KARACHI: Having lived a cluster of my years in Osaka and Tokyo, I know quite a bit about sushi. From creamy Uni (sea urchin) and crunchy seaweed to akami and the uber rare hagashi, I’ve munched it all. Coming to Karachi, Sakura came as close to ‘authentic’ as it can get in Pakistan – and I say that after operating my dynamisms at various sushi joints in the city. And visiting Miyako was no different.
Set slightly away from the DHA bustle, Miyako features a colossal and sophisticated menu with dishes ranging from hand-rolled sushi to Beef ala Sichuan, which isn’t really Japanese at all, but they call themselves Pan-Asian so we can’t argue. But that’s the prowling issue surrounding Pakistan’s restaurants – they don’t have one out-and-out focus. Hoping to excel at a gang of cuisines all at once is a recipe for food cataclysm. Find your grub emphasis and then nail it. Maybe that’s where Miyako takes a hit.
Bare bones in its décor, with particle wood making up the ceiling and partially uncovered rock-tile designs on the walls, the joint radiates a comfy vibe. A lofty metal rack comprising sham condiments right in the heart of the space is something the management needs to reconsider – because the tables are nestled so close together, it’s hard to get in and out of chairs without infuriating the foodie on the next table. It can get stuffy when the place begins to pack and privacy is certainly limited. If you’re going on a date or a meeting that demands intense talk, I’d suggest you make a reservation on their top floor.
Coming back to foodstuff, Miyako’s menu is ambitious for a small place, with not only an extensive list of sushi rolls, sashimi and Teppanyaki but also soups, salads, crispy honey chicken, several incarnations of teriyaki etc., with Bundt cake and brownie for dessert.
Dismally for me, I wasn’t even close to awestruck by the sushi. I understand you’re trying to Americanise your sushi – a horde of restaurants I’ve basked at in New York, Denver or even Johannesburg for that matter, do the same and that’s fine – but don’t internationalise it so much that you lose the sense of Japanese or in this case, Pan-Asian knack you’re trying to triumph. I’m sorry Miyako but chicken sushi and Mexican Maki are an epic fail – they just don’t work! And that sweet pink ginger served alongside tasted more of food colouring than the sharp palate cleanser it’s supposed to be and what I’m used to.
Not everything was derisory though. The California and crispy rolls were very much on point – but again that’s not authentic sushi. There’s a lot of avocado and cream cheese involved in the assortment of rolls they offer, so at least you know the chef is not skimping on our need for delish fat. It’s a crowd-pleasing list for Karachiites I’d assume, since there are mayo-heavy sauces everywhere, on and off the sushi! As for me, when chefs put mayo sauces and a bunch of garnishes on the sushi, it’s one of the things I really don’t appreciate. The focus shouldn’t be the sauces. Sushi fanatics will know precisely what I mean!
As for the rest of the ‘Pan Asian’ delights, they were okayish. The Thai sweet chilli basil beef was more chilli than it was sweet and the piquancy overpowered the taste of the meat — and resultantly, couldn’t deliver that heavy-duty Thai punch we were aching for. Thai cuisine, Pakistani restaurateurs need to comprehend, encompasses earthy, intricate flavours soldered together with specialised ingredients. The broth or the curry, for instance need to be spiced subtly, but enough to convey that kick – that’s what sets it apart from Chinese beef Manchurian or a desi Korma.
But one thing that impressed me was the immaculate service of the staff and managers. They were relentlessly on the floor and more than willing to repair and change any dish that fell below par and that’s a definite plus for any eatery.
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