Miyazaki Japanese Takeaway
1A Evergreen Street
Phone: 021 431 2716
Irish Daily Mail
18 July 2015
I have to thank David Mitchell for pointing me in the direction of Miyazaki. No, not that David Mitchell, the funny one who’s married to that very clever, funny woman, you know, Giles Coren’s sister. Not him, not the bloke from the Fast Show.
I mean David Mitchell, the novelist, probably best known for Cloud Atlas, less so, maybe, for his remarkable The Bone Clock. Anyway, this very talented writer, shortlisted for the Booker Prize and what have you, grew up in England, has lived in Japan and has now settled near Clonakilty.
He told the Guardian newspaper recently that “the best street food I’ve had inside or outside Japan” is from Miyazaki in, of all places, the city of Cork. For obvious reasons, this claim leapt from the page and I was left wondering “How on earth did I miss this?”
It turns out that Miyazaki has been doing wondrous things since March and yet I didn’t get wind of it until I was reading an English newspaper. Part of the reason may lie in the location.
It’s at the junction of Barrack Street with the hilariously misnamed Evergreen Road, not one of Cork’s more fashionable, leafier purlieus. In fact, this part of the city is a bit of a kip. It seems odd to be eating exquisite food – and I really do mean exquisite – looking out on windblown litter and the fifty shades of drab that make up the back of Grand Parade. The only thing that could make it gloomier would be a glimpse of the North Main Street car park. Mind you, that could depress the Dalai Lama.
Anyway, Miyzaki is an oasis of brilliance. Chef Takashi is married to an Offaly woman and has lived in that splendid county for eight years before bringing the concept of washoku cuisine to an unsuspecting Cork. This is a traditional Japanese approach to integrating food and life, involving balance and harmony and the application of actual philisophy to cooking and eating. It’s arguably the most civilised and refined approach to diet on the planet and, I have to say, it does it for me.
While Miyazaki is really a takeaway, there are five stools and a narrow counter (with the view) and you need to get your timing right. We rolled up at half-past-two and found it empty. An hour later, it was standing room only.
As I often say, the problem with the average menu is trying to work out what I least don’t want to eat. Here, it’s hard to know where to start; we wanted everything.
We started with cold edamame (or soya) beans, bright green little jewels, served in their pods, liberally dusted with Irish Atlantic sea salt. You just pop them from pod into mouth and much; this is where the flavour and texture adventure starts.
From the blackboard specials we were seduced by age tofu; two big cubes of the stuff in a delicate, crisp coating, flecked with bonito flakes (dried tuna) in a glorious dashi broth, its savouriness delivered from kombu seaweed with a hint of sweetness and the zing of fresh ginger. Potato starch thickened the liquid in the bottom of the bowl, adding a whole new dimension of texture. It was a knockout.
As, indeed, were the sashimi of salmon and seabass. Takashi only does sashimi when the quality of the fish is just so and, my goodness, it sure was. The salmon melted on the tongue with its dipping sauce of soya and a little smear of nuclear wasabi; but the wafer thin slices of sea bass, not a fish I like much when cooked, were a revelation in terms of delicacy and subtlety.
Kakiage with soba noodles was quite new to me. Essentially, the delightfully slippery noodles were dished up in a deeply savoury broth with a topping of vegetables and prawns, all cooked in tempura batter. So, you have crispness on top melting into softness and finally slipperiness as you work your way down the bowl. I could lunch on this every day.
Gyoza dumplings, with a vegetable filling, were amongst the best I’ve ever had, rich, with just enough chew, glossy and counterbalanced by the blend of soya sauce and yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit that tastes somewhere between lemon and bitter orange). I had to be restrained from ordering a second helping.
The bill for this feast, including Genmaicha tea and mineral water, came to €35. Thank you, David Mitchell. I’ll buy your next novel.