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First visit to Pabu Boston with friends who had been there previously. We opted for the omakase with beverage pairings. A French brut rose (cab Sauvignon, not Pinot) started things off. Unusual and refreshing. From there things just continued to get better. A “happy spoon” of oyster, uni, salmon roe was a riot of flavor and texture. Second octopus with seaweed and pickled cucumber. Then it became a blur of exotic fish, each course featuring 3 riffs on a theme. Hard to choose a standout, they were all fabulous. I will mention the shellfish course of cuttlefish, shrimp and scallop, and the “rich” course that included remarkably different tuna from different parts of the same fish. The sake pairings were a complex symphony, modulating taste and temperature in concert with each course. Our dining companions had the omakase about a month ago and reported there was very little overlap.
As much as we enjoy Uni (the restaurant), Pabu is on a completely different level. It makes Nobu seem tame, yet Pabu is less expensive.
Welcome to Boston, Pabu. You will force a few places to raise their game.
What a great review, thanks for taking the time to write it up! Were you sitting at the sushi bar?
No. With 4 people we thought conversation might be difficult. We were at a 4 top near the entrance to the dining room, just off the bar area. Not ideal - we requested a booth but were told we need to request them in advance. Several were empty throughout most of our 2 1/2 hour meal, but they did fill up just after the 2 hour mark, so I take them at their word. Next time we’ll request a booth.
Thanks for the review, I’ve been meaning to try to Pabu. Your review kicks it up the radar.
How fish forward would you say the flavors are? For example, the dishes Uni calls sashimi are what you might expect from a crudo at other restaurants. The flavors mostly work, but the preparations can be complex and the fish is often not the star of the dish. I tend to prefer more simple or balanced presentations a la Cafe Sushi where every element of the dish is meant to showcase the fish. Thanks for your insight.
I would say it’s very fish-forward, simple accoutrement. Some really exotic fish flown from Japan, apparently shipments arrive Tuesday and Friday (good days to go). The carbon footprint is not light, but it’s unlikely you’ll encounter some of the varieties anywhere else in Boston.
We enjoyed our first visit to Pabu very much over the weekend. Thank you for the recommendation and detail. We will be back semi regularly and it is nice to have an option other than Cafe Sushi for a great omakase meal.
The seating at the sushi bar is very comfortable, high seats with nice sight-lines. The bar itself is deep and the seats are not too close together. Though the sushi bar was full, we had plenty of room. Our sushi chef, Jack, greeted us upon seating and talked a bit about what we liked. It wasn’t until after this that our waiter, Duy, approached and confirmed we wanted the omakase and helped us with drink orders. Jack waited until we had our sake before presenting our first course. The pace of the meal was very deliberate, not rushed, and the coordination between Jack and Duy flawless. It was a clear difference from somewhere such as O Ya where the waitstaff handles the entire meal in a sometimes overly perfunctory manner.
We were both recovering from a sickness so we did not opt for the beverage pairings as we didn’t want to drink too much. However the overall selections of sake and Japanese whiskey were enough by themselves to make me interested in returning often.
Our progression of fish was similar to what @MaxEntropy describes above, with the first 2 courses being the same. The nigiri courses were a bit different based on what they had in house, and all very enjoyable. The fish was all specifically prepared as to negate the need for soy sauce. It was interesting that they did put a mound of wasabi on the place settings, though that was not necessary as well. I suppose it makes their lives easier as many people would request it as they are so accustomed to it. Santa Barbara uni was in season and it was employed in several preparations. We enjoyed all the fish, including a delicious ocean trout nigiri that we had never enjoyed previously. It is always nice to be presented with something new at a meal like this.
Overall this meal made us very happy, and was restorative after a rather long sickness. Cafe Sushi is still our first love in the area, but Pabu slots in right behind them for a high quality omakase. It is nice to have some variety in the area.
One small quibble. When we were discussing the omakase options there was the standard omakase or a larger omakase for a $35 supplement that would specifically include more uni as well as A5 wagyu beef. We explained that we definitely wanted the uni and all the different fish that was available, but not that interested in the wagyu. I think something was lost in communication. I expected they would replace the wagyu with something else, or just charge a prorated supplement. However we did get the wagyu course. It was tender and delicious, but not among our favorite dishes. On future visits I would be more clear about this up front.
Glad you enjoyed it. The beverage pairing is worth a return visit. Hope you are feeling better.
We made it back to Pabu, eager for our 2nd experience there. Unfortunately the meal was a let down. The fish was just not as fresh, flavorful, or carefully prepared as on our first visit. Everything seemed to be taken down a notch or 2. The meal seemed like a poor value and I doubt we will be back. At those price points a place needs to be rock solid consistent.
Bummer. I had high hopes for Pabu. Right you are - at that price point there are no excuses. Thanks for the heads-up.