Yoshimama427 Amherst St., Nashua
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped
We arrived at Yoshimama with low expectations and high hopes, and were pleasantly surprised by the ambience, the cuisine, and the friendly service.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Just a tiny storefront in a strip mall, on busy Amherst Street where chain stores are lined up like hotel guests at a buffet. But when you step inside, you enter another world.
There are only seven tables and a bar in the narrow restaurant, but the tangerine walls and large-scale paintings of flowers make it feel as if you’ve walked into a garden.
We began to suspect we were in for something special when our server, who doubles as maitre ’d, opened the paper envelopes that held our chopsticks, cracked the wooden implements into separate sticks, and placed them beside our plates, while she welcomed us and described the day’s specials.
The menu described the restaurant as a Japanese fusion and sushi bar.
So we started with the sushi appetizer ($9), a half-dozen cubes of tuna, shrimp, salmon, and yellowtail that were expertly prepared and artfully presented.
While our tablemate had a ’50s flashback inspired by the plastic saber in her Shirley Temple ($2.50), we lit into the soft-shell crab tempura ($8). The crab was juicy and flavorful, but a little limp and greasy, perhaps because we arrived just as the restaurant opened and the oil may not have been properly heated
Since we were in a crabby mood, we also ordered the spider roll ($9), which combines deep-fried soft-shell crab with avocado, cucumber, and flying fish roe. It arrived at the table a little later and was crispy and juicy, just about perfect.
We are of the opinion that the best way to test a Japanese restaurant is to order a bento box, so we tried the beef teriyaki ($10). The beef was a little rare but wonderful. You could taste the charcoal flavor through a honey, ginger, and soy sauce. The citrus-ginger sauce on the salad was spectacular.
The menu offers several low-carb makis. We had never heard of such a thing, but it ends up that they roll the fish in cucumber instead of the customary rice. We tried the spicy tuna ($9.50). The cucumber was expertly cut into thin slices and wrapped tightly around tuna and crabmeat substitute to create a less-guilty version of the Japanese staple. It was particularly appreciated by the member of our party who has diabetes.
We also tried the rock shrimp ($10), another fusion dish that seemed like an Asian take on shrimp cocktail. A pinwheel of shrimp tempura arrived at the table atop an arch-stemmed martini glass on a bed of peppery sauce. The sauce was so good that we also dunked our low-carb maki in it to good effect.
The highlight of the meal was the torched salmon ($10), a creative dish consisting of seared salmon atop a roll of rice also filled with salmon and crabmeat substitute, and topped with threads of seaweed and fish roe drizzled with a soy-based sauce. It was turned out to great effect on a shallow white plate and looked as if it had tiny grape vines on the top. It tasted as good as it looked.
There were many other dishes that looked interesting, including the bagel maki topped with cream cheese; the chef’s special seafood martini made with tuna, salmon, whitefish, and seaweed; and the agemono — meats cooked in bread-crumb batter.
But we could only eat so much. We’ll be back.