Saturday, December 13, 2008

Introducing: Sushi Gallery Miki

Miki has done it again.

The South Bay crowd can consider themselves lucky, for they no longer need to drive all the way to Laguna Beach for a taste of Miki Izumisawa’s genius. Appropriately titled “Sushi Gallery Miki,” the new restaurant is a tributary monument that offers a glimpse of the artistic talent of its owner and executive chef–as well as a splendid view of the ocean.

This extension into Manhattan Beach, open since July, is a reflection of its sister restaurant, the revered 242 Café Fusion Sushi on Coast Highway. Both are tiny, arty dives right by the beach, but although boasting the exact same sublime menu, this new three-storied version oddly lacks a sushi bar. Where the counter would normally be found, a glass deli-style case sits and displays bottles of Miki’s behind-the-scenes magic-potion sauces. Diners instead can choose to sit on glassy highchairs with matching tables on the upper deck, or down below in a modest dining area.

Miki herself is behind the design of all the space-age décor—down to the very projector in the bathroom that creates the illusion of outer space with its constellation of day-glow stars made of moving laser pinpoints. Try and find that quirky touch at another restaurant!

Even the menu is a sight to behold. Smirky titles such as “Fried Holes” grab at you…until you find out it’s just a fun way to refer to slices of lotus root. Most of the item descriptions are paired with images of nature that depict the look or flavor of the dish.

Let yourself be blown away by the appetizer called the "Fiery Capitol Reef," a jumble of eel slices framed with thin cuts of apple, then covered in a sticky-sweet brown liquid heaven born of sweet soy sake, the ever-versatile balsamic vinagrette and—believe it or not—chocolate syrup. The plate is hot, indicative that the entire dish was placed into an oven and baked at melting temperatures. This doesn’t wilt the apples, however, but merely makes them softer and more confluent with the freshwater fish. The wildly varied tastes join harmoniously, forever dashing my suspicions that eel, apple and chocolate couldn’t possibly go together.

The young blond lad of a waiter tried to retrieve the empty dish from me. “Are you done with this?” he politely asked, even though the platter held no more than the shiny residual goo that the eel was just wading in minutes ago. “Uh…I was going to lick the plate…” I said jocularly, honestly kidding at first. But then he took it seriously and let me keep it, so I thought, Why not? I picked up the dish and lapped up the syrup like it was the last great flavor on Earth.

I have no shame. Not when it comes to really good sauces.

No comments :