Where to Crudo in the North End
What for Sushi, sake, shareable plates, and a sultry soundtrack.
The scene Clubby, but not overly so. In a neighborhood illuminated by colorful signage, Crudo is subtle, with a dark awning and a simple brick exterior. Inside, a soothing hostess greets guests while waiters in tight black T-shirts flex their muscles by the downstairs sushi bar, which is accented by a water wall that calls to mind a tropical spa. Here, a well-dressed man flashing a shiny watch attempts to maneuver his chopsticks with delicacy; in the roomier upstairs dining room, couples sit by a wall of open windows overlooking Salem Street to escape the heat. Rhythmic sighs flutter through the speakers like auto-tuned orgasms.
What you’re eating Japanese fusion appetizers, rice, noodles, and sushi (shogun roll, top) prepared by chef Ken Iwaoka, who comes from Copley Place’s Osushi. The menu is a bit naughty: Ordering a dish such as salmon lover makimono ($11) or octopussy ($12), a grilled whole squid with soy and ginger, would break the ice on any first date. Nicely sized sushi rolls hover in the $12 range; shareable plates — which Crudo calls “social plates” — are also reasonable, topping out at $15. Overheard as recommended: oyster pearls ($9), oyster tempura with truffle-honey aioli and fried cilantro; pork and shrimp dumplings ($8); and miso cod ($14).
Care for a drink? Everyone seems to be ordering the Social Mule ($8), made with cucumber vodka, ginger liqueur, organic sake, and ginger beer, or the Salem Street ($10), with organic sake, St. Germain, and apricot brandy. There are 16 varieties of sake, plus bottles of Sapporo ($7) and Hitachino Nest Red Rice ($10) beer, and a small wine list.
Overheard Touristy inquisitions and footwear compliments. “Mind if we just wander around here and take a look around?” asks a dad in sensible sneakers, trailed by his map-wielding wife and mortified-looking teenage daughter. Servers recall their first meeting: “I knew it was you by your shoes! I have always loved your choice in shoes!” Girlfriends greet each other by the bar. “I have never seen you looking so tan,” one gushes to the other. “I’m ready to party!” declares a jovial man, who promptly orders sparkling water. A woman weighed down by a gym bag asks for a take-out menu. “I’m so happy to have sushi near Hanover Street,” she tells the hostess. 78 Salem St., North End, Boston, 617-367-6500