Friday, June 30, 2006

Inspiring to be Average

My wife and I went to have lunch at a local "Japanese" restaurant for lunch--the ubiquitous 'Mikado'. The first thing you note about Mikado when you enter is how beautifully the marble hostess area is, as well as the tatami rooms lining the east wall. Once you are past that however, the idea, sans menu items, that you are in a Japanese restaurant begins to dissipate. The music and decor do not lend any noteable ambiance to the restaurant, but the primarily Japanese/Asian sushi chefs and majority of the same for hostesses adds a nice touch.

We ordered the gyoza and the agedashi tofu for appetizers, along with an iced tea and a beer. The waitress opened and delivered the beer opened, but did not pour. No water was offered--this is ok were it an actual Japanese restaurant, but the roomful of sweaty businessmen, made it defineable as pseudo-Japanese.

The appetizers arrived and, as a set, were the best part of the meal. The gyozo skin was slightly browned, and perfect in texture. The taste blended well with the sauce which had a nice hint of citrus in it~ala a ponzu variation.
The agedashi dofu were cubed into about 1 1/4 inch pieces and the broth was flavorful--allowing the tofu to melt delightfully in the mouth.

We ordered the ramen and the ginger pork, along with one order of tamago nigiri-zushi. As we were finishing our appetizers, our tamago was delivered--except that it was not tamago, it was eggplant. While the eggplant nigiri-zushi was actually a very tasty surprise, this presented two problems. First, this was lunchtime and there should be no reason to be out of tamago. I highly doubt that a slew of customers rushed in during the first two hours of lunch service and all asked for tamago. I think they did not have any prepared. This should have been communicated to the waitress so she would not have to approach our table with something that we did not order. The second problem is that the sushi chef made a substitution without asking if this is what we wanted. If we were sitting at the sushi bar, this is a different dynamic, and there is more of a flow of both dialogue and dining presence while being served directly by the sushi chef. But to not inform us before the replacement item is made and to charge us the same price is bordering quite precariously with being unacceptable. At this time, we were able to get the attention of the waitress for some water. I will leave this as inadequate communication on my part, and inadequate training on her part.

The thinly sliced ginger pork was served on a bed of Japanese slaw, with a bowl of steamed rice. The presentation was good, and the ginger sauce contained just enough ginger to blend nicely with the pork, but not so much that it became pork flavored ginger. The slaw was flavorful and was a nice addition. Overall, pretty good.

The ramen was an unfortunate demise. Perhaps the positive reviews of Mikado's tasty ramen from a few friends led to unrealistic expectations, but from the level of service and food that should be delivered from this restaurant, it was average to uninspiring. Now I knew that Mikado does not make their own ramen noodles. This can be ok, but what is not ok is for a section of the noodles to still be clumped together in a triangular shape as if still retaining a section of its original frozen form. The noodles themselves were decent. Not bad. Not great. Decent. The pork broth was tasty, but it lacked any depth to its flavor, and it was too thin for a pork based ramen. A pork-miso, rather than a chicken broth and pork paste would have been much better. But please, separating the noodles would have gone a long way in preserving some dignity with the ramen.

Drink Service: C

gyoza: B
agedashi tofu: B+

ginger pork: B
ramen : C-

Final Grade: C+