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Oh, Sushi Queue

[whitespace] Miyako Sushi Bar
Robert Scheer

New Kids on the Chopping Block: Miyako co-owner Unhui Park (left), chef Tsutomu Sanada, chef/co-owner Sung Ho Park and chef Dave Dorr serve up some of the finest sushi in the county.

Since there can never be too many sushi bars, it's great to discover such an affordable way to feast Japanese-style at Miyako

By Christina Waters

I T'S ALL ABOUT sushi--that's the essential text at the very upbeat, easydining Miyako Sushi Bar, tucked just off the beaten track across from the Capitola Mall. The place comes fully loaded with classics like udon, teriyaki and tempura dinners, but let's not kid ourselves: The central pearl in this Asian oyster is the L-shaped sushi bar, where white-clad experts attack their sparkling fresh ingredients with deadpan precision.

The sushi chefs at Miyako are all business and leave the postmodern antics to the gentle giants of sumo wrestling, shown on two TV monitors as part of the restaurant's ongoing video offerings. Colorful canvas-print flags flutter all around the doorways and ceilings, and along the walls runs an eclectic, bouncy assortment of Eastern collectibles like "Hello Kitty" figurines, beer posters and shadowbox displays of delicate sake cups.

Miyako is one of the best places around for sake fans to sample a wider-than-average range of room-temperature, cold and hot premiums--cold brews like Ozeki dry, as well as plenty of hot sakes.

At lunchtime, Miyako really cooks. And the multicultural, multigenerational crowd that gathers is here primarily for one thing--the all-you-can-eat $6.95 lunch buffet.

I made a special note of the DeLaveaga roll ($4.50) on the daily sushi specials listing, as I left my newspaper and sweater at a spacious table and hit the buffet line. Normally, I don't expect much from these all-you-can-eat deals, and that's usually what I get--not much. Miyako, as my tour guide Joe informed me, is an exception to my rule. And since Joe was raised in China and spent two years working in Japan, I figured I'd humor him on this point.

Filling up tiny dishes with a sweet/tart tempura sauce, mounds of pale green wasabi horseradish and some miso dressing for our salad, we began digging into the buffet's offerings. I piled on everything from the green food groups, plus potstickers and quivering, soft tofu squares at Joe's insistence.

Plates bulging, we returned to the table, where our pot of green tea and bowls of miso soup were waiting. Nothing lags here, and even our sushi order arrived swiftly, given how busy the guys behind the bar were.

I liked everything on my plate, but I really loved several items. The sweet vinegary bite of the sunomono was great, the cucumbers properly crisp, yet transparent and tender. A friendly mess of kim chee produced all the firepower and crunch I desired. "Now that's got to be homemade," Joe observed. "It definitely didn't come out of a jar."

The fat slabs of tofu had been lightly grilled and dusted with black sesame seeds--almost an erotic experience right there in public. The stir-fried soybean sprouts were great and laden with almost full-grown beans. I was temporarily hypnotized by the figurine sumo guys pulling each other into a fleshy pink embrace but snapped out of it with the first bite of a California roll and a maki sushi filled with excellent bluefin tuna. These gorgeous sushi rolls are included in the buffet lunch--a classy touch--and had I been a far larger woman, I would have headed on back for more.

A tiny chicken drumette had been nicely marinated in teriyaki before roasting, and a stir-fry of green beans, onions and carrots was really excellent. I found the gyoza/potstickers a bit greasy, but delicious nonetheless as sort of an Asian equivalent of French fries.

Joe enjoyed impeccably presented sea urchin roe sushi ($4.50) as his meal finisher, while I polished off four out of six of the huge, beautiful DeLaveaga rolls, each slice a jewel of avocado, smoked salmon and tuna all dusted with cashews and a molassey sauce.

Such a deal.


Miyako Sushi Bar
Address: 1820 G 41st Ave., Capitola
Phone: 462-5288
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2pm Tue.-Sat., dinner 5-9pm Tue.-Thu. (till 9:30pm Fri.-Sat.), closed Sun.-Mon.
Disablity Access: Marginal in restroom, complete in restaurant
Price: Inexpensive to moderate
Ambiance: **1/2 Colorful and eclectic Japanese sushi bar and cafe
Service: **1/2 Swift and smart, the staff stays on top of the action
Cuisine: **1/2 Delicious and cheap buffet lunches, top quality, beautifully made sushi specialties
Overall: Miyako has its act together, providing authentic aid and comfort to a host of regulars, Japanophiles and people who enjoy fine Asian flavors at reasonable prices.

****Great, ***Excellent, **Good, *Okay


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From the January 29-February 4, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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