Tokyo is called the Big Mikan (tangerine), but Miami has its own little slice in Mikan Japanese Restaurant, tucked into a building that also houses the Japanese consulate. In a welcome change from our typical sushi-Thai outlets, the emphasis here is on traditional Japanese dishes skillfully prepared with seasonal ingredients.Chef-owner Seiji “Ike” Ikemizu grew up in Tokunoshima, a small island off the coast of Kyushu on the southern tip of Japan. He managed restaurants for a hotel group in Tokyo, and in 1981 was transferred to New York. He came to Miami three years later, and in 1996 opened Mikan, where his Russian wife, Elena, works the register and helps serve. Starters include tuna tataki salad in ponzu and ume plum sauce, miso-marinated grilled sea bass and cold tofu in house ginger dressing. Nabeyaki udon makes a meal with ropes of wheat noodles in dashi stock made with konbu seaweed and dried bonito fish flakes. It’s cooked in a nabe (earthenware pot) with chicken, veggies and a poached egg. Tempura came to Japan in the 16th century with Portuguese Jesuits, but the Japanese perfected it. Try the seafood selection with shrimp, scallops and whitefish in a light, crispy batter. Hand rolls include the Alaskan with cooked salmon, cucumber and mayo; uni (sea urchin) and grilled eel with teriyaki sauce. Bakudan (“the bomb”) mixes finely chopped raw fish (I chose tuna toro) with sticky natto (fermented soy beans), tiny bits of octopus, squid and takuan (yellow daikon pickle). Sprinkled with nori shreds, it’s best eaten as a salad with a little soy and wasabi or with warm rice wrapped in a nori sheet. Bento lunch boxes are filled with various sushi, teriyaki and tempura combos. For dinner there’s broiled lobster or salmon and nasu miso (stir-fried eggplant) plus rolls, sushi and sashimi. End with sweet mochi (sticky rice dough) wrapped around delicate adzuki bean ice cream. After 15 years, Mikan is a treasure worth rediscovering. Linda Bladholm’s latest book is “Latin and Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified.”
If you go
Place: Mikan Japanese Restaurant
Address: 80 SW Eighth St., Miami (in the Brickell Bay View Center; entrance is on Southwest First Avenue)
Contact: 305-373-5484, www.mikan-miami.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$10, soups $2-$14, rolls $4-$11, entrees $8-$18, lunch specials with miso soup, salad or rice $8-$14
Tangerine and Watercress Salad with Sweet Vinegar
Serve this salad with pan-roasted salmon or stir-fried shrimp and steamed rice.
1/2 white onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 bunch watercress (about 8 ounces), washed and trimmed
4 tangerines, peeled, pith removed and segments separated
Juice of 2 tangerines
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Place the onion slices in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes and drain (to remove pungency). Place watercress in a serving bowl and add onions and tangerine segments. Mix the tangerine juice, sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Add to the salad and toss to coat. Makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from “The Japanese Kitchen” by Kimiko Barber (Kyle, 2007).
Per Serving: 61 calories (3 percent from fat), 0 fat, 2 g protein, 0 cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 15 g carbohydrates, 107 mg sodium.