Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mikawa [3.5/5]


Looking for something a bit outside of our usual routine, the hubby and I headed into Mikawa for a Friday night dinner. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and warned of a 30 minute wait. After some Meaningful Glances, we decided that we'd wait so we settled onto a plush, curving bench and took in the surroundings. Two tatami rooms are available for groups by reservation and we watched as one party carefully stowed their shoes on the provided shelves before entering.

Next to the register was a small store counter with Japanese snacks, tote bags, clothing, and geta or wooden sandals. The doors to the kitchen had been replaced with fabric panels, one printed with flowers and butterflies, another with a geisha. We listened to light music and the chattering of patrons while watching the minutes tick slowly by. After a half hour, the staff began stopping by apologetically to assure us that they had not forgotten us and it would not be much longer. Our total wait was just under an hour, finally ending after a large party made its exit.

Once we were seated, the staff brought out warm wet towels and took our drink orders. A large TV was mounted just behind my head showing lush locations that my hubby was especially taken with. Despite the small dining area, each table had a semi-private feel thanks to carefully arranged screens.

The menu, printed in both Japanese and English, was extensive: noodles, appetizers, rice bowls, dinners, sushi, multiple types of sake and plum wine, and tempting ice cream flavors. I decided to branch out beyond my usual tempura and teriyaki and ordered tempura soba--a soup with thinner noodles--and an order of edamame to share. My husband went with the chicken don (teriyaki chicken over rice) and a spicy tuna roll.

Our Edamame appeared quickly.


Lightly salted with small salt crystals, the pods had thick skins, so much so that it was almost hard to pull the soy beans out and a few times I was left with sharp shards of pod in my mouth.

As I started in on my edamame, my husband's sushi appeared.


Each piece was huge and, the hubby assured me, very good. The sauce, only mildly spicy, stood out as unique.

There was a brief lull as we finished our starters and then our entrees made their grand entrance. My tempura soba, shown at the top of this post was quite impressive. Noodles, fish cakes, green onions, and tempura crumbs floated peacefully in a large bowl of broth. Chopsticks were at the table, with no American style silverware in sight, indicating that the broth should be drunk directly from the bowl. The actual tempura was served on the side so that it would stay as crisp as you liked.

And here is where I discovered the weakness in my plan to Branch Out And Try New Things. I don't actually like fishy flavors. So unwittingly ordering a dish that is primarily made of fish broth was perhaps an ill advised move. Things started well. I was happy with the texture of the noodles, though I did think their almost purple color was strange. I noted that they soaked up the flavor of the broth and was trying to place it. "Hmmm, almost soy flavored". I moved onto the green onions which were crunchy, fresh, and delightful. The tempura crumbs had a bright flavor and just a few were still crunchy, which was a happy surprise.

Then I made the mistake of getting adventurous and trying the pink rimmed disc floating in my bowl. From the pink edges, I had been expecting a radish or similar root vegetable. So the dense texture and lightly fishy flavor was disconcerting. But suddenly it clicked...fish cake...fish broth...and apparently my aversion has a strong psychological component because at that point I was done with the broth. (I realize this is tremendously sad for those of you who do like fish broth, rest assured the leftovers were happily consumed by my hubby).

The tempura featured a crunchy, flavorful coating. My meal included 4 pieces--one piece each of shrimp, taro, broccoli, and butternut squash. I had assumed that the tempura would be all vegetables, so I was surprised to see the shrimp. I realize for most people this would be an upgrade, but given my texture issues with shrimp, I skipped it. The butternut squash was sweet and tender. The rind had been left on, but was soft enough to eat. The taro was dense, lightly sweet and delicious. The broccoli was sadly a little tough.

In the spirit of giving the full dish a go, I came back to my bowl of broth and tried a bit of the triangular garnish in my soup. I assume this was another fish cake, but I am honestly not sure. It had a "skin" on the exterior and an oddly chewy texture.

The hubby enjoyed his Chicken Don, a generous heaping of teriyaki chicken served over white rice.


I had hoped to love Mikawa, and in some ways it hit the right notes. My hubby adored his sushi and the waitstaff was unfailingly polite and responsive. I have no doubt that for those who enjoy fish broth that the soba would be a great dish--the broth's flavor did not scream "fish!", and the green onions and tempura crumbs were enjoyable. However, on others it was a miss, the edamame and broccoli were tough. My tempura was good but not outstanding as was my husband's Chicken Don. And our 30 minute wait slow walked into an hour.

I realize that the staff cannot control how long the patrons before us choose to stay, especially with such a small dining area. However, I also know that if we had known the wait would be an hour, we would have come back another night.

I would happily go back and give them another try, though next time I'll either try to miss the Friday night dinner rush or make reservations.

Total for the meal: $34.20 (included one order of edamame, one spicy tuna roll, one chicken don, one tempura soba, and one soft drink)

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  1. Absolutely love this place! I have never actually been on a Friday night though most decent places to eat do have a long wait time on the weekends. The food is delicious and I especially love the larger portions of sushi. The staff is very attentive to you for refills as well. Hope they stick around for years to come.

  2. I believe the triangle in your soup was fried tofu.

    Thanks for reminding me that I haven't been to Mikawa for a while. They're never busy when I go, so it's nice to hear that they do occasionally draw a crowd. I think it's the place to go if you are looking for authentic Japanese.

  3. Try the chasyu ramen. It's off the charts good, with a soy-based broth, tender sliced of pork, scallions and half a soft-boiled egg. All of the rice bowls are good. My fiance favors the katsu don. The have some of the best sushi in town. If your husband liked the spicy tuna roll's sauce, he should try the volcano roll. I usually get the rainbow and Philadelphia rolls. Their nigiri sushi and sashimi are also excellent. And a huge plus for me is that their green tea is served by the pot, and is completely free.
    The wait staff rotates frequently. They are perpetually hiring servers. This is mainly because it's very Japanese in its management style, which is typically more stressful. (Most other "Japanese" restaurants in town are owned by Koreans or Vietnamese-which is fine, but different). The servers don't receive tips, they are paid roughly $8 hourly wages with opportunities for raises. There are no designated sections, all servers are responsible for taking orders, getting food to the proper table, refilling drinks, and getting checks as soon as the customer is ready--this sometimes backfires. I've received food that wasn't mine, waited on the check for half an hour, given the wrong check, etc. But I keep coming back because they are always polite and the problem gets taken care of. And the food...man.
    The main reason Mikawa exists is so that Toyota execs have a place to eat and relax while they're in town, which proves the food's authenticity. There apparently is a whole list of off-menu offerings as well, such as onigiri.

  4. I work close to Mikawa and a few of us used to go there pretty regularly for lunch because the sushi is good. One day they messed up our tickets and put my soda on one of my coworkers tickets. We didn't realize it until I had already paid and left, and when he brought it to their attention, they sweated him over it, even asking for his name and number, eventually grudgingly removing it from his bill.

    We decided after that there were better places to go that wouldn't hassle regulars over the price of one soda when it was their mistake.

  5. Mikawa is my favorite Japanese restaurant - probably because of the more authentic dishes and the atmosphere. Have never been fond of the steakhouses and their shows, and some of the other places I have tried have been a little loud. My favorite dish there is the gyudon (beef & onions over rice), though I have tried many other things there as well. I did not know about being able to get things not on the menu until recently. My friend and I visited there this past Wednesday and asked if they had the takoyaki (dumplings stuffed with octopus) that she had tried before. I have only had takoyaki once before, and that was some that I bought frozen from an Asian market and heated up in the oven. They were nothing compared to these. The frozen ones were a dense wheatlike breaded ball with a little rubbery square of the octopus inside, but the ones from Mikawa had a thinner batter with a creamy filling and quite a bit of the octopus inside.

    I really wish I had eaten there more often, because I just found out last week that they would be closing on March 29th (yesterday). Most everyone I had talked to about going there had never heard of them, and it always took me a while to explain to them where Mikawa was located. It was definitely a hidden treasure for me. I would only hope that someone else could get it going again.... *sigh*

  6. I miss this place more than words can express.


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