Oya lives on the internet HERE. Outside the Matrix it lives at 777 9th Street NW in Penn Quarter - a yet to be bona fide "area" in my book.
I'm going to let you know up front that this is going to be a brutal review for the Oya folks even though I love their sushi. Please do take it personally - that's the only way you'll get better.
I went to Oya for the umpteenth time last Saturday with my wife and two of her sisters from Houston. We "Ubered" to the location because we roll like people who pretend to have money - a facade that let us fit in well with Oya's crowd.
I hate the doorway at Oya. It's always crowded because they've got valet service right there in the middle of everything and those guys are usually rapping with beggars, drug addicts and God knows who else out front. It's a shit show starring a bunch of people who aren't there to patronize the restaurant. And because the valets are lazy as hell, the cars pile up in front of the place and people leaving get stuck trying to stop cabs from behind double parked cars and it's a mob scene all the time. Think Old Ebbitt at about noon during high tourist season.
Once you get in you're aware that there's a lot of wasted space between the bar and the door. If you're lucky you'll realize the host desk is to your right tucked into an awkward, out of the way pocket. That area gets jammed up during the rush - avoid sending your entire party to check in for your reservation. One person will do.
The wasted space I mentioned earlier becomes more and more noticeable as you try to grab a pre-dinner cocktail at a much too small bar where seating is scarce. Beyond the bar is an oddly shaped and placed lounge area that leaves one wondering if it's okay to wait in there while you have a cocktail, or if it's just for people who came to drink their dinner. In the end the design leads to you standing like a moron out in no man's land between the door and the bar with your drink. It's the most uncomfortable thing you'll do with your clothes on that night - I promise.
The decor is very Vegas... early last decade Vegas. You know, when Asian fusion was still cool. White everywhere - looks like a P-Diddy party. The kind of people who like the decor are the kind of people you don't like. Or, you're one of the people who like the decor and I don't like you. Either way - it's Vegas-douche-deco and it attracts a certain kind of crowd.
We were seated towards the back of the restaurant next to some not so convenient nor comfortable looking booths. I appreciated our table status thinking of the embarrassing shift it would take to move everyone out of the booth every time I had to pee. Booths just aren't sexy - that's why diners feature them.
The waiter started with the age old "have any of you dined with us before?" My two sisters hadn't and before I could head the explanation train off at the pass, they were giving him the honest answer of "no." This meant a little switch went of in the waiter's head that turned him into Menu Explanation Sales Pitch Man - the super hero who defends us from over-complicated menus by pitching you the most expensive items on them. He was just getting to the second course when my wife, who hates the sound of all men's voices, and their opinions on any subject even more, interrupted him with a simple declaration "we'll be having sushi exclusively." At this point Menu Explanation Sale Pitch Man stashed his cape and told us he'd bring water and started to walk away without asking us if we wanted something else to drink. This required that I blurt out "BIG SAPPORO" to his rapidly retreating back. It worked - he turned around and took drink orders from everyone as he should have done in the first place.
My wife's sisters were a little perplexed at our out-right dismissal of the non-sushi menu. We had to explain to them that Asian fusion is dead and that we wouldn't be trying to revive it here tonight. Besides, the menu couldn't be more random if they tried. From ribs, to mussels to miso to lobster mac and cheese to spring rolls and stuff spiced with curry and a caeser salad - the damn thing is everywhere and a sure indication that they probably don't do any of those many styles well, much less perfectly. And it's tapas style to top it off! So it's tiny, over-priced portions of shitty food. It doesn't get any worse than that.
One of the sisters quickly countered with her observation that the burger must be good because she had seen dozens of them flying out of the kitchen. I had noticed the same phenomenon, but understood why so many "Kobe Burgers" were being ordered. What she didn't know that I already knew is that it's the cheapest thing on the menu of a sizable portion ($16). Most of the people at Oya couldn't afford to be there. The faux 2004 Vegas atmosphere attracts a lot of people who would show up to order the burger - that's just the kind of people who respond to that type environment.
To add insult to hardened arteries, Oya still thinks you're too stupid to realize that they aren't really selling a burger made of Japanese Kobe beef. They assume you've never heard of the internet and aren't aware of the truth. Read about the big American Kobe beef lie HERE.
The people at bachelorette parties or out before their community college prom were all doing the same thing - drinking lots of free water and splitting the burger. Their waiter's face told the story everyone knows all too well. Small bill - smaller tip.
The people there for the sushi were a different story - multiple bottles of wine, three or four flights of sushi, dessert and dessert cocktails. These are the people who know what Oya does best - sushi. It's the only reason my wife and I go and we'd eat in a truck stop bathroom if that's where we had to go to get it (not really... I might drive to Falls Church for it, but no further - it's good, but not drive out to the suburbs good).
I could go into every roll, but I won't because they're all great. Not just good - great. One stands out among the others, the Short Rib Tempura Roll - a braised rib, avocado, white cheddar and mashed potato roll that stands on its own without the customary bath of soy sauce and wasabi. So good you'll order it twice. We also enjoyed the Pork Belly roll as their twist on America's twist on sushi.
Go eat their sushi - that's what I'm saying.
I hate to ding the service because I know that the waiter is usually just one of the many links in the chain that holds together the entire process. Often the waiter is not to blame, but he gets it anyway. However, in this case I can bitch about the service because the kitchen, the manager and the hosts are not responsible for the job the waiter screwed up.
After we gorged ourselves on several hundred pieces of sushi, the waiter dropped off dessert menus. Almost simultaneously we opened them and then quickly closed them - too full to even consider something more to eat. Then our waiter disappeared...
Okay, he didn't literally "disappear" because we could see him working the tables around us while completely ignoring us. We wanted our check. We needed our check. We were not getting our check. Purses on the table and my credit card in plain sight and the guy just kept walking by like we were not there. This little game not only reduced his tip to below 15 percent from more than 25 percent, it kept him from turning the table quicker for more money making opportunities. It was pure stupidity on his part. He's got two parts of his job - bring shit and take the money. If he doesn't do both, he's worthless not only to the customer, but to management as well. Total bush league move by the waiter.
Now onto the hookers part.
About halfway through our sushi eating contest a forgettable white guy in jeans and a t-shirt sat down with a skinny black man in a suit in the aforementioned uncomfortable looking booth next to us. I thought it odd only because they didn't look like they knew each other all that well and the black man was not really engaged at all with the white guy. In fact, he seemed purposely distant.
Soon they were joined by a tall brunette with a kick'n body and a so-so face. She slid in between the two and gave no physical clues that she was "with" either one. At this point the only strange thing is the odd relationship between the two men. The woman was in a sexy get-up, but nothing out of place on a Saturday night in the city.
Then a tall blonde chick was led to the table by the host staff. She was pretty, but wore what can only be described as a cheap cocktail party dress that was a loud, loud red. She sat on the other side of the white guy and introduced herself to the brunette as if they had never met. By now people are staring at the table because the blonde is cozying up to the white guy like they're an item and the brunette is trying to do the same.
A few minutes pass and the host staff delivers two more girls - both are "nines" if you know what I mean (and you do). One is a brunette in a bustier, short skirt and heels that I'm pretty sure don't come off when sexy time starts. She had a regrettable tattoo on her shoulder, but nothing too terrible. The other one was half-Asian, full hot and I can't remember exactly what she was wearing. All I know is that the black guy was now sandwiched between the original brunette and Asian Heat and he didn't seem to be all that excited about it when most people clearly w0uld have been.
At this point every guy in the place has his eyes locked on the two nines and two eights pretending to care about whatever the white guy was animatedly talking about. It was clear that nobody at the table knew each other well. It was also clear that the white guy would be holding court and doing all the talking while the girls faux-fawned on him and the black dude just sat there staring off into space. At that point I realized that that these women were prostitutes.
Looking at the situation through the lenses of prostitution sunglasses let me unravel the scenario. The white guy is some kind of mid thirties millionaire - new money millionaire. Dot com/tech sector type of guy. Dork in high school, college and even now, but all of sudden rich enough to hire hot women he can disappoint in bed. I still don't know where the black guy fits in. And obviously the women, looking back, are easy to spot as high-priced whores. They look exactly as you would expect and act exactly like you'd expect. Four women who don't know each other don't hang out with two men they don't know... it just doesn't happen.
Needless to say, my sisters found the situation to be awesome. A rare glimpse into a world we know nothing about. Oddly enough, the last time my wife and I were there we saw hookers. They were with some Middle Eastern guys and the vibe couldn't have been more "Saudi Prince hires every whore in town, leaves prostitution market dry for a week." It was awesome then as well.
I'm not saying you'll see whores on the job if you go to Oya, but... I'm saying the last two times I went there I saw whores on the job. It's free entertainment if you get tired of watching people from La Plata on a date sharing a burger.
And one more thing...
Since my wife never reads my blog and therefore their is no recourse for what I write - I'll let the guys in on this secret. There's a very hot waitress that works there who resembles Posh Spice with a more dumpy frumpy behind, if you know what I mean. She's awesome at locking eyes with all the guys in the room. Please do fall for the trap because for a second, you think you still go it. Just don't be to butt hurt when you catch her pulling the same trick with every other guy in the room. She had me thinking I was Tom Selleck circa 1985 for a minute there and that's something quite special.