Friday, August 29, 2014

Miya's Sushi in New Haven

          This past weekend I went to NY, and on the way back I had to try Miya's Sushi in New Haven after hearing amazing things about the food and the Chef / Owner Bun Lai! Miya's is definitely the most interesting sushi menu I've ever seen. Bun is dedicated to sustainability, and about half the dishes served are vegan or vegetarian. The other half includes a mix of sustainably sourced seafood, an invasive species menu, and a few dishes featuring insects! I can't begin to give justice to the menu or sustainability commitment, so here is so I've included some info from Miya's website.

Miya's commitment to health and sustainability

          We are aware that the restaurant industry has a very harmful impact on the environment; in particular, the traditional cuisine of sushi is destroying our oceans. Therefore, we try to maintain a restaurant in as ecologically responsible manner as possible. We do our best to not use ingredients that are either overfished or that in their production have a negative impact on the environment. As a result, half of our vast menu is vegetable-centered; the other half does not utilize standard sushi ingredients such as tuna, shrimp, farmed eel, yellowtail and farmed salmon. Instead, we’ve created dishes that include hyper-local sustainable seafood not conventionally used for sushi such as clams, oysters, mussels, ladies slippers, Asian shore crabs, European shore crabs, trout, catfish, bluegill sunfish, bluefish, scup, sea robins and dogfish.

          What’s unusual about the sushi rice? Our original whole multigrain recipe is toothy, tasty and super healthy. Historically, vinegar, salt and sugar were added to fish and rice, as a method of preservation, in a time when there was no refrigeration. Though there is no longer the practical necessity to add these preservatives, they remain elements in the contemporary cuisine of sushi. Sushi rice today is highly processed and sweetened, much like the Wonder Bread many of us grew up eating. Inspired by whole multigrain breads, my recipe for sushi rice is unsweetened and made from a brown rice centered multigrain mixture containing quinoa, amaranth, oat grains and flax seed. Quinoa and amaranth provide all the essential amino acids needed to be a complete protein. Whole oats have more fiber than any other grain and help lower high blood pressure. Ground flax seed supplies nearly double the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids per calorie than any food in the world. Since most of my sushi involves robust flavors, the hearty grain mixtures carry my recipes in a way that traditional sushi rice could not.

          Most fruits and vegetables are organic and grown in Connecticut or New England. The chicken and the rabbit that we use for a few of our recipes are animal welfare approved and organically pasteur raised. Most of our cheeses are organic and are also made in Connecticut or in New England. Fortunately, the most delicious ingredients tend to be the most sustainable too!

Additional Information About Miya's

          The pickled ginger is made in house with no food coloring or artificial flavors. It is hand cut, boiled in four changes of water, and then pickled in vinegar, honey and agave nectar.

          The soy sauce is our own citrus blend, lower in sodium than any commercial soy sauce (even reduced sodium). Bun created it because traditional soy sauce is so salty it overwhelms the food.

          They are currently, working on transitioning most recipes so they are gluten free

My Experience Dining at Miya's

          I had mentioned my plans to dine at Miya's on twitter as I often do, and was both surprised and impressed that Bun responded to me personally. He wanted to know when I'd be coming in so he could make sure I experienced some of the most interesting and popular dishes on the menu. Since it turned out he wouldn't be in the restaurant that day, he let us who our server would be (Nate, who was fantastic!) and arranged for him to send out some dishes.

          When we first arrived, Nate invited us to sit anywhere in the main dining room or outside. I chose a seat right in front of the sushi bar so I could watch the dishes being prepared. One thing I noticed right away was that some of the artwork was dual purpose - it included signs explaining where each of the different types of fish were from and how they were sourced.

          I could've spent hours reading the menu. It's available online, and definitely worth checking out if you have the chance. It's a book with tons of information about the restaurant, the ingredients, and most dishes have a story. The stories explain why the dishes have meaning for Bun, and include some great childhood memories. 

          We started with some appetizers including pumpkin miso soup and tatsutage. The soup was made with slow roasted pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash. I loved the combination; it was light like miso but had rich flavors of pumpkin and squash. The dish was warm and comforting, but not as heavy as the pumpkin or squash soup you'd typically find in fall or winter months. It felt perfect for the season - transitioning from late summer to fall.

          The Tatsutage was a vegan fried chicken, a twist on Bun's Mother's ginger fried chicken recipe. The "chicken" was made from a soybean, amaranth, and pea based alternative. It looked and tasted just like chicken, and I was amazed that the texture was just right. If I didn't know this was vegan, I would've thought it was real chicken. It was marinated in spicy ginger and roasted sesame sake, and then fried. It came served with a very spicy sauce which the fiance loved, but I preferred to dip it in Miya's soy sauce.

          We moved on to the sushi, and asked for Nate's recommendations. He suggested a good mix of vegetarian rolls, dishes featuring insects, and unusual fish and ingredients. We ordered everything he suggested, and I wouldn't have wanted to try a place like Miya's any other way.

           Kiss the smiling piggie: Sweet potato roll with mango chutney, pine nut. This roll felt the most traditional of everything we ordered, but was still a twist on the classic sweet potato roll. The mango chutney and pine nuts were a delicious addition and made all the sweet potato rolls I've eaten in the past feel boring in comparison.

           Voompa: Spicy crunchy eggplant, your choice of goat cheese or smoked jalepeño cashew cheese, avocado, seasoned with home grown chilis and Iranian ghormeh sabze. We ordered this with the jalepeno cashew cheese, which was delicious with the avocado. If I had food like this and the "chicken" above available to me on a regular basis, I actually might be able to eat vegan (at least most of the time).

           Crickleberry Brie roll: Fried Crickets, nectarines, and brie cheese. This was the first time I've ever tried crickets (or any insect), and Nate explained why crickets are so much more sustainable as a protein source than beef or other meats. It takes roughly one gallon of water to produce a pound of crickets, while it takes close to two thousand gallons to produce a pound of beef. Between the brie and nectarine, the cricket was hardly noticeable, it just added a bit of crunch.

           Roll of a lifetime: Baked arctic char skin with asparagus. This roll was one of my favorites, and I loved the texture of the baked skin (it was crisp and seemed like it could've been fried).

           Jelly fish and Pickled Smelt Nigiri: The jellyfish had a very unusual texture and was unlike anything I've tried. It was almost gelatinous, but not quite as smooth. My favorite of these two was the smelt which is pickled in house.

           Nine Spice Tilapia: Thinly sliced tilapia sashimi seasoned with spicy citrus tamari sauce and green onions. Served with roasted black soldier fly larvae, roasted wax worm, or plain without insects. We tried this with the larvae, which is slow baked so it doesn't lose protein in the cooking process but still has crunchy texture. Honestly it was hard for me to get over how the larvae looked, but I tried it and they really just added a crunchy texture and contrast to the tilapia. The citrus sauce and nine spice flavors were delicious, as was the tilapia sashimi which I've never had before.

          The Ménage a tois of onigiri included a trio smoked wild coho salmon (Alaskan), salmon caviar (Alaskan) and mugwort (yes, like Harry Potter!). Onigiri is the how sushi was made thousands of years ago, using ingredients nearby and molded by hand into easy to eat whole grain rice balls. Mugwort (hand foraged by Bun), is a medicinal and invasive herb. Mugwort is believed by indigenous people worldwide to inspire dreams and visions and contains exponentially more nutrients and phytochemicals than any cultivated plant. I really enjoyed all three of these; the Mugwort was most interesting and had an herbaceous flavor.  It was also just fun to try a new style of sushi I'd never heard of!

          California Royale: Maryland blue crab meat and sliced avocado, drizzled with curry sauce. Both the lump crab and curry sauce were amazing (I've never been a fan if imitation crab meat). Nate told us there are other dishes that use the curry sauce, and I intend to try all of them next time I come in!

          Mishima Sonata: Cashew butter, Alaskan shrimp, banana, avocado, honey, goat cheese, and hot peppers, tempura fried in a whole grain roll. When we asked about this roll Nate told us the combination of banana, honey, and goat cheese made it more like dessert, so we decided to save it for last. The shrimp and avocado added a savory component to what would have otherwise been a very sweet dish. It was a nice contrast and all of the flavors worked well together.

          The meal at  Miya's was outstanding all around, and I would make the trip to New Haven just to eat here again. I really enjoyed trying Bun's creations and all of the unusual ingredients. I can't wait to try it again and see what new dishes he's come up with!

Up Next Week: All About Halibut including where and how it can be sourced sustainably and a recipe!

What do you want to read about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

  Miya's Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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