XOXO Sushi Bar Brings Japanese with a Twist to Chestnut Hill

Chef Kegan Stritchko, an Uni alum, blends Edomae-style sushi traditions with a modern spin.

Raw salmon is plated with herb garnishes, sliced kumquats, and a green sauce dripped artistically on the plate.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s Ora king salmon. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

Japanese food gets a modern twist with the March 8 opening of XOXO Sushi Bar in Chestnut Hill, featuring omakase and à la carte sushi as well as robatayaki (charcoal-grilled dishes). “Our goal is to honor the tried-and-true techniques of Japanese cooking while infusing new practices that weren’t necessarily available to people centuries ago,” says executive chef Kegan Stritchko, an alum of Uni and Fat Baby.

Charred rectangles of pork belly on small wooden skewers sit atop a grate on a small charcoal grill.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s pork belly robatayaki with pork tare and sweet chili miso. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

Stritchko’s training in Japanese cuisine includes time as sous chef to Makoto Okuwa—a restaurateur specializing in Edomae-style sushi, a 19th century-born practice developed before widely available refrigeration that showcases various methods of preserving seafood (curing, cooking, etc.) before serving. Stritchko, too, follows Edomae traditions—“like curing proteins in salt, fish in vinegar,” he says, and using akazu red vinegar for the sushi rice—but also mixes in “more modern dry-aging techniques that weren’t available before refrigeration” and brings in “surprising ingredients and textures that appeal to the American palate.”

Overhead view of a white plate of sashimi, garnished with greens and sitting in a pinkish thin sauce.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s hiramasa. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

On XOXO Sushi Bar’s luxurious caviar- and truffle-filled opening menu, this translates to dishes that include: Ora king salmon sashimi with Thai herb puree and fermented gooseberry salsa; spicy bluefin tuna temaki handrolls with aji amarillo, charred pineapple, and jicama; miso marinated black cod with pickled radish and charred shishitos; and broiled fish collar with laksa and Thai herbs. Not in a seafood mood? Not to worry: wagyu, karaage (fried chicken), and more await.

Overhead view of scallop, prepared with delicate garnishes and plated in its shell, atop a bed of kelp.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s live scallop with strawberry zu, makrut oil, lemon, and candied quinoa. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

Stritchko is particularly excited about a live scallop dish finished with makrut lime oil, strawberry foam, and lemon zest over candied quinoa. “I love sourcing and using local ingredients,” he says, “and our scallops are straight from Gloucester.” Likewise, the American eel “is a standout.” It’s farm-raised in Maine—the only recognized eel farm outside of Japan, Stritchko notes. Try it in the unagi crispy rice dish: barbecue eel with fried sushi rice, foie “snow,” and truffle.

For those who love to be surprised, try one of the chef’s choice options: a 16-course omakase, where you’ll try plenty of dry-aged fish, or sashimi moriawase, a platter of seasonal selections.

An elaborate bowl of sashimi includes a fish head, quail egg, decorative items, and more.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s chef-selected sashimi. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

The techniques are serious, but the vibe is meant to be energetic and fun. “We’re bringing a true dining experience to guests, almost like a performance where people can watch the art of creating sushi live from our expo kitchen at the bar,” says Stritchko. The beverage program, overseen by general manager Ashif Nirola (a Douzo alum), adds drama with a big collection of sakes and Japanese whiskies, plus twists on classic cocktails, like a lychee martini or a hot honey-infused mai tai.

Smoke billows off of an elegant pink cocktail.

XOXO Sushi Bar’s XOXO 75 cocktail (Empress gin, ume, agave, yuzu juice, sparkling). / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

Developers Fred Starikov and Steve Whalen are behind XOXO Sushi Bar; the duo also own the revamped Silhouette Lounge in Allston, among other restaurant and bar projects. Their goal here, per a press release, is to “fill a void the two locals felt was lacking in the area: a place [to] relax and indulge in premium food and drink in a sophisticated yet approachable city-like setting.” To that end, the design of the restaurant is “sleek and modern,” featuring a vaulted ceiling, an eye-catching 16-seat bar, and custom millwork.

Interior of a Japanese restaurant with lots of elaborate woodworking and lanterns.

XOXO Sushi Bar. / Photo by Joe St.Pierre for XOXO Sushi Bar

It’s an “energetic izakaya-style setting,” says Stritchko, where the team can “look at tradition through a contemporary lens, letting the simplicity yet complexity of the cuisine shine.”

XOXO Sushi Bar opens March 8 for nightly dinner service (and an abbreviated late-night menu); reservations available via Resy. 1154 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-505-3378,