Monday, May 23, 2011

Off the Map: Mushroom Miso Soup... When Mushrooms Aren't in Season

Miso Soup – Miyake Restaurant, Portland, ME
Miyake Restaurant

Apparently, May is fiddlehead season in Maine.  Vodka Stinger learned this from her Maine-based aunt, who told her to order anything with fiddleheads that she finds on the Maine restaurant menus.  Dutifully following directions, Vodka orders the fluke special with fiddleheads at Street & Co. at her dinner in Portland.  Not really knowing what fiddleheads are, they taste mildly of asparagus, and they are indeed fairly scrumptious.  In fact, my travel partner and I would have added Street & Co. to our own personal Best Thing I Ever Ate list.
Those Green Doodads are Fiddleheads
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Miyake Restaurant.

Alex Guarnaschelli featured Miyake Restaurant on the IN A BOWL episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, spouting on about the unexpected deliciousness of their mushroom miso soup.  Usually believing in Alex’s taste to a tee, Vodka and friend head to Miyake for lunch after their whoopie pie and a trip to the Portland art museum. 
In Search of Maine Miso
Being that we arrive exactly when the restaurant opens (11:45am – we presume that it closes at 6:00pm like everything else at Portland), we are the only ones in attendance.  We are told off the bat that they do not serve beverages of any kind – only water – so if we want another kind of drink (including soda), we should go to the deli next door.

We assume this is a Maine kind of policy.

Anyway, we order the lunch special, which consists of miso soup, a salad, and an entrée.  And this is when the trouble begins.
They Also Threw in This Appetizer for Free
Always being one to clarify, Vodka asks the waitress to confirm the miso soup is in fact the mushroom one featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate.

And it’s not.

Again, WHAT?!

Call me crazy, but if a restaurant is shown on a television program, the featured dish should ALWAYS be on the menu.  No exceptions.  Miyake does not seem to share this sentiment.

They explain that the mushrooms that are in that particular soup are only available in October and November, but since we have no plans to go back to Portland in the fall (or probably ever), we both temporarily consider walking out before proceeding with our meal, including non-mushroom miso soup.
Severely Lacking in Mushrooms
The soup arrives, and it is pretty much the same as that which can be found at any Japanese restaurant in the country.  Sans tofu, it consists of only broth, kelp, and scallions.  It is not bad by any means, but it is decidedly nothing special.  The same can be said for the salad – standard and edible, but not particularly memorable.
But It Makes for a Pretty Picture
The sushi rolls of the day are more interesting, though they are entirely too large to be eaten in one bite (which is what we consider the bastion of a proper sushi roll), and they featured at least four kinds of fish which, while perfectly tasty, remind us of the scrapple that one finds in South Jersey diners (aka a little of everything left over in the kitchen).
A Frankenstein of Fish
In short, Miyake is a perfectly adequate Japanese restaurant (of which there are a proliferation in Portland – who knew Maine was a hotbed of Japanese cuisine?).  However, until they figure out a way to get mushrooms in their miso soup year-round, we will have to deny them anything more than an average rating.

Oh, and bite-size sushi rolls would also be appreciated.

Miyake Restaurant’s Miso Soup: 3 stars

1 comment:

  1. I almost bought some fiddleheads from Maine at Whole Foods last night.