Oya caters to the self-consciously hip. It's the kind of place where a little black dress and heels are standard, and the faddish menu offers gnocchi, sushi and a soup called Ginger Butternut Squash Cappuccino. All in all, it's not the kind of place you'd think of for a quick, affordable meal.
And yet last month, Oya started offering to-go $10 lunch bags in three categories: sushi, salad and sandwich. Some of the options are from the regular menu, such as the restaurant's popular Spicy Crunchy Shrimp Roll and the Smoked Turkey Brie Sandwich. But there are also to-go specials, and each lunch bag includes a choice of three mini-desserts.
Our first pick was the nine-piece Spicy Crunchy Shrimp Roll. The maki was a little starchy, but the soy-paper wrap was an elegant touch. So were the small side portions of warm edamame and crunchy seaweed salad that accompany all four of the sushi options. Even without dessert, you'd be hard-pressed to find an equivalent sushi bargain downtown.
We also liked the Chicken Mai Thai salad. The kitchen is a little heavy-handed with the rich sesame dressing, but the mix of sliced chicken, green papaya, julienne peppers, bean sprouts, cilantro, mint and crunchy noodles is still a refreshing choice on a hot summer day.
Sandwiches, which come with a bag of vegetable chips, were less successful. The generously sized pulled short-rib sandwich was a lump of flavorless braised beef -- something that should be a contradiction in terms -- cloaked with melted cheese that had congealed. The fillet on the teriyaki salmon sandwich was tender and flavorful. But it was topped with just a smear of mayonnaise and chopped lettuce; a gingery slaw or some fresh herbs would have made all the difference. Oya's kitchen should know better.
Desserts are a nice little bonus. The banana bread pudding, a regular on Oya's menu, was comfort food defined. Carrot cake, though a little too sweet, was just the right size to satisfy a midday craving for dessert. The tiny fruit-and-granola parfait was a nice idea, but the chef should forgo the orange slices that taste canned. That is anything but hip.
--Jane Black (Good to Go, May 2010)