Once upon a time, long ago, the idea of eating sushi on Circuit Avenue would have seemed … unfathomable. Like a fairy tale. I’m talking about the time — probably three Celtics dynasties ago — when burgers, pizza, and tacos ruled the town.
Sushi was for places far away — Tokyo, or maybe New York. But on Main Street, Oak Bluffs? Or even more fantastical … at the Lampost?! No.
Not that there was anything wrong with the Lampost. In those days, when I set out to Circuit Avenue in search of food, entertainment, and beer, I found myself often at the Lampost, watching those previously mentioned dynastic Celtics beat whoever stood in their way, and in 1985, and again in 1986, it was the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Championships. Meaning, I have a lot of vivid, very happy memories of sunny afternoons at the historic Circuit Avenue watering hole, drinking beer. Maybe having some beer nuts.
But definitely not sushi.
Now that we have been spoiled with sushi on our shores in all corners, we can celebrate once again, because the Lampost, or more precisely, Siren — their cool new, sort-of-down-under hotspot — not only serves sushi, but serves championship sushi. And in a fun little tie-in to Boston sports, the Patriots roll is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
Now, to Siren, and my Circuit Avenue memories of that place.
Back in those days, of Celtics (but not Patriots!) preeminence, Siren was called the Rare Duck, and forms yet another vivid callback in my culinary (perhaps libationary is more apt) history. These were the days when whatever is where the Atlantic recently was (the collection of galleries and retail and real estate offices, next to the Arcade) was called the Boston House. There was a guy named Phil (I’ll buy a Patriots roll for anyone who remembers his last name) who played the guitar, and alternated between the Boston House and the Rare Duck. The Duck had (as I remember it) brick floors, low ceilings, and best of all — frozen mudslides.
Luckily, the best of the Duck has survived — that atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re hiding out in some speakeasy, that cool floor (now a glazed concrete), and great drinks. And bonus: sidewalk dining as well.
Siren has been the latest step in the Lampost’s turnaround, and 11 years in the making, according to co-owner Adam Cummings. There has long been the desire to have a kitchen in the space, and several different ideas were thrown around more recently, as the dream evolved. “At the end of the day,” said Mr. Cummings, “we went with what we really liked to eat, and sushi was the logical choice.”
The renovations involved to bring Siren to life included taking the space down to the studs, reinforcing the building, replacing the floor, redoing the bathrooms, and even moving the bar. You’ll notice the oversize bar is now in the middle of the restaurant, and the face of the old bar was repurposed for the new one. The walls of the former Dive Bar (the latest iteration of the space until last year) were reclaimed and used to make the tables. To add to the nautical theme, sailing rope was inlaid into the bar, and lights from underneath the bar give the appearance of lights at the bottom of a boat. There are prints of beachscapes by local artists lining the walls, and the iridescent green- and copper-colored concrete floor evokes thoughts of a calm sea.
And Siren? The name itself is connected to the sea, and pays homage to the mermaids painted on the Lampost’s sign, as a siren is the enchantress of the sea.
So back to the sushi. The menu is as impressive as it is affordable. A full selection of sushi and sashimi as well as maki rolls and special rolls round off the menu. For those rare breeds who prefer simpler fare, there’s the “Not So Sushi” menu, which includes pasta, salads, and tacos, as well as a kids’ menu inspired by the favorites of Mr. Cummings’ children.
So, what did we have? Well, that championship Patriots roll, a wicked fresh Rainbow Roll, a Spicy Tuna roll that my friend loved so much she wouldn’t share with me, and a lovely, bright green seaweed salad. My favorite, other than the Patriots roll (which involves lobster, by the way), was what will now become my summer go-to appetizer: Tuna MV, a bright salad of orange, avocado, many hunks of yellowtail and a spicy soy/citrus sauce. And all at good prices, even the wine.
Best of all, unlike the surly (but affectionately so) service in my days of yore, the wait staff could not have been better.