The city of Melrose has quietly seen the development of a decent restaurant scene over the past decade or two, with a number of highly-rated dining spots found in its village-like downtown area and a handful of others scattered about in the Melrose Highlands and Wyoming sections of this leafy northern suburb of Boston. The community has never really been known as a destination spot for Japanese food, however, though that may change now that a relatively new eatery called Ocean Sushi has started to attract a bit of a following among both locals and others who have stumbled across this rather well-hidden spot near the Malden line.
Located in an upscale-looking shopping center next to the Windsor at Oak Grove luxury apartment complex, Ocean Sushi is easy to miss, as it sits just far enough off Main Street so that it could almost be mistaken for part of the residential development. Like the other retail/dining spots within the small shopping center, the restaurant is attractive both inside and out, with its interior consisting of several booths along the front wall and some chairs up at the sushi bar along the back wall, and groups can sit in larger booths within a small section to the right of the bar area heading toward the back door. There used to be chairs in the middle of the space, but those have been removed which adds more elbow room to the place, and while this was once a full-service restaurant, it is now a counter-service spot where you place your order and then grab a seat. The shiny wooden floor, traditional Japanese hanging lights, and earthy colors throughout help make it a warm and serene space overall, while a big colorful replica of a fish displayed above the seats at the sushi bar adds just a hint of quirkiness to the spot.
Much like the wonderful Genki Ya in Brookline, Boston, Cambridge, Dedham, and Somerville, Ocean Sushi focuses on the use of organic ingredients and it definitely shows, as the seafood and veggies seem about as fresh as can be, and the flavors tend to "pop" a bit more than at many of its competitors. All of the familiar sushi and maki offerings can be found here, such as tuna, salmon (including lightly cooked salmon with cream cheese), crab stick, shrimp, striped bass, squid, sea urchin, mackerel, octopus, scallops, eel, and salmon roe, with raw, semi-cooked, and cooked options being available for some of the seafood (the spicy crabmeat maki is a great option among the latter). Those who are looking for vegetarian items can choose from avocado, apple, cucumber, mushroom, asparagus tofu, sweet yam, and more. Specials and combos are available at Ocean Sushi, with the pearl maki including spicy fish topped with seared sea scallops and four types of caviar and with sweet chili sauce added; the sun set maki having spicy fish with mango, avocado, and tempura flakes and topped with tuna and salmon; the snow mountain maki including shrimp tempura and crabstick topped with king crab meat and with sweet mayo added; the Phoenix maki having shrimp tempura, crab meat, and avocado, and topped with spicy tuna, flying fish eggs and scallions; the double spicy tuna maki including spicy chopped tuna, scallion, and flying fish roe; the million dollar maki consisting of tuna, salmon, striped bass, tobiko, spicy mayo, scallion, and avocado; and a vegetable dragon maki featuring sweet yam tempura, cucumbers, and mushroom topped with avocado and with sweet soy sauce included. Starters such as an especially flavorful miso soup, a seasoned squid salad, a marvelous scallion pie (which most people know as scallion pancakes), spicy edamame with house-made sauce, steamed pork gyoza, and deep-fried shumai are on the menu as well, as are dishes for those who want something other than sushi (teriyaki chicken, yaki udon, seafood tempura, beef fried rice). Ocean Sushi has a variety of beer, wine, and sake, and soft drinks include a sweet and slightly thick aloe drink and an organic mango juice.
While neighboring Malden and nearby Medford may be more popular destinations for sushi and Japanese fare, Melrose should not be ignored, mainly because of this little-known but oh-so-good dining spot. It is still relatively new, but if this friendly little eatery continues to get high marks from locals who live at Windsor at Oak Grove and elsewhere in the city, Ocean Sushi may eventually become a bit of a household name among sushi lovers.
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