Try the Sea Cucumber

Tuna three ways, salad and sake

So I’ve been on the vegan thing for almost a month (with a few minor slip ups). But I vowed at the beginning that there were two restaurants in Portland that I would seriously cheat on. One of them is Miyake on Fore Street, the best Japanese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. The other will remain a mystery until I go there next.

Miyake used to be a little BYOB place in the West End and now it’s a posh downtown sushi bar that’s been written up in national newspapers.

Masa Miyake, the chef and owner, is a delightful man who always welcomes you with his infectious smile. Different than the other Japanese restaurants in town (there are a handful) Miyake touts the fact it uses lots of local ingredients, many from Masa’s own farm located in Freeport.

Now Masa has two restaurants in town including the sushi bar on Fore Street and a noodle house, Pai Men Miyake on State Street. I much prefer the Fore Street location, where the food is more expensive, but also more expertly prepared with more exotic ingredients and, for the most part, healthier. If you like tempura and pork belly then Pai Men is your place. Even if you don’t, you’ll still find something on the menu that’s delicious.

But back to my number one! First, try a bottle of sake. This isn’t the cheap hot stuff, this is carefully selected bottles priced from $20 plus. More expensive than wine, but a nicer compliment to the delicately sliced fish to follow. You can get both wine and beer too if you’d like.

Everything is good, but the one thing you MUST try is the Hamayaki. It’s local shellfish including Maine’s famous lobster, smothered in truffled mayo and served warm. I know…not particularly healthy. I often get it as dessert!

The last time we were there we had something new….sea cucumber. While we were there a man sat next to us at the bar and handed Masa a plastic bag with what looked like rotten cucumbers. My husband (never the shy one) asked what it was, perhaps somewhat out of fear of it ending up on his plate. Which it did by the way.

So we spent the next 10 minutes talking with Masa and his seafood supplier friend about the life of Maine’s sea cucumbers. Apparently we have some of the best in the world and sell most of ours to Japan. Who knew?

So after all that, Masa decided we had to try it. He marinated it rice wine vinegar or something similar and gave it to us sliced up. This exposes the bright orange inner flesh, hunter orange it reminded me of. And….it was tasty. Chewy like a clam but without the grit and soil like taste.

Next when my husband proclaimed that now the only thing he didn’t like was Uni (sea urchin roe), Masa made him try that too. Also pretty good. So don’t be afraid to venture away from the Maki rolls. Oh and the desserts are good too!

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Sliced Sea Cucumber at Miyake

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