Boston-born Jon Yi didn't want to end up like his restaurant-working parents, but the business was in his blood. In Seattle six years ago, at 22, Yi finally gave in to rolling sushi. When he tired of the rain last year, he moved to Colorado.
In March, he re-opened Miyake Sushi and Mongolian BBQ, just off Academy Boulevard on Austin Bluffs Parkway. (It was originally run by John Ra, who now owns two Tomo Sushi locations on Academy.) Inside, a large underwater mural covers one wall near the newly renovated sushi bar, and small tables fill out the space leading to a large Mongolian grill in back.
In my first visit, at a busy lunch, a young server greeted us warmly. Then everything slowed down, hinting that when Miyake's packed, you wait. Yi ran between the sushi counter and grill; his mother, Jean, occasionally relieved him on the latter while holding down the kitchen.
We eventually started with a tempura soft-shell crab appetizer ($8.95) topped with a sweet teriyaki sauce, scallions and roe. Though a tad small for its price, it was crisp and delicious. Next, the calamari tempura ($6.95), served with a sweet soy sauce. The tender tentacles in a crunchy coating got a thumbs-up.
For mains, my friend opted for the Mongolian grill ($7.95 lunch / $9.95 dinner, $2/$4 up-charge for an endless bowl), which is essentially a raw buffet. Diners grab a bowl and choose from an assortment of veggies, noodles, meats and sauces, ideally only taking what they can eat. (A posted sign forbids doggie bags.) Selections are then cooked in front of you in about three minutes, but that's where timing comes into play.
We'd entered behind a group of airmen; each lined up for the grill as if in a chow line, opting to observe the steam and sizzle instead of having their cooked plates brought to them. With only one cook, by the time the last received his meal, the first was nearing the end of his plate. Once my friend made it through, she was pleased by her bright, fresh chili-and-garlic-sauce stirfry. My panko-crusted chicken Katsu ($6.95), pounded like a cutlet, fried crisp then cut into strips over rice, worked well with a gingery side salad.
At a later dinner, Yi greeted us enthusiastically, and with fewer customers, showed a charming charisma. After we ordered two specialty rolls — the Pacific ($12.95) of tuna, yellowtail and salmon, and the Miyamoto Musashi ($14.95) of tuna, eel, crab, salmon and roe — he challenged me: a free California roll if I knew who Miyamoto was. Standing behind him, our server lifted fists to tip me off. When I said "a fighter," Yi was shocked, until he learned of our duplicity. Laughing, he corrected: "A legendary Samurai warrior, to be exact." I didn't hold him to the roll.
While both specialties were tasty, the Miyamoto indeed conquered with a sweet and savory mix. Another winner, a sweet, juicy and tender chicken teriyaki ($8.95) entrée, later arrived sizzling on a cast iron plate with vegetables and rice. Timing still proved an issue, and Yi noted, "I'm only one man." If business stays consistent, I'd say he needs another pair of hands or faster running shoes.
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