When I think of Oya I think of the beautiful interior, the sushi rolls and their prix fixe 3-course menu. On this particular trip we had the pleasure of dining with a law school friend who was in town to argue a case before the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The noise level at Oya makes conversation a little difficult so it's probably not ideal for catching up with old friends.
Oya's dining room incorporates fire (a wall-length fire place on one side), water (a waterfall window separates the dining room from the kitchen), and sleek white leather furniture. It's as sexy a room as you'll find in D.C. and would give many trendy Vegas lounges a run for their money. If only Oya's service was as beautiful as its dining room. I've been to Oya 5 times and each time the service has been strange. From completely aloof to overly intrusive, the wait staff could use some additional training.
More Than Just a Pretty Face?
A pretty interior can only take a restaurant so far. The food has to back it up. There are several dishes I really love, such as the spicy tempura shrimp sushi roll, tofu ramen, and banana bread pudding. On this particular visit I decided to try something new but wish I hadn't strayed from my old favorites.
We started with edamame which was served hot with a generous dusting of rock salt. B eats edamame like it's going out of style, so I'm glad he snapped this picture before digging in.
I ordered from the prix fixe menu and started with a butternut squash and walnut salad. The salad was a nice balance of squash and lettuce coated with a tangy dressing. What really took away from the dish were the whole cloves of garlic tossed throughout. I didn't expect to find garlic cloves in the salad so I bit into one thinking it was a crouton or piece of dried fruit (it's really dark in the dining room at Oya!). After that, the garlic flavor overwhelmed the rest of the dish.
My main course consisted of scallops with pad thai noodles, hen-of-woods mushrooms, and truffle jus. There were only two scallops but they were cooked to the right consistency. The dish as a whole was underwhelming, as the sauce that coated the noodles lacked flavor. I think the presentation could have been much improved by adding a small splash of color.
B started with the white wine flight which featured 3 small glasses of different sweet white wines. He then ordered several "small plates" and started with his favorite sushi roll, the Typhoon Roll (crispy shrimp tempura, spicy crab salad and spicy mayo).
Next up was the Chicken Yakitori (caramel, ginger, bean sprouts and chicken). The chicken was very tender and had a unique sweet caramel sauce.
He also had the Chilean Sea Bass (sea bass, miso, edamame, beurre monté served over a braised short rib). This was the waiter's number one recommendation and it was a unique combination of flaky fish and salty beef.
For dessert we shared 3 small scoops of coconut-lime sorbet. The flavor was great but it had a weird chalky texture that left me reaching for the water glass after each bite. That's what I get for trying to go lo-cal on my dessert.While this visit to Oya was more enjoyable for the company rather than the food, we'll keep returning for the menu items we've grown to love. I ventured too far out of my Oya menu comfort zone on this trip but am glad I tried other menu items to have a better idea of what I do and don't like.
Second Thoughts from B
First, thoughts on my food. I love the Typhoon Roll. It is very busy with elements of sweet, savory, and spicy combining nicely with tender, crunchy, and even slimy. Somehow, you can taste each ingredient while also enjoying the overall combination. The Chicken Yakitori's main feature was the caramel sauce which featured a creamy favor but lacked punch. The sea bass/short rib combo was well conceived, but the execution of the flavors again could have been more bold and distinctive in order to take full advantage of the contrast of meat and texture.
Overall, I think J nailed it. Oya has consistently offered very good food (even though this night was a mixed bag) in a beautiful room with service that tends not to match. In the past we've had absentee, if not rude, service. In this case, our waiter was overly attentive to the point it was annoying. With that said, it speaks highly of the food that we keep returning.