The Boston area has a number of restaurants that are combined with other businesses--for instance, a comfort food spot and a bowling alley (King's in Boston and Dedham), an Italian restaurant and a superette (Vinny's at Night in Somerville), and an Indian eatery and a grocery store (Dosa Factory in Cambridge). But how about a sushi bar and a wine shop? Does such a random combination really exist in Boston? It certainly does, and while it seems like a rather odd mix, Seiyo in the South End of the city seems to seamlessly combine the two businesses, attracting both Japanese food lovers and wine lovers to its sleek and attractive space.
Located in the southwest corner of the South End near where Roxbury begins, Seiyo sits in a relatively quiet area with fewer crowds and easier parking than Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue, both of which are a short distance north. And while this section of Washington Street isn't exactly the restaurant row that is Tremont Street, Seiyo is not the only dining spot in the immediate area, as the Thai restaurant Equator is next door, the Senegalese eatery Teranga is across the street, and a few other places are within a couple of blocks of the restaurant. The space in which Seiyo resides has a slightly industrial feel to it, with exposed pipes and ducts running along the high ceiling, large windows looking out at the street, and a wooden floor that makes the restaurant just a bit more noisy than your average sushi bar. The dining area has a mix of seating options, with three rows that include angled table sections by the front windows, a row of basic tables with high-top chairs in the middle, and a long communal table with high-top chairs further back. A few chairs can also be found at the sushi bar, which is at the left end of the space, while a private table is located in a tiny area to the right by the entrance. Also at the right end of Seiyo is the aforementioned wine shop, complete with bottles lining the wall and a small tasting area. Outdoor seating is available during the warmer months, expanding the capacity of the spot a bit.
The menu at Seiyo should be mostly familiar to those who frequent Japanese restaurants; appetizers such as seaweed salad, shumai, and edamame can be found here, while a variety of sushi, maki, and sashimi dishes make up most of the rest of the menu. A few highlights include a delicious miso soup that is served in a wooden bowl and with a very small wooden spoon that almost forces you to take your time finishing it; hotate pesto, or diver sea scallop sashimi that comes with shiso pesto (shiso is an herb that is part of the mint family); a crabstick maki that consists of firm, mild, and slightly sweet-tasting meat; a spicy but not overly hot seafood maki that includes crabmeat, shrimp, octupus, tobiko (flying fish roe); Sawara, or Spanish mackerel sushi; a slightly pricey but interesting Kobe short rib maki that has jalapenos inside; and a terrific Japanese mushroom maki that includes sauteed enoki, hiratake, maitake, and shitake, all in a sweet soy mushroom reduction. An array of combination plates are available at Seiyo, with bento boxes offered at lunchtime. The beer list here is almost as impressive as those found at some beer bars and gastropubs, with all kinds of local microbrews offered, while the wine list is very impressive (which is no surprise because of the wine shop being here).
Seiyo may not be the best sushi bar in the Boston area, but it is quite good, and it definitely has several things going for it, including a lack of crowds, relatively easy parking, a chic but unpretentious overall feel, and, of course, the attached wine shop. And much like some of the eateries in this part of the South End, Seiyo just isn't that well known, which gives you that sense of discovery when arriving here. If you like sushi with a glass or two of good wine, this friendly eatery is surely worth considering.
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