Newton is a city of many villages, with a few of them having a variety of restaurants to go to, including Newton Centre and Newton Corner. The relatively quiet neighborhood of Newtonville has some dining spots as well, though it doesn't typically get mentioned in the same breath as some of the other villages, mainly because it is not really a destination-type spot, attractive and charming though it may be. This is a bit of a shame, as there are some very nice restaurants to check out in the neighborhood, including Aji, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar that is a tremendously appealing spot for a number of reasons.
Located on Walnut Street in the heart of Newtonville's commercial district, Aji resides in an attractive, almost peaceful spot, especially compared with the noisy Pike and the often-busy Washington Street which are both to the north of the commercial strip. The exterior of the restaurant is brightly lit at night, while the inside is warm, cozy, quiet, and somewhat romantic (which can't be said for all sushi bars). Traditional cylindrical ceiling lights, attractive wall sconces, and Asian-style screen partitions all help to give Aji's fairly spacious dining area a bit of an exotic feel, while carpeting helps keep the noise level down. The "n"-shaped space allows for some extra peace and quiet, as the entrance and the reception area are on the left, almost completely separate from the dining room on the right and the sushi bar (complete with counter seating) in the back. Large windows afford a view of the street from the private-feeling right front section of the restaurant.
Aji tends to focus on sushi, though there are plenty of other options for diners, including appetizers (the tender house-made gyoza, or dumplings, are wonderful, by the way), soup (a solid version of miso, and a tofu with veggie soup that come with ultra-thin and delicious enoki mushrooms), salads (an avocado salad includes spicy mayo), and various entrees (teriyaki, plum duck, chicken katsu curry, ramen noodles, eel fried rice). Sushi choices include all the standards (including solid tuna and salmon options), as well as some less common creations--the torch maki, for instance, are wonderfully tasty morsels with roe, spicy mayo, and cucumber on the inside, and seared fish on the outside, while the spicy mango tuna maki is a sweet and crispy option with just a bit of a bite to it. Vegetarian options include a real standout, namely the flash-fried shiitake mushroom tempura maki, while the pleasant-tasting kampyo maki (sweet gourd) and flash-fried sweet potato tempura maki are excellent choices as well. Aji features beer, wine, and sake, with the suishin "drunken heart" junmai being a decent--and reasonably priced--option in the latter category. Prices are pretty good overall, and the servers at Aji seem both friendly and professional.
Does Aji rival such places as Oishii in quality? Probably not, but it doesn't seem too far back from that level, and the sushi at this Newtonville spot does seem to come mighty close to some of our favorites within this site (Toraya in Arlington, Genki Ya in Brookline, and so on). Plus, Aji appears to be so little-known that you almost get the feeling that you're about the only one who knows about the place, which is a big part of what this site is all about. If you're a sushi lover, do yourself a favor and head over to this attractive neighborhood in Newton to find out just how appealing this dining spot is.
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