Bluefin is yet another Japanese delight nestled away in the unassuming mall space just off of Porter Square. Unlike its perpetually busy neighbor, Sapporo Ramen, Bluefin provides a decidedly calm and spacious environment. Around 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening, there were enough tables to give a party of two a table for four. In most instances, this would serve as a warning sign to potential patrons, especially when the restaurant specializes in raw food. In this case, ignore the signs.
Bluefin may be a little sleepy, but it is pleasant nonetheless. The casual atmosphere is conducive to conversations; although, surprisingly, the service was rather stiff and formal. The almost stately manner of the server was off-putting at first, but in actuality added to the character of the place.
Another example of the dual nature of Bluefin is its food. On the one hand, the place is a quiet, modest restaurant in a mall while, on the other hand, it serves surprisingly high quality seafood. Apparently, “mall” and “quality food” are not mutually exclusive. The class of sushi served at Bluefin is several cuts above the offerings in the immediate vicinity of Tufts, but, thankfully the restaurant’s prices do not entirely reflect this difference in quality. That said, the sushi at Bluefin is not cheap, though calling the popular Japanese dish expensive would probably be an exaggeration considering what it can cost at high-end eateries.
The Sushi & Sashimi Combo, which can be ordered for one (priced at $28) or for two (priced at $48), is a relative bargain. The platter comes with two rolls, four kinds of nigiri sushi and five kinds of sashimi as well as miso soup and a side salad. Everything on the plate is substantial. The sashimi, rather than thin, delicate slices of fish, is made of hefty and beautiful chunks. The $50-for-two order will likely stretch the wallet, but when one considers the per-person cost of the platter and how satisfying it is, the meal is definitely worth the splurge.
Prices for other types of sushi are fairly standard. The otoro, the fattiest and most decadent of the three levels of tuna, costs $6 per piece and literally melts in the mouth into a pool of perfection.
Practically every bite of raw food elicited a verbal response by the sushi consumer, mostly to express bewilderment at how flavorful the meat was despite the minimal preparation. After eating at Bluefin, one should seriously reconsider whether cooking meat actually makes it better.
For anyone still unconvinced about raw food, there are plenty of cooked items on the menu. Most of these items are standard fare for a sushi restaurant in America, and they are probably good but definitely not the main attraction. Additionally, for those inclined, there is a fairly broad array of Japanese beverages available. The sake list covers a range of flavors and is, for the most part, reasonably priced. Descriptions of each bottle on offer give plenty of information for even those with minimal experience in ordering the drink to make well-informed decisions.
There are lunch specials as well, with prices ranging from $8 to $15.
Bluefin may not be the headliner in the cluster of Japanese restaurants in Porter Square, but it deserves recognition. So much of its charm comes from its dichotomous nature, serving significantly above-average sushi in a rather humble location. While “hip” and “happening” are definitely not the first words that come to mind when thinking of Bluefin, the restaurant will certainly keep anyone with an appreciation for quality sushi coming back for more.
Bluefin is located at 1815 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Mass., 02140 and is open daily for lunch and dinner. Check their website for specifics about hours on any given day.