I’ve been told that the owner of Salt Lake City’s and Park City’s Mikado restaurants thinks I have it in for him, because in the past I’ve written less than entirely favorable reviews of his restaurants. Well, the truth is that I don’t know Mikado’s owner and have absolutely zero reason to wish him ill. I’ve had very enjoyable meals at Mikado, and others that were less so. With Mikado or anywhere else, I just try to report my dining experiences fairly and accurately and let the chips fall where they may.
But armed with the knowledge that at least one person at Mikado thinks I’m biased, I’ve visited the new Mikado restaurant in Cottonwood on four different occasions—each time hoping I’d be able to file an unabashedly upbeat review. And as with the downtown Salt Lake City Mikado restaurant and the one in Park City, I found varying degrees of satisfaction at the east side Old Mill Village Mikado.
For starters, the Cottonwood Mikado is a gorgeous restaurant. Along with the recent renovation of the long-lived downtown location, the money spent on building this new Mikado restaurant must have been substantial. The collection of flat panel TV screens that line the sushi bar alone would put most restaurateurs in the poorhouse. I’ve long thought that the Mikado restaurants are the most attractive Japanese restaurants in the state, and this new Mikado—Mikado Mach III—certainly does nothing to alter that opinion. Warm and vivid mustard and rust colors dominate the walls while the sushi bar is made of gorgeous green granite that looks like river stones. A stone floor and artful contemporary lighting create a cool, soothing effect. And speaking of cool and soothing, Mikado also has misters out on the patio to help with the heat in hot weather. Visually, it would be hard to improve on this new Mikado.
The menu doesn’t differ much from the other Mikado locations: There is an extensive list of sushi and sashimi, specialty hand rolls (“maki”), “otsumami” appetizers known as “Japanese Tapas,” and a selection of hot dishes like beef tenderloin teriyaki, vegetable tempura, and steaming bowls of “udon” Japanese noodle soup. Prices are a bit steep, but someone’s got to pay for that scintillating dÃ©cor.
During my visits to Mikado, almost everything I’ve eaten was delicious. My only gripe about the food is that the “udon” soup I ordered was too veggie-heavy, without enough noodles. And on my last foray to Mikado during the lunch hour, I was served a spicy hamachi roll made with hot rice. This is the second time I’ve run into this problem at a Salt Lake sushi bar at lunchtime. Traditionally, the rice used for sushi rolls in Japanese restaurants is cooked and then spread out on a large wooden surface and fanned by hand to cool the rice down. It’s also treated with vinegar. And that’s the way it’s handled at Mikado too. But it would seem that the rice is sometimes cooked too close to lunchtime and so if you happen to order sushi just after the doors open at 11:30 a.m., you might find that you’ll be served sushi rolls or nigiri made with hot rice—not a pleasant or acceptable situation but one that’s easily remedied. Perhaps the rice cooks should just report to work 15 minutes earlier.
But generally speaking, the sushi and sashimi is artfully constructed using the freshest ingredients by talented sushi chefs like Sunny and Brad. I’m especially fond of the spicy hamachi roll ($6.25), made with fresh yellowtail, cucumber, scallions, tiny radish sprouts and Mikado’s yummy mayo-based spicy sauce. I also like the Ã la carte sushi selection at Mikado and count sea urchin (“uni”), surf clam (“hokkigai”) and horse mackerel (“saba”) among my favorites. Prices for Mikado’s sushi and sashimi run from $5.50 for an order of tuna (“maguro”) to a whopping $55.95 for a large sushi/sashimi platter with 15 pieces of sashimi, 10 nigiri and two hand rolls.
Unfortunately as I’ve experienced at the other Mikado restaurants, service at the Old Mill Village Mikado can be hit and miss. I’ve had about a 50 percent success rate thus far. On my first visit to Mikado, the service and food was flawless. But on my second, my server forgot the tuna roll I’d ordered. After waiting about 15 minutes, I reminded her and the tuna arrived five minutes later. But on that same lunchtime visit, we were served salmon teriyaki when we’d ordered chicken, and a bowl of “ebi” (shrimp) tempura udon took 55 minutes to reach our table. The explanation from our server was that the regular cook was off that day. She offered us free dessert as recompense; we declined her offer, having already spent well over an hour on lunch at Mikado.
Visit No. 3 to Mikado was again flawless, but, on my fourth, I was served the hot sushi roll described above and the guy next to me at the sushi bar was served salmon teriyaki when he’d ordered shrimp tempura. All in all, that’s a pretty dismal success rate. But again, there’s an easy solution: Why don’t the servers at Mikado write down their orders? I know it’s hip and cool these days for servers in restaurants not to carry pen or paper. But if you can’t remember the difference between shrimp and salmon during the time it takes to walk to the kitchen, maybe jotting down customer’s orders wouldn’t be a bad notion.
MIKADO, 6572 S. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, 947-9800, Open for lunch weekdays; Dinner nightly