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Sensi Magazine

We Went There

Apr 23, 2019 11:12PM ● By Dan McCarthy
Breaking news report: There are no whales in landlocked south-central states. That goes for Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Especially Oklahoma. Repeat: There are no whales to be found out there. Because there’s no ocean.

Why the hell are we talking about this? Ah, right: Whaling in Oklahoma (WHALINGINOKLAHOMA.COM), the one year old(ish) newcomer to the South End.

Sensi’s hottest of hot takes: Tim Maslow, famed and furious mind behind Watertown’s Strip T’s diner (his family spot but reimagined under Tim’s hand) and Brookline’s sparkling but now dead Ribelle, has something novel going on here. And you should go.

Food reviewing made simple with Sensi. There you go. Because if we’re telling you about a spot, we liked it enough to tell you about it here. And here’s what you need to know.

Maslow and executive chef Matt Hummel have inserted a cheery little Japanese izakaya into the 600 block of Tremont. It’s a mix of small plates, big flavors, and minimal ingredients true to form for each dish, all of which is Maslow’s and Hummel’s spin on traditional izakaya watering hole offerings.

There is a lot of savory and simple, and fatty and unctuous, and plenty from the raw, fermented, and pickled department. There are also sake cups. Fun.

There are already plenty of favorites, as well as surprises. Hummel: “The eggplant is probably the one that surprises most people. It’s simple, but I’ve had people saying, ‘I’m a carnivore, but how do you get eggplant to taste that good?”

Turns out you end up putting more focused and purposeful thought to a plate when there are only three or four ingredients working together.

Our favorite: the grilled white asparagus with pickled garlic and warm crab butter. Which made the asparagus taste like…crab. (Note: You should like crab if you order this.)

There’s also an all-you-can-eat option if you’re hungry and have an entire table of friends in tow. It runs $80 per person, and it’s basically a way to say, “everything you find special on the menu or what you’re tinkering with, please.”

Bonus: Whaling in Oklahoma is part of a growing trend of restaurants that includes a small percentage of all food and drink sales, which allows the small kitchen staff to “share in the success of the restaurant.” For anyone who has ever served as a dishdog or worked a hot food line or likes eating at places that make good food this is a good thing.

Oh yeah…the name. Whaling in Oklahoma is an absurdist nod to a nonsensical concept (there’s a law outlawing whaling in Oklahoma, because lobbyists, we guess?), which allows Maslow and the team freedom.

Hummel on the intent behind the name: “You don’t know what to expect, and that can be a good thing when trying a new spot. We make the rules. If we wanted to turn this into a Spanish tapas bar tomorrow, we could. We don’t plan on it, but we like having these wide parameters.”