A Fork on the Road: Mikan Japanese Restaurant

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 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.