Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Visit to Miyabi 45th

The IT Guy in my life recently decreed date night once a month.  Pretty good idea as these things go.  The boy genius can now be left at home for such a thing, so the whole baby-sitter (“Kid-sitter MOM!”) headache does not come up.  The kerfuffle of getting out the door has lost some of the ‘fuffle.  I’m amenable.

One problem.  And it is admittedly a confabulation of White Whine and my own madness, but I really don’t like to go out to eat unless it is something I can’t make at home (due to knowledge or equipment or ingredient access), or is so time consuming and/or complicated I would never do it.  So regular run-of-the-mill roast chicken, pasta, steak, house salad and undercooked bread pudding keep me out of a large number of restaurants due to eye-crossingly tedious ennui. 

But, I live in Seattle.  Darnit.  One of the best food crossroads of the world.  And full of experimental restaurants, fusion – both good and horrific (Irish Cajun???), home cookin’ of the Pacific Rim, and now burgeoning with flavors from India (there are a lot of flavors from India), the troubled but lemon and garlic laced Middle East, the spice laced Fertile Crescent, and the tantalizing but so far elusive Western side of Africa.  Now this is stuff I don’t know how to make.  Look here! 

Ta-TA New American!  I’m lookin’ old world.  And to that end, the first restaurant the new rule took us to was Miyabi 45th.  A Japanese/French Fusion joint.  (2208 N 45th St, Seattle, WA In the heart of the Wallingford restaurant row.)
“WHAT?”  you say.

Yet it is a pairing that works surprisingly well if you stop and think on the food sensibilities of both cultures.  The French obsessiveness with appellation controlée or the awareness and protection of the characteristics of a given food item, makes them a perfect match with the Japanese love of exacting (might I say obsessive?  c.f. Jiro Dreams of Sushi) standards.  Both have fastidious and precise food preparation techniques that seem excessive, but prove to be essential to their unique taste.  Neither culture is much in for heavy flavoring or spicing, depending instead on the ingredients and exacting preparation to determine the flavor.  All said – there is much to be said for an aesthetic in common. 

And it all comes out as a wild success at Miyabi 45th.

We started out with Oysters.  There were 4 types.
3 varieties were cold water, 1 was not.
I bet you can tell from the shell size.

We knew we were on to something great when the oysters were excellent and tasty, enhanced by a yuzu mignonette, and were so darn visually appealing after they had been eaten.

There was so much baffling temptation on the menu, we went Omikaze.  (That’s functionally Japanese for “Tasting Menu”, but with the extra twist of no printed menu, Chef Decides!  ) 

The meal started with a superb proof that French/Japanese fusion may sound crazy, but boy does it taste good.  Foie Gras Tofu.  
The sample I had of this dish earlier, got me in the door.
It is flavored tofu, but instead of a chalky or silken-slippery texture it somehow has that silky, fatty, melting texture of foie gras and a mysterious, rich flavor that while not exactly foie, convinces you that it is luxury.  Served as an amûse , yet presented with definite Japanese style it convinced both of us we were in for the goods.

The roasted shiso peppers with spicy mayonnaise were a refreshing follow up.  The bitterness of the green pepper (these are 90 out of 100 times not spicy at all, but you occasionally get a fiery mutant) is completed by the sweet/savory of Japanese Mayo, with a lemony spicy twist.
love this plate!

And then the dish we nearly stabbed each other over – Uni Tartare.  Uni over beef tartare, real, freshly grated wasabi standing in for the horseradish.  Just dizzingly spectacular.  All I can say is the taste lived up to the presentation.
Notice the hands hiding each other back!

And roasted sardine.  Tender on the inside, crispy on the outside.  Nom.  
Oh, if you get one of these, cut along the back-bone, and slide the knife along the ribs to lift off the whole side.  You’ll look like you know what you are doing.

Stop for a little beefy soup.  The broth so rich in flavor, the tongue obviously with a trip through a skillful pressure cooker.  It fell apart like the tenderest best cooked brisket.  And the accompaniments took it the rest of the way to excellent.  Impeccable clear both, incredible cooked tongue, so very French, and Japanese flavors supporting the whole show. 

The duck hearts in place of snail in the traditional escargot preparation?  I was a big fan.  The sizzle of the butter, and the ridiculously garlicky panko crumbs – I’ll be back.  And the duck hearts had that same earthy-chewy experience as the snails.

We were blessed with a bowl of the famous house-made tender soba.  Nope… no picture.  It pretty much looks like a great bowl of noodle soup.  The extra exceptional part about it - the noodles.  If you've never had fresh soba noodles (I hadn't) they bare only the most passing resemblance to the dried kind.  So tender and flavorful - the buckwheat taste shines through and becomes an essential part of the flavor.

Our “pre-dessert” was a stack of blinis, crème fraiche and ikura (salted salmon roe).  Pretty to look at, and worth chasing down every last egg, smear of cream, and consuming the shreds of shiso leaf.  I give the Japanese sensibility of the plate’s style points way over the French on this one (the actual physical plate, not the plating).

And for dessert, another one of those – well, never saw that coming – moments.  Purple mountain yam “cheesecake”.  No cheese at all, but the texture was cheesecake.  The taste was exotic sweet potato.  Not too sweet, and very Japanese at the end.

And fulfilling both my requirements – all sorts of things I don’t know how to do, and plenty I would never take the time to do.

Oh Miyabi 45th may you get the devoted clientele you deserve.  (Along with me.)

P.S. Completely LOVE the plates.  One of those little things that makes the whole thing that much better.  

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