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Local flavor meets Japanese tradition at XOXO Sushi, opening this week in Chestnut Hill

A live scallop on display at XOXO Sushi Bar. Photo courtesy of Joe St. Pierre
March 4, 2024

A prominent chef and two real estate developers are bringing a high-end sushi restaurant to Chestnut Hill.

XOXO Sushi Bar, which bills itself as an “exclusive and unparalleled modern American-Japanese experience,” opens on March 8 at 1154 Boylston Street in Brookline.

Fred Starikov and Steve Whalen, the co-owners of City Realty Group, were looking for a spot to bring high-quality sushi to the area, to fill a void left behind when nearby Oishii closed in 2018.

After purchasing their Route 9 property, they hired executive chef Kegan Stritchko, a veteran of Boston kitchens including Uni and Fat Baby, to oversee and create the menus.

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Stritchko, who trained under legendary Philadelphia sushi chef Hiroyuki Tanaka, said in an interview that his goal is to “take a more modern approach to Japanese traditional techniques”–plus adding some New England flavor.

The unagi (eel), for XOXO’s unagi crispy rice with a truffle sauce, will come from a farm in Maine.. Scallops and sea urchins will be bought from a diver in Gloucester, Mass.

“We wanted to use the people around us, rather than getting all of our stuff from Japan,” said Stritchko.

Other menu highlights include Ora King salmon sashimi with a Thai herb puree and fermented gooseberry salsa, and a spicy tuna temaki handroll made of bluefin tuna, aji amarillo, charred pineapple and jicama.

The inside of the restaurant is “cozy, sleek and modern,” with black marble countertops and an “intimate” space, including a four-seat omakase bar right in front of the chef’s station, according to Stritchko. The restaurant seats 55 people in total.

The interior of XOXO Sushi Bar. Photo courtesy of Joe St. Pierre

Although the omakase (translated to “I leave it up to you,” it’s the chef’s choice with no menu) won’t be available right away, he said the experience will be the centerpiece of XOXO once the restaurant gets it up and running.

“I’ll give you what we have fresh, with the yakumi [or condiments],” Stritchko said. “It will change by the week, if not the day.”

The bar will also feature cocktails like a matcha julep, high-end sake, and “nice Japanese whiskey that’s kind of hard to find,” Stritchko said.

XOXO Sushi Bar will be open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.