan and more, not from eating at one or two particular Boston restaurants with a limited menu. We hope that Ken Oringer will some day dine with us at o ya so that he can enjoy our food as much as we have enjoyed his, and so that he will realize firsthand that we offer something completely different.
[Photo: The Phoenix]