Restaurant News & Reviews

Its best work is in the raw

Orient meets Occident at friendly ­Miyako, where Polaroid shots of happy regulars adorn the entrance, where the design is equal parts roadhouse and Craftsman (with a touch of the former occupant, Pizzeria Uno, thrown in), and where the menu offers familiar Japanese dishes served in American-size portions, as well as the great East-West hybrid of short-order cooking, hibachi.

But Miyako's strongest suit, as the sign outside might suggest, is sushi.

Don't just take my word for it, though. If you order smart, you can taste just about everything, then decide for yourself,

To sample tempura, try an appetizer with vegetables ($4.50) — deep-fried giant florets of broccoli, along with squash, eggplant and mushrooms. The batter was a bit heavy and sort of clung to, as opposed to lightly ­enveloping, the vegetables.

For hearty eating, few things beat a rice bowl (don buri) topped with meat, ­vegetables, egg and onion. The katsu don entree with breaded pork is $6.95 at lunch, $3 less than the dinner portion, and enough for two. Its sweet-salty sauce made for very moist eggs and onions that penetrated the cutlet's nice fried crust, leaving the underside a little like the soggy bottom of Shake 'n Bake. The scattered tsukemono (pickles) on top, however, were wonderful.

Shrimp yaki udon ($13.95) combines grilled food and noodles. The medium-size shrimp were underseasoned, contributing mostly a protein jolt. But who doesn't love the slippery sensual texture of floury udon noodles, even in this stir-fried incarnation? And the enormous plate is a balanced meal that includes mushrooms, carrots, cabbage and onions.

Entrees, like the udon and katsu don, come with miso soup or salad, neither memorable, and both uncharacteristically careless for Japanese cuisine, more like the slapdash offerings at a chain salad bar.

I'd much rather discuss sushi and sashimi.

One of the restaurant's unique starters is the white tuna tataki ($7.95), marvelous slices of white-flesh tuna, lightly seared and draped one upon the other. The dab of grated daikon radish mixed with red chili sauce gave stunning visual drama and a hot accent.

I also loved the special sushi items like the spicy scallop hand roll ($6.95), a cone of nori brimming with rice and raw scallop chunks, garnished with spicy mayonnaise, masago (smelt roe) and scallions. Also excellent was the fire dragon ($11.95), an attractive roll of crab and eel, studded with avocado and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Simple nigiri sushi is equally well done, like the very fresh yellowtail ($4.75) on good vinegared dominoes of rice.

Service is brisk, especially if the place is packed like it was on the Tuesday night I visited when, incidentally, almost everyone not in the hibachi area seemed to be ordering, you guessed it, sushi.

Dinner for two that included tax, beer and ­everything mentioned except the rice bowl was about $68.

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