Whaling in Oklahoma is a cheeky South End spot that, as its name suggests, isn’t overly concerned with playing by the rules. The Japanese-inspired brasserie delivers high-concept flavors in a casual atmosphere, with a menu that reads like a chefy mixtape where you can nerd out about sake or sip a cocktail named after a video game character. Oh, and there’s karaoke.
The menu is divided by preparation, mostly, with Raw, Simmered, and Fried small plates and a Grilled section standing in for “entrees”. Fill any remaining space on the table with selections from the Snacks, Rice, or Mostly Vegetables areas, where you’ll find everything from traditional buns to American diner food reimagined as a Japanese dinner. Finish up with Sweets, which, like the rest of the menu, don’t play by any rules beyond the simple edict “be delicious.” Brunch makes the mashups even more intense, with two countries’ comfort foods duking it out in a delicious Battle Royale on your palate.
The restaurant, like the menu, has multiple personalities working together in harmony. The room’s decorative elements are equal parts understated and over the top, with minimalist lines and simple settings balanced by ostentatious artwork and explosive colors. Soft-spoken flower arrangements are almost rote in a Japanese restaurant, but the stuffed animals might come as a surprise (think hunting lodge, not Hello Kitty). Yet it all works, tying together three bars and two dining rooms into a space that’s comfortable and intimate whether you’re sitting at the wooden bar or the open kitchen counter, where you can park and watch the action while you slurp and chopstick your way to bursting. In the summer, take your umami in the open air on the outdoor patio.
Drinking at WIO borrows its cues and many of its ingredients from the kitchen, with classic and contemporary meeting in every cocktail and signature highball. There’s a long list of sake cups, cans, glasses, and bottles (feel free to ask your bartender to interpret), and the wine list doesn’t skimp, bringing red, pink, white, and bubbles from small producers all over the planet, focusing on quality instead of name-recognition. Beer? You betcha: a fine blend of craft beer that doesn’t just stop at local, but brings some lesser-known Japanese brews into the mix.
Whaling in Oklahoma serves dinner seven nights a week and brunch on the weekends. The private dining room is available for dining as well as raucous karaoke parties.
647 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118