K Dong is beaming. Not because his newly minted MIKU Sushi Restaurant in Greenwich has just opened to strong word-of-mouth and packed houses. Nope, his delighted smile is the result of a diner’s one-word reaction to the tuna tartare:
That diner is me and I am quite impressed…as well as surprised. In most restaurants, TT has become a boring culinary meme—over sauced, over spiced, and overworked. K Dong’s version is totally understated. Garnished with micro greens, the crimson slices crown a mound of vividly green avocado, which sits on a gossamer of Yuzu and a whisper of wasabi. Rather than overwhelming the delicate flesh, like so many tartares, the sauce and spice enhance the pristine flavor of the Bluefin. Yep, this dish is, indeed, “Ethereal.”
There are reasons why it may qualify as the best tartare in Connecticut. Mr. Dong doesn’t default to Ahi. Rather, his Bluefin is world class caliber, prized for its bright red color, fattiness, and flavor. It is easily the most coveted fish in the ocean, but most American restaurants and sushi houses have limited access to its quality.
MIKU does. One of Mr. Dong’s partners is a distributer for the world-famous Toyosu Seafood Market in Japan, where the restaurant sources all its omakase fish and many others on the menu. You won’t find better quality fish in Connecticut.
Before we started the meal, an American woman at the table invoked the word, “Itadakimasu,” which literally means “I am are going to receive the lives of animals and plants for my own life.” In Japanese culture, saying this phrase expresses an understanding of how much was sacrificed to make the meal possible.
K seems reverential about the source, the sacrifice, and the quality of his ingredients, no matter their origin. All his fish are impeccably chosen, whether from Japan or Norway or even Alaska. (MIKU might be considered more of an international seafood house than a strictly Japanese restaurant.)
Take his Chilean Sea Bass, pulled from the cold sub-arctic ocean. Like tartare, sea bass can also be a tired cliché. Trying MUKI’s iteration is akin to tasting the delicacy for the first time.
Despite its meaty, rich texture, the first forkful of the flakey white fish, anointed with a dot of miso, is like lifting a feather. It melts in the mouth, with a texture moist and tender, which plays off the crunch of the crisp skin. A sprig off parsley completes a clean, uncluttered presentation.
Fresh, light, and simple are adjectives that modify almost every dish on MIKU’s menu. They also describe its minimalist ambience and setting. The cozy 47 seat restaurant seems spacious, despite being a room that until recently housed a small Yoga-ware retail store. Mr. Dong re-designed the space so it seems to soar. Generous, comfortable banquettes line the walls, as if the limited footprint poses no issue.
Whether it be in the décor, the service, or the cuisine, it appears that no detail goes ignored by Mr. Dong.
“We chase perfection,” he tells us.
Born in China to a family of restaurateurs, K was just a teen when he opened his first eatery. His culinary journey has taken him around the world, from Italy to Taiwan. Though only 32 now, Mr. Dong owns four restaurants, including the acclaimed Kumo Sushi & Lounge in Scarsdale. But MIKU is the crown jewel of the constellation, his first foray in Connecticut.
The launch has been intentionally soft. For now, the menu is far-ranging, which allows Mr. Dong time to assess what appeals to his new customers, making sure to speak to most tables for valuable feedback. By fall, he will have curated the extensive offerings into a more manageable menu.
One item that will doubtless survive the cut is “Live Scallop,” a MIKU signature dish, prepped and presented to dazzle the senses. The fresh bi-valve is massaged for five minutes into a flat carpaccio. The white wheel, studded with a small, sweet plum, lies on a bed of lemon slices, which confer a slight ceviche, and all are fanned upon a large, iconic scallop shell.
But wait, the presentation doesn’t end there. The shell rests on a platter of ice chips, which also are home to another denison of the deep, a long sleek Sayori fish, artistically sliced so it appears to be swimming on a frozen sea, its jaw jutting over the plate.
I dig into the scallop with aplomb. It tastes as good at it looks: succulent and sensational, incredibly fresh. However, I hesitate to try the dynamic Sayori, perched so artistically on the ice. Such a stunning visual. I must make a choice: will this fish become a banquet for the eye or for the palate?
Duty calls: the delicate flavor of this beautiful specimen is classic sashimi – clean and nuanced. I learn that late spring is the height of the Sayori season, when flavor is at its peak. The taste is as exquisite as the presentation, and just as memorable.
Seafood is as responsive to the time of year as everything else people eat. “We are very, very seasonal here,” Mr. Dong points out. “For instance, the best time for King Salmon from Alaska is right now. We know what is best and when.”
While much of the dishes are interpretations of classic Japanese cooking, the menu includes traditional styles such as hibachi, tempura, teriyaki, as well as popular ramen. Vegan options are available.
The server brings a pair of beautifully marbled wagyu beef rolls to the table. It is meat rated A5, the absolute best quality available anywhere. The surface has been torched then topped with caviar, yuzu sauce, and a dusting of Himalayan salt.
Full disclosure: I have always been a card-carrying carnivore. However, despite being flavor forward and extremely tender, the wagyu seems outmatched by the spectacular seafood.
Of all the dishes I sampled, my heart belongs to the rock shrimp, sauced in coconut and mayo. Seared with panko flour, the surface of the shrimp is slightly crunchy, framing the creamy sauce and firm bite of the lobster-like meat. As for the taste, the dish is redolent not only of the sea, but possibly an island where coconut trees sway in the warm, briny breeze. Sweet, slightly salty and totally mouthwatering, the rock shrimp might have been conceived in paradise.
Itadakimasu, for sure.
MIKU also serves a variety of sakes, as well as an extensive craft cocktail program, featuring exquisite ingredients and rare Japanese spirits.
68 Greenwich Avenue; Greenwich
(203) 900-7676; http://mikugreenwich.com
Mon - Thur: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.