Saturday, August 14, 2010

Return to Miyake

My last meal at Miyake was shortly after its transformation from terrible pizza and art gallery to new Japanese eatery. So it was with great anticipation (and a powerful hunger) that I and some friends made our way back last night. While I love our other Japanese eateries I tend to think of them more as sushi houses (though they are, of course far more than merely that) but Miyake is something unique - and very special indeed. The tiny room has seen a major facelift, with interesting lighting and fabrics decorating the painted brick walls and while there are more tables crammed into it than I might have liked, I never felt cramped or too close to strangers (though did get into a nice post-dinner conversation with the couple dining at the next table).

Not having a liquor license, Miyake is strictly BYOB, so after picking up a couple of bottles of white at West End Deli (next door) we were seated and realized we'd seen almost everyone in the dining room only moments before picking up wine and sake. We were immediately brought chilled glasses and a bucket of ice to keep the wine. Nice touch (and no corking fees!)

When I placed my order, Joe Ricchio - waitron extraordinaire - recommended instead the five course omakase tasting menu, adding "trust me." I know Joe so trust was not an issue and I promptly changed my order. I'm glad I did (thanks, Joe!) At 50 bucks this is quite simply one of the best deals in town for fine dining - and it doesn't get much finer than this - anywhere.

Quickly after ordering, an amuse bouche of a just barely cooked fish presented with baby sun sprouts and diced pickled vegetables was brought out to get me going. It did its job.

First course: Sashimi. Lobster Sashimi is something I've never had before - while I love my fish raw, I like my shrimp on the barbie, my crabs steamed and my lobster boiled. No longer is the last statement true. The raw lobster had been loosened and placed in the tail atop a bed of seaweed and diced dikon, mildly drizzled with a light garlic oil making the entire affair glisten like pearls. The flavor was mind blowing - delicate, tasting of the sea, similar to cooked lobster yet remarkably different - lighter and brighter. Truly amazing. The plate contained also an almost glowing red salmon, yelowtail (some of the best I've eaten) and (I believe) horse mackrel topped with bright orange tamago - all delicious and all presented so beautifully I was sorry I'd not brought my camera.

An enormous scallop, seared and halved one large half sitting center whlst the other half was sliced and slightly vertically fanned. The flavor was nothing short of incredible.

Swordfish belly was presented in a deep square bowl, the fish resting in a bath of an unusual flavored broth with minced vegetables, all presenting a beautifully balanced bit of sweet and sour that played beautifully in my mouth. The belly itself was outstanding with a very distinct and slightly stronger flavor - almost liver-like - than the rest of the fish. Brilliant.

Duck two ways was likewise a standout. A beautiful duck confeit and then several slices of breast dabbed with plum paste and cherry added a most unusual sweetness that played with the complexity of the meat whilst packing an enormous amount of flavor into each bite. Glorious is not too strong a word.

My final course - a sushi trio - had fish so fresh they practically swam into my mouth - after scarfing them down quicker than probably was polite - I had no room left for dessert the green tea tiramisu of which looked like a must have on my next visit. Which I guarantee will be very soon.

I've never understood complaints about the service as it is spot on, friendly without annoyance and helpful. The entire atmosphere is a small room packed with people oohing and ahhing over some of the most beautiful food presentations imaginable, i.e., very happy people. If that ain't your scene - go elsewhere - really, no one will mind.

I finally realized that Miyake's name really translates to "Food Heaven."

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