Since opening acclaimed sushi destination O Ya in Boston’s Leather District in 2007, Tim and Nancy Cushman have been building up a bit of a restaurant empire. Locally, they added the more casual “Japanese tavern” Hojoko in Fenway in 2015, and they have a mysterious new project in the works in Chestnut Hill that could open later this year. In New York, they added three venues at the Park South Hotel between 2014 and 2016, including a rooftop bar, a location of O Ya, and a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant called Covina. And soon they’ll be opening a third O Ya, this time in Mexico City.
But back to Boston: The Cushmans have not one but two restaurants opening at Time Out Market Boston, the Fenway food hall debuting on Thursday, June 27. Gogo Ya (stylized as gogo ya) will feature “crispy nori sushi tacos” — more on those below — while Ms. Cluck’s Deluxe Chicken & Dumplings will feature a variety of spins on chicken and dumpling dishes with inspiration from some Asian cuisines. Chef Tim Cushman will oversee the menus, along with Hojoko chef de cuisine Rob Wong.
Read on for a preview of Gogo Ya’s menu of crispy nori sushi tacos and more, featuring “some of our favorite flavors of things we’ve done at both Hojoko and O Ya,” said Wong.
The crispy nori sushi tacos: The main attraction at Gogo Ya is the crispy nori sushi tacos, in which the fillings — mostly seafood — are nestled in a tempura-battered nori shell. Tim Cushman saw something like it in Los Angeles, according to Wong, and wanted to bring the idea to the East Coast. The nori shells have the satisfying crunch of a hard-shell taco but a bit of the flexibility of a soft-shell taco, so they’re not going to fall apart as you take a bite.
“When we think of food halls and the type of food that should be there, it’s fun stuff,” Wong told Eater, “stuff that’s really casual to eat. The taco is kind of a perfect medium, where you can get a lot of our flavors and still enjoy the sushi experience but you can actually walk and eat it. Just makes it a little more casual.”
One taco option at Gogo Ya is the grilled Maine lobster — “cool to have something local on the menu,” said Wong — with tamari butter glaze, a sea urchin-sake sauce (using Maine uni, continuing on the local theme), and lemon zest. “We use all parts of the lobster,” said Wong, “the tail, the claws. We even take the tomalley from the lobster to make the butter sauce.”
The crispy mushroom tempura taco, a vegetarian option, is a bit of a nod to Hojoko, which makes ample use of maitakes throughout its menu. “They’re some of my favorite [mushrooms],” said Wong. “I’m not vegetarian, but I’m happy when vegetarian food tastes great. I think it’s the hardest thing to cook. [This taco] is super simple and super delicious.” The fried mushrooms are garnished with a miso-truffle mayo, scallions, and lemon zest.
While the mushroom taco is related to Hojoko, the spicy torched hamachi taco, topped with truffled jalapeno butter and scallions, draws inspiration elsewhere within the restaurant group. “It’s kind of a play on one of my favorite dishes at O Ya,” said Wong, “the hamachi with torched banana pepper mousse. For the taco, we take hamachi — a nice, fatty, rich fish — and torch it with butter that we make with roasted jalapenos, a little bit of truffle oil. It’s really rich, fatty, and smoky.”
Also on the taco menu but not pictured here: smoked soy salmon, torched salmon teriyaki, and spicy tuna.
The bento bowls: Two “bento bowls” — “a play on a bento box,” said Wong — round out the Gogo Ya menu; each is served on local greens, sushi rice, or seven-grain brown rice, topped with torched sashimi (pictured above) or spicy Heiwa tofu, which is made in Maine.
While Gogo Ya isn’t exactly O-Ya-turned-fast-casual, there are whispers of the sushi gem in Gogo Ya’s bowls and tacos. “I think sushi was a no-brainer [for the Time Out project] with O Ya being around so long and being so well-known. We wanted to do something different — sushi nori tacos aren’t really a thing here yet, we just love them — and we took a lot of our favorite flavor combinations, sauces, etc. that we’ve done in the past and made them a little more approachable. O Ya is an amazing time, but you can’t do it every day.”
Gogo Ya’s menu and pricing are being finalized; the complete opening menu will be added here when it is available. In the meantime, if you can’t wait until next week’s Time Out Market Boston opening, swing by Hojoko’s new Groove Lounge, where you may find a sneak peek at the crispy nori sushi tacos.