Sacramento, CA 95825
A year ago, I felt like I could have reviewed a new sushi place every week. I was so busy with the new raw-fish emporiums that I had no time to explore worthwhile places that might be hiding in plain view. Now, however, the tidal wave of new restaurants is washing up a little less fish, and my attention is turning to finding a favorite place—one I’ll want to go back to over and over.
If it weren’t kind of a haul from my house, Miyagi Bar & Sushi, which is on Fair Oaks Boulevard across from Loehmann’s Plaza, might be it. I drove right past it on my first try and then had to make what I’m pretty sure was an illegal U-turn to get back in the midst of some bad rush-hour traffic. It was worth the trouble, though. The restaurant is quiet and calming, though hardly temple-like. Outdoor tables sit next to a fountain, which helps drown out traffic noise and partially compensates for the fact that the restaurant is also adjacent to a parking lot. Inside, the space is decorated in an array of sleek neutrals. Fun touches—I liked the spiny blowfish dangling over the sushi bar—keep it from being dull.
The menu is extensive. Options for those who don’t want sushi go well beyond the usual lineup of teriyaki this, that and the other. Sure, there are gyoza, but there are also miso-glazed lamb and harumaki (crispy pork spring rolls) among the appetizers, and udon bowls, nabemono and donburi among the entrees. The sushi rolls are appealing but suffer slightly from the usual Sacramento practice of gilding the lily. There’s plenty of nigiri and sashimi for those with simpler tastes.
We started off with a plate of gyoza as well as an appetizer of very lightly breaded fried calamari and more thickly crunchy fried oysters. I wasn’t crazy about the rather dull tartar sauce, and the calamari were just a shade tough, but the oysters had a good fresh flavor. The gyoza were delicious, with a bright spark of ginger; tender, delicate wrappers; and a good sesame flavor in the dipping sauce. As my dad said, “These are way better than Costco’s.” No kidding.
The sushi was way better than Costco’s, too, I’d imagine. (Don’t worry; I’m not actually using Costco as my benchmark here.) We debated at some length about what rolls to get and settled on the SLK roll—with spicy tuna, avocado, kaiware sprouts, tuna and spicy sauce—and the Tiger, with deep-fried shrimp plus more shrimp and barbecued eel on top. By my count, deep-fried shrimp inhabit more than half the rolls on offer here, which seems a little excessive. On the other hand, they tasted darned good, and—bonus!—you get the deep-fried head alongside the roll on your plate, complete with tentacles. We really liked the SLK roll, with its spicy tuna offset by mild avocado and then again by the slight pungency of kaiware sprouts.
These were actually a couple of the simpler rolls. Among the others were the Sato’s, which has deep-fried shrimp, tuna, hamachi, snow crab, masago and cucumber, with two kinds of sauce; or the Kelsey, a whopper at $16, which has deep-fried shrimp (see what I mean?), spicy tuna and asparagus, with a topping of unagi, avocado, snow crab, caviar, aioli and teriyaki sauce. That all sounded like a little much for us. Instead, we wanted to try a couple of the nigiri options: perennial favorite hamachi and the ama ebi (sweet shrimp). (Shrimp nigiri is often cold cooked shrimp, but this is presented raw.) The latter was indeed sweet, with a tender texture. The hamachi was delicious, with a meaty texture that almost had a fresh snap to it.
While my father, my husband and I chowed down on raw fish, the toddler we had in tow was making something of a ruckus, as well as a mess. We did our best to clean it up, but I appreciated the wait staff’s forbearance and good humor. We ordered a donburi for her, the katsudon, and happily we got to eat most of it. It looked like a mess but tasted great, with thick slices of juicy and flavorful fried pork, three kinds of savory mushrooms, scrambled egg, and shreds of vegetables over the soy-infused sticky rice. I could have lived with a little less of the lotus root, but otherwise it was excellent.
Should you be dining with a toddler, too, you might like to know that Miyagi has a full bar and makes a surprisingly tasty margarita. They also have a number of beers on tap—oddly, my dad’s Sapporo arrived in a bottle, though he thought he was ordering it on draft—and several solid but unsurprising wine choices (the list of whites is better than the reds). The most pleasant surprise, however, was the traditional Japanese fare, which outshone even the very tasty sushi.