Where to Kamakura, a Japanese oasis in the thick of sludgy downtown.
What for Sushi, bento boxes, kaiseki (multi-course meals), and sake from chef Youji Iwakura, who named the restaurant after his hometown in Japan. Iwakura arrived in Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music before turning to sushi. He later cooked at Uni and Basho Japanese Brasserie before opening Davis Square’s Snappy Ramen.
The scene Like entering a spa designed by Marimekko. High-top chairs that seem made of marshmallows line a downstairs bar, which overlooks the kitchen; climb a flight of stairs set into an exposed brick wall and alight in a second-floor dining room with views of the Custom House. Masters and mistresses of the universe sit next to the windows, gazing at the scurrying masses below, chopsticks aloft. Ambient takes on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “September” play softly in the background. There is a top floor, called Kumo (Japanese for “cloud”), accessed via elevator. In the summer, a roof will retract. For now, seek solace by a rain-splashed window with a warm cup of potent green tea.
What you’re eating Silken sushi and sashimi; artfully arranged bento boxes; and hand rolls plated like bouquets. At dinner, there’s a multi-course tasting menu of small bites: seasoned black cod sashimi; smoked tuna; sake ice cream. At lunch, indulge with a bento lunch in various combinations: black cod sashimi; mushrooms in a slick “amazing” sauce; chicken grilled over charcoal; vegetable tempura; fresh tofu; a little mug of miso soup; fleshy, flash-seared salmon on a tangle of greens and tart sliced jalapenos. Sadly, there are no sushi or sashimi boxes, but you can turn to a “fresh from ocean” menu for a la carte choices: big-eye tuna, sea bream, a glistening ivory scallop that tastes like bubbles of cashmere.
Care for a drink? Youji was once a sake sommelier at Yakitori Zai, and Kamakura’s collection is extensive — five pages’ worth, including a roster of warmed sakes served at up to 113 degrees. Cocktails incorporate green tea foam, dashi broth, and choya plum liqueur; there is also Japanese wine by the glass.
Overheard Praise; wisdom; longing. A well-dressed woman floats into the second-floor dining room and claims a window seat. “Oh my God. I love the vibe!” she announces to the room. A server asks a trio of ladies about their day. “If you haven’t already had a good morning, you probably won’t by now,” he says affably. A tall fellow rides the elevator to the mythical Kumo bar and lounge to scope out the views. “I’ll definitely be coming back this summer,” he says appreciatively, gazing at the slushy street below.
150 State St., Boston, 617-377-4588, www.kamakuraboston.comKara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.