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Kyotoya (CLOSED)

58 Montvale Avenue, Stoneham, MA 02180
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Photo of Kyotoya, Stoneham, MA It has often been said on this site that some really good restaurants turn up in the most unlikely of places. Take Kyotoya, for instance; this humble little Japanese dining spot sits in the middle of a generic strip mall in Stoneham, and while it is located just seconds away from Route 93 (a major highway that goes through Boston), it seems to be nearly invisible to most people. But for those who know about Kyotoya, the place is a true hidden gem that has some of the best sushi you'll find in the northern suburbs of Boston.

Kyotoya is a bit plain from the outside (as many places in strip malls tend to be), and it is similarly unassuming on the inside, though comfortable enough to consider dining in rather than doing takeout (which a good number of patrons do here). Approximately 15 tables are set up in the dining area, and a small sushi bar with a few seats is situated to the right. Carpeting keeps the noise level to a minimum, and windows in the front (with two window tables alongside them) add a bit of light to the dining area.

The menu at Kyotoya focuses mainly on sushi, though a decent number of items from the kitchen (including gyoza, shumai, tempura, katsu, teriyaki, noodle dishes, a white-hot tom yum soup, and a few Chinese items) give those who don't eat sushi some alternatives. The sushi options are seemingly endless, with everything from exotic (flying fish roe nigiri) to simple (cucumber maki) offered here. A few items of note at Kyotoya include an extraordinarily tasty ume shiso maki (pickled plum and shiso leaf) that mixes sweet and piney flavors to make for one of the best individual maki items this writer has tried anywhere; an unagi sandwich that has eel placed between two pieces of sweet potato, with the entire piece deep fried and served with eel sauce; the ikura (salmon roe) nigiri, which has a mild taste and just a touch of saltiness; a shitake mushroom tempura maki that has a pleasant earthy flavor; a rather complex B-52 maki that has crab stick, roe, yellowtail tempura, and avocado; solid versions of spicy tuna and regular tuna nigiri; and, for folks looking for something other than sushi, a delicious beef negima, which has thinly sliced (and lean) beef rolled with cheese and scallions and coated with a zesty teriyaki sauce. A number of combination sushi plates are offered at Kyotoya, including a vegetarian option as well as three "party boats" for large groups. One note: Kyotoya does not serve alcohol, but diners are welcome to bring their own.

Kyotoya may be a hidden gem, but it is indeed no secret among folks who are involved in the local restaurant and food industry (including area chefs). And if they are coming to a strip mall north of the city to get their sushi, that should probably tell you something about this place. It certainly indicated to us that Kyotoya is a special dining spot, and while it may not quite reach the level of some of our favorite Japanese restaurants/sushi bars in the Boston area (Toraya in Arlington, Genki Ya in Brookline), it certainly comes close enough for us to highly recommend it to anyone who is a big fan of sushi.