The Coolidge Corner section of Brookline has always been a solid area for dining out with its mix of cheap eats spots, upscale eateries, delis, and neighborhood bars, but now there are other parts of town that are becoming hot as well, including Washington Square and Brookline Village. Recently, a terrific burger and cocktail place in the village called Best Burger Bar was given a first look here, and now another relatively new spot just outside of the heart of Brookline Village gets a peek—and if initial visits are any indication, Chiharu Sushi & Noodle on Boylston Street (Route 9) has the makings of a real winner while also bringing to light a little-known section of Brookline that has a handful of outstanding eateries that don’t seem to get noticed all that much.
Chiharu Sushi & Noodle first opened back in June, taking over the space near the intersection of Boylston Street and Cypress Street where King Fung Garden II had been. The restaurant is one of a few spots located along or just off of the “other” side of Route 9, which separates a little section of Brookline from much of the rest of the community and includes two neighborhoods with great names—Pill Hill, a historic area with beautiful houses whose northern border is home to the wonderful Italian restaurant La Morra, and Whiskey Point, one of Brookline’s few working-class areas that is home to one of the town’s most impressive (and little-known) dining spots in Bess’s Cafe. Chiharu is a very short stroll from both of these eateries, residing in a small but attractive and comfortable room that includes several tables along the right side of the space, a counter area to the left, and a tiny sushi bar in back with a few stools. Because of its lack of space, the restaurant can get packed in a hurry, but even when full, it seems to remain a calm and serene place overall.
The people behind Chiharu Sushi & Noodle may be familiar to some, as Mei Pan used to run the now-closed May’s Cafe in Allston while Qun Li came from such places as Haru in Boston’s Back Bay and New Taste of Asia in Brookline (both of which are shuttered as well). Those three spots were highly rated back in the day, and it shows in the food served at Chiharu, with great takes on a variety of items on the menu. The signature items—as can be guessed by the restaurant’s name—are sushi and noodle dishes, and both are solid options here, with the sushi tried on an initial visit (including a spicy tuna roll and a California roll) being well-presented and having very fresh-tasting ingredients. The noodle dishes at Chiharu include an outstanding spicy noodle soup with ground pork in a dark broth, with the noodles having a smooth and chewy consistency not unlike udon noodles. Three ramen options are also offered among the noodle dishes, including a mild tan tan ramen with a creamy sesame sauce and sliced pork (if you ask), while a similarly creamy miso ramen with sliced pork and a shoya ramen with ground pork and a soy-based sauce are also available. One other noodle dish to mention is the house-made zhajiang noodle dish, which has thick and hearty wheat noodles coated in a rich brown sauce made with soybeans. The rest of the menu includes miso soup, several types of salads (including an avocado salad), and cold and hot appetizers, with the steamed juicy pork buns being a can’t-miss item; while not quite the same as traditional soup dumplings that “squirt” when you bite into them, these dumplings do have a bit of broth inside the dumplings that goes perfectly with the ground pork and the relatively thick dough wrapper. A handful of beer and wine options are available at Chiharu, and desserts include mochi, which is basically sticky rice with an ice cream filling.
A number of good new restaurants have been checked out over the past year, and two of the best happen to be almost within sight of each other—the aforementioned Bess’s Cafe and Chiharu Sushi & Noodle. Interestingly enough, the two spots are somewhat similar even though one focuses mainly on Chinese fare while the other features mostly Japanese dishes, but there is indeed some overlap between the two. Who knew that Cypress Street in Brookline would be a destination spot, but there you have it, and in the case of Chiharu, you have the addition of a warm and comforting atmosphere to go along with the food.
CHIHARU SUSHI & NOODLE. 370 BOYLSTON ST., BROOKLINE. CHIHARUSUSHI.COM