Wednesday, July 18


Reviewing usually requires repeat tastings - something of a lost art in this provincial netherregion of North Boston. So with only one taste of Miyake, a place that's been open barely a month, I'm not apt to critique the new Spring Street joint. But, given that its only preview came from a vegan, I went for some raw fish. That was not the only reason.

Masa Miyake serves an astringent green tea ice cream - sweet, creamy and pea green. Unlike some sushi places where the rolls are sticky and sugary, this is simply the sweetest menu item - as it should be. Desserts do not provide reason enough to go to Miyake.

Masa Miyake worked for 10 years at high-end New York restaurants – at Oceana and with Daniel Boulud – before deciding to call his own shots with his wife and one wholesome waiter in Portland. This, too, is not reason enough to go to Miyake.

Miyake's fish comes from True World, also known as the Moonies, who own a worldwide sushi empire. This could be like serving a lobster roll on the Maine coast with Nova Scotia crustacean. Miyake trucks his Massachusetts seafood to Portland, Northern Massachusetts, which itself is awfully close to Maine, a place where life is the way it should be and fresh fish are caught on the beautiful, rugged coast, shipped to Japan and then sent back to Boston. But Miyake is not a lobster shack. He does not traffic in illusions. He admits his albacore is global fish. He'll tell you he should be buying a $5,000 local, line-caught bluefin. Good intentions, though, are not reason to go to Miyake.

Go to Miyake because it is a neighborhood sushi joint, with only a couple of plastic chairs, a Pepsi fridge full of roe, a place where you can ask for what you want from the chef and get his interpretation of that. It's a place where you can bring your own bottle of sake, New Zealand white or California pinot grigio. Go for the $9 lunch special. Get it to go. And tell Masa he should have chopsticks on hand for regular customers.

Go to eat nigiri with your hands. Go because Masa will fire up his torch for that mayonaisey specialty roll with seared yellowtail ($12) that he insists you try. Go because his broken English is more endearing than karaoke, late night Bjork videos and that marmy dude in sandals wearing a kimono. If those are not reasons enough to Miyake, then you're probably better off with a vegan California roll from Whole Foods.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a very good example of how tough it is to win in the restaurant scene here in Portland.

Bar Lola gets slammed as being so expensive when it tries to stick with local and organic product. There are comments that the fish taco at Crab Louie are wonderfully delicious. However, they too try to use local fish when possible which means the price to portion ratio can turn people off.

And now here is Miyake, who wants to try to get a foot in the door and is called out for using affordable fish sources. Don't all the sushi restaurants in Portland use fish trucked in from Boston (even if not exclusively)?

I guess I don't understand your writing. It seems condescending but I can't be sure. Was the fish and/or the chef's interpretation of the food any good? Do you appreciate the restaurant and its efforts or is it merely quaint or charming?

I'm looking forward to trying Miyake. Maybe then this blog will make sense. :)

Blogger Psst! said...

I would be curious about Bar Lola's distributor and its sourcing. To me, their arugula, for example, seemed to resemble baby roquette from California, distributed locally by the misnamed Native Maine. But not everything involves Bar Lola.

My point is to show that Masa Miyake will tell his customers exactly what he is making, with what, from where. Like the farmer-consumer relationship at a Farmers' Market, it's direct. You get that at Miyake. It is an open kitchen. No illusions (think Fore Street, 555). You also get a sense at Miyake that, well, maybe it's ethically ambiguous to eat bluefin tuna.

I am not a tourist. I only went to Miyake once, but I'll be back. If the review made you want to try it too, I appreciate your praise and welcome additional comments.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification.

Blogger courtney said...

Dear Psst,
I enjoy your blog and your honesty. I would, however, like to respond to your review of Miyake. You stated that getting tuna from Boston was akin to getting lobster form Nova Scotia while living in Maine. That's not entirely true. I have worked for a small local fish purveyor off and on for three years. In addition to local fisherman and purveyors, we also go to Boston twice a week. Honestly, I just don't think there any great recipes for pollock sperm and dogfish. (the seasons in Maine in addition to the shortened days for fishermen can REALLY try you!)In other words, everyone goes to Boston. I wouldn't want you or anyone else to think that that was a terrible thing. It's simply the only way we, as chefs, can get other species (like tuna)on our menus. In fact, you would be suprised at how many times I've gone to Boston to get LOCAL MAINE OYSTERS(!) that had already been shipped south. As a member of Slow Food, that's a hard one to swallow. Also, I would like to add that if Miyake is getting tuna from true world that is pretty great. They are not local, but they ALWAYS buy the highest grade tuna they can get their hands on. So...see you at Miyake for some tuna!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"provincial netherregion of North Boston"

Come on? Where's the love? If Portland wasn't such a cosmopolitan foodie town (with chefs like Masa Miyake), you'd have nothing to write about and no one to read your blog.

Blogger Psst! said...

Courtney, Thanks for the comments about fish sourcing. Want to write a column?

Anon., you are right. It's no netherregion. Single-visit reviewing plagues the nation, including the lunchers of Portland.

Blogger courtney said...

Sure...I could definatley write something as a pedestrian in the fish world. I am officially a chef and a pedestrian in the fish world which makes me suspicious I think. This is also exactly the second time I have written on a blog site. So...let me know what I should do.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

pssst, very cool to see that you'll accept outside writing.

Blogger Psst! said...

Courtney, Pedestrian writing defines this blog. A pedestrian column on local fish should fit the Psst! bill. I think the tuna question -- why is it impossible to get Maine seafood to Maine chefs -- is a good one. Write it, post it. If it's good, it'll go up on the front page. Same goes for you, anon. Got ideas?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

this review missed the mark completely....Miyake is as close to a great NYC sushi bar as I have seen in Maine. I go to Sushi of Gari in NY, where every taste is specifically prepared with its own sauce and garnish...not just fish on rice like every other sushi place in Maine...not to mention the specials board they had the night I was there was amazing, items that I have NEVER seen in Maine...this place is definately worth checking out if you're tired of the same old same old spicy tuna, salmon sushi, tako sashimi bit


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