There’s a nice play on classic cocktails at Miku Sushi, the swish new Japanese restaurant that opened last May on Greenwich Avenue, where Manhattans are mixed with Suntory and mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), and an avant-garde Old Fashioned — if that is not an oxymoron — has Bombay Sapphire gin bedding down with peach bitters. Using prime Japanese ingredients and with a natural flair for Japanese style, the cocktails speak as much to the invention and creativity of Miku’s bartenders as to the restaurant’s authenticity.
A sister restaurant to Kumo in Scarsdale, Miku is helmed by boyish owner K, who co-owns the fish distribution company in Queens that supplies the restaurants. This allows him the pick of the catch, ensuring that down the line some of the freshest and most sought-after fish in the world will arrive on your plate.
“Do you have a, er, last name?” I ask K, after settling down with a lychee Mojito mocktail, served ice cold, with a speared lychee, maraschino cherry, mint leaf and edible flower for decoration, which makes liquor redundant and could have me renouncing white rum forever (almost). “People just call me ‘K’,” says K, and I decide not to press the point, although I subsequently learn he is K. Dong. Originally from China, K has lived in Italy as well as Taiwan, where he met his wife. We shoot the breeze a little about Taiwan, which I was fortunate to visit a couple of years ago, and agree it has one of the most vibrant food scenes in Asia. “Travel is my passion,” says K, beaming.
The long and wide room features brick walls, a long, gleaming sushi bar and five semicircular booths for larger parties at the rear of the restaurant. Ceiling lights like medieval monarchs’ crowns sit high above diners’ heads and the quilted sea green upholstery adds a subliminal fish-eye, or wink, at the ocean. The menu reinforces this, with glorious fish and shellfish. A rock shrimp tempura, comes to the table piping hot in a light, golden tempura, the tempura more of a vest than an overcoat, served with a hot and sweet spicy mayo. There is wonderfully juicy Chilean sea bass, sitting on baby batons of asparagus, luxuriating in a rich, reduced miso sauce, the bass almost meaty in texture. And I could down Miku’s cold water California oysters, which come sitting on a bed of shaved ice and are topped with ponzu — the sauce’s slight sweetness cut by the mollusc’s essential brininess — until the cows came home and, even when they did and were safely back in their barns, I would still be asking Miku’s server for more.
White wine or sake would make good accompaniments to all of the above. Forty dollars will buy you a respectable bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio at Miku and sake starts at $25 for a 300 ml carafe.
For purists, three sushi chefs behind the Yoshimasa-emblazoned sushi counter work diligently through service, producing sushi and sashimi platters of epic size, variety and freshness. Yellowtail, red snapper, eel and scallop all vie for your attention, along with the various classes of tuna (toro and maguro.) Salmon is so creamy, so ambrosial, so artery-cloggingly rich, I daresay it should come with a health warning.
To these glorious sashimi slivers you might add those insistent, almost crunchy baby beads of flying fish roe, which the Japanese call tobiko, or plum pearls of salmon roe, which you instinctively burst, like Joy’s grape, against your palate, to borrow a line from Keats. Uni, or sea urchin, is another Miku delicacy, which (along with scallops,) is served live. But the restaurant is out of it today, which only sharpens my intention to return.
Miku’s demographic, K is keen to point out, is distinct from Kumo. In the Greenwich restaurant, hedge-funders and an international “ladies who lunch’ set, crowd in at lunchtime, some for the many noodle dishes on offer — including, stir-fried udon or soba — with many taking advantage of the ramen lunch special (at a relatively modest $17.50). The background sound of four European languages I distinctively hear on my visit give the restaurant a sophisticated vibe. Evenings and especially weekends, meanwhile, see lots of families with children. “And the kids don’t just eat California rolls,” says, K, almost proudly. “They want everything.” Having read the runes just right — or so it seems to me — he is rightly proud of the restaurants he has created.
Staffers are patient and well trained, explaining the often-perplexing array of dishes and Japanese culinary terms with admirable patience. They undergo an exacting training before getting to serve on the restaurant floor, with the result that service has an almost balletic quality to it, silent and unobtrusive, with dishes brought and removed without you even noticing, as if by sleight of hand. While not an inexpensive outing, Miku is an intensely satisfying one, culturally almost as much as gastronomically. Miku also operates an outreach program in the community (the nonprofit partner for March is the Alzheimer’s Association,) so when K tells me he has plans to start a reservation-only omakase (chef-chosen) dinner soon, as well as to open another restaurant in Westchester, I can only say, “bring it on.”
Miku is at 68 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich. For more, visit mikugreenwich.com