Monday, 18 February 2008

"There are always options!"

I was back in Winnipeg once again this weekend, and originally I wanted to try Fusion Grill. Unfortunately I didn't make a reservation, and that place is actually quite small, so I lucked out this time around. So, with a few restaurants to choose from back at Osborne Village I turned my way there to try a Japanese restaurant, Miyabi.

Once I entered the restaurant I noticed two signs that made me realize this was not going to be a "Wasabi" equivalent. First, classic rock was playing in the background. Nothing wrong with that music, but it seemed to sound out of place in a Japanese restaurant with contemporary decor consisting of warm dark browns and red ochre. St. Germain-like lounge music may have gotten away at least. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was not an all-Japanese cast behind the sushi counter, which so far has made quite a difference between good sushi and extraordinary sushi. Not meaning to put down other non-Japanese sushi chefs out there, and nothing against the chefs at Miyabi (the presentation and freshness is quite passable and can't be overlooked), but it appears that the Japanese chefs have been able to go a cut above the rest in their own culinary art.

I at first had a bit of difficulty to decide what to try here, but after some thought and some assistance from the friendly wait staff I made my picks. First up, I ordered myself some Tuna Tataki. Lightly grilled on the outside, the tuna's served in thin, diagonally sliced pieces. Though there was plenty of fresh raw tuna to savour the natural sweetness and soft texture of the fish, I now understand better why Wasabi's version of pan-seared sashimi was only done on one side. To Miyabi's credit, though, the ponzu-spiked soy dipping sauce was a nice touch to this dish, providing that citrus kick that, to be honest with you, I usually opt out of when having fish dishes. (My sister will vouch for the fact that I don't squeeze lemon on my fish and chips at all!)

Next I had a total of four types of sushi dishes. On the upper photo, from left to right, are the Butterfly Roll, the Spider Roll, and the Ma-Yo Take Roll. The lower photo shows the Rainbow Roll. The Butterfly Roll consists of cooked sweet shrimp resting with a sweet and savoury soy-based sauce, while the soft shell crab was a delight in the Spider Roll. The Ma-Yo Take Roll was a nice contrast as it had a subtle citrus kick to the salmon roll thanks to some more ponzu, and of course, who can resist a dash of panko crumbs? The Rainbow Roll was not what I was expecting, as supposedly each sushi piece would have a different piece of fish on it. For one thing the cuts didn't correspond with the actual fish pieces, meaning a couple of pieces had two different types of fish on them. Another thing... in the end it may have been better to have served the Rainbow Roll nigiri style rather than maki (i.e. piece of fish resting on a ball of rice rather than the fish partially wrapped around a roll). Because it was served maki style the fish on top did not get the tasting focus they deserved.

Miyabi is small, cosy, and has a warm atmosphere, and the food is passable. It definitely highlights the fact that Japanese restaurants abound all over Winnipeg, leaving little doubt behind the argument that Winnipeg has gone gaga for sushi. However, no matter which city you go and whatever cuisine you'll choose, there'll be majority of restaurants that provide a more average level of cuisine or less, while a small few will stand out. While Miyabi didn't get the stand-out impression, it is perhaps safe in the upper half of the average.

Name: Miyabi Japanese Restaurant
Address: 159 Osborne Street, Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Neo-Japanese
Price Range: Lunch [unknown]; Dinner $30-60
Accessible: Most seats (but not washrooms)

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