The town of Lexington may be a popular place among tourists with its history, points of interest, and charming overall feel, but this northwestern suburb of Boston isn't really seen as a prime destination for dining out. Some very good restaurants can be found, however, with a several decent options in the center of town. One such spot is a serene and slightly upscale Japanese restaurant just south of the heart of the downtown area called Daikanyama, which features not only sushi, but also an array of Japanese appetizers and entrees. And though it remains under the radar after several years in business, this eatery is worth seeking out, as it is certainly one of the better options for Japanese fare northwest of Beantown.
Located just south of the heart of the main intersection in Lexington Center (Mass. Ave. and Waltham Street), Daikanyama resides in a part of the space that the old-school Chinese restaurant Peking Garden had been in for many years. And while the now-closed Peking Garden was a rather plain-looking (though comfortable) spot, Daikanyama is a clean, bright, and modern-feeling place, with lots of blonde wood used, walls that have an earthy tone and attractive pictures hanging above the tables, spotlights that aren't overly harsh, and a tiny sushi bar in the back. Some of the servers wear traditional kimono robes while others wear more modern clothes, with the waitstaff being exceedingly polite and friendly. The noise level at Daikanyama is mostly low even with the wooden floor and the relatively low ceiling, making this a fine place for a date or a quiet business meeting.
Daikanyama seems to have something for everyone, with appetizers, sushi, meat options, noodle and rice dishes, vegetarian fare, and more offered here. A delicious take on the basic steak and chicken teriyaki often found at Chinese restaurants is a highlight within the apps section of the menu, with the kushiyaki (also known as yakitori) having a deliciously zesty soy-based marinade and the skewered meat being very tender. Lovers of dumplings may want to opt for the gyoza, which are made in-house and are filled with pork, while pan-fried vegetable ravioli are available as well. A few other apps include broiled eggplant with a sweet miso sauce, breaded deep-fried oysters, and beef negima, which consists of sliced sirloin rolled with cheese, asparagus, and scallions, and served with a teriyaki sauce. Sushi lovers will probably like the menu at Daikanyama, as it features both familiar items and more unusual options. The former category includes a "snowing maki," which has spicy tuna and tobikko (flying fish roe), a spicy wasabi maki with tuna, salmon, and avocado, and a "Godzilla" maki that is good for vegetarians (asparagus, avocado, mushroom tempura, and spicy mayo), while the latter category includes a wonderful "sunny maki," which has a perfect mix of sweet (pumpkin tempura, rasperries), tart/bitter (avocado, yuzu sauce), and savory (spicy mayo) flavors. Another item that you might not see at every sushi bar is the Fuji maki, which features Fuji apple and tuna, along with sweet potato tempura and tobikko. For those who would rather opt for something other than sushi, there are plenty of noodle dishes at Daikanyama; diners can choose from udon (thick noodles), soba (buckwheat noodles), and ramen (yellow noodles), then choose a topping and a soup type. Among the toppings, the chicken katsu is a wonderful choice, going particularly well with the ramen noodles and the miso soup, but a number of other options are available for both toppings and soup, including grilled beef, shrimp tempura, and vegetables in the former category and soy sauce and spicy broth in the latter category. Finally, meat eaters and vegetable lovers alike have to lot to choose from for entrees at this restaurant, with everything from tempura to katsu to teriyaki to shioyaki and more. Beer, wine, and sake are all available at Daikanyama, with one highlight being a sweet (but not too sweet) Fuji apple sake.
Daikanyama may not quite reach the levels of the best Japanese resturants in the Boston area, but it isn't all that far off, either. And it does have a few things going for it that other spots don't, including plenty of parking out back, mostly reasonable prices, and little in the way of crowds or lines waiting for a table. Lexington has a real winner in Daikanyama, and one that fans of Japanese food of any kind should definitely not want to overlook. [Note: There is also a branch of Daikanyama within Bloomingdale's in the Mall at Chestnut Hill.]
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