Whatever you do, don’t call RUKA a follow-up to the wildly popular Yvonne’s. Sure, the latest spot is the next project from the same team behind our 2016 pick for Boston’s Best New Restaurant. But RUKA, which just opened in Downtown Crossing’s Godfrey Hotel, has been in the works for a while.
“We started doing test menus before Yvonne’s even opened,” says Tom Berry, culinary director for the group, which also includes Back Bay’s Lolita. “I was still in Nantucket at the time, and I flew off and did a dinner for some of the executives for the hotel group just to say, ‘Hey, this is kind of what we were thinking.’ ”
What they were thinking was a concept that draws on Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) and Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) cuisines. Berry tapped Preston Miller as the executive chef for RUKA and brought in Ting Yen as the executive sushi chef.
“I probably should have more of a tagline for the food, but I think I’d call it a fun and creative and somewhat approachable take on Peruvian and Japanese fish, vegetable and meat preparations, and also using some of the local, New England and regional fish that are available to us,” Berry says.
The menu breaks down into six sections of shareable plates. The makimono include Terra Incognito, made with wild mushrooms, grilled leeks, pressed rice and mushroom foam, as well as Hamachi Amarillo, which pairs the fish with a baby corn and avocado roll, tomatillo salsa and jalapeno-corn sauce. The tiraditos include crunchy salmon tacos and penshell clam sashimi. Ceviches of Nantucket Bay scallops and halibut fill the chilled and raw grouping, while skewers of octopus and Sichuan king trumpet mushrooms dot the anticuchos section. Veggie fried rice and chicken fried rice make the hot-and-wok section, which also includes a green noodle dish with smoked cobia, curly udon, miso-dashi butter, basil and spinach. Monumental dishes include a whole crispy Japanese butterfish, which will cost $150.
“We sort of take it off the bone and almost cube it into nice chunks, then fry those, as well as the whole body, and then piece it back together on the platter. It’s a little easier to eat than a typical whole fried fish, where you have the bones to worry about,” Berry says. “It’s larger, big, kind of over-the-top things.”
The dessert menu from Liz O’Connell, the group’s pastry chef, also includes a larger dish, a buttered taiyaki waffle with caramelized banana, lucuma ice cream, prickly pear sorbet, chocolate sauce, spicy peanut brittle and peanut butter caramel.
The 177-seat space, centered on an open kitchen, has ornate columns with dragon sculptures and multicolored Peruvian ropes hanging from charred Japanese wood beams on the ceiling.
“It’s very different from Yvonne’s,” Berry explains. “This is a very ambitious project for us, and hopefully it will appeal to our customers from there, and hopefully a new group of customers who haven’t been to Yvonne’s.”
Ruka The Godfrey Hotel Boston, 505 Washington St., Boston rukarestobar.com