If Japanese food is your guilty pleasure, you‘re easily living in the right place. Davis, despite its distance from any kind of large body of water, has a plethora of Japanese restaurants from buffets to traditional style. However, if you‘re looking for an out of the ordinary Japanese experience, you might want to give Mikuni a try.
Located in the Davis Commons on First Street next to Pluto‘s, Mikuni offers a new take on Japanese food, bringing a cosmopolitan feel that changed the way I thought about Japanese restaurants.
My friend and I went on a Thursday night, and at 5 it was not packed at all.
Out of all my friends, the friend I brought is easily the premier Japanese expert considering the amount of Asian food she consumes.
As you enter Mikuni, you are welcomed by the entire waiting and cooking staff yelling some phrase in Japanese, which I assumed was inviting. They did this with every customer, and despite the numerous times I heard them yell (which got old fast considering the restaurant is quite small) and even asking what it meant, I still could not understand what they said.
The restaurant itself is decorated with a more modern style than any Japanese restaurant that I have been to.
Television sets tuned to various sports channels adorned the walls while the opposite wall had traditional Japanese paintings. Despite the size of the restaurant, there were many tables inside and outside, allowing Mikuni to accommodate many customers. With all the commotion from the TVs, music and people, I found it difficult to carry out a conversation.
Unlike other Japanese restaurants, Mikuni has a fully stocked bar. Although neither of us are 21 just yet, it seemed like eight dollars for a specialty drink was a little steep for the average college students. Beers were moderately priced at about four dollars, depending on type.
However, Mikuni does not stray from traditional style in regards to the sushi bar. With only a few seats, patrons can sit and watch their rolls from beginning to creation.
My friend often does not stray from her usual Japanese cuisine; however, she soon realized that Davis Mikuni‘s does not offer Bento boxes. For those of you who are not Japanese savvy, Bento boxes are complete meals the offer a main entrée and two sides.
Disappointed, she instead ordered the Teriyaki salmon for $16 and had to order a side of vegetable tempura, miso soup and white rice for an additional $10, making just her meal a whopping $26. Other Japanese restaurants in Davis provide these side dishes and it is included in the price, and my friend and I agreed that this would be strike one.
I ordered the Japanese Mafia roll, which at $14 was a little over my budget but I figured I would splurge a little bit. Most rolls were between $10 and $12, and Mikuni does provide a wide variety of different rolls.
The Japanese Mafia Roll was a California roll with shrimp, avocado, cream cheese and salmon, covered in two special sauces. For $14, I had pretty high expectations. Mikuni also provides other rolls that are as comically named as they are delicious such as the Marilyn Monroll and the Puff Daddy.
The tempura and miso soup arrived first. For $8, you received eight pieces of tempura with a variety of vegetables, one of each kind offered. The miso soup had an authentic Japanese taste but paled in comparison to other Davis establishments.
My roll arrived next and I waited until my friend received her dinner before eating. It took another seven minutes or so before her salmon arrived and we dug in.
I have to admit that my roll was one of the better rolls I have had in Davis. It was a mix of traditional flavor with an interesting new twist. I have yet to put my finger on what exactly that twist was, but as you can tell, it still lingers on my taste buds.
My friend, however, was not as pleased as I was. Although the portion was fairly large, she said her salmon tasted less like teriyaki and more like fish, which is never a good thing, unless you like that fishiness. She complained it was a little dry and she ate with a little dissatisfaction. I took a bite of her meal as well, and was not impressed either.
When the check arrived (for an incredible $42 without tip), my friend and I deliberated about our experience. We both agreed that as an undergraduate student on a strict budget, Mikuni is probably not the best choice for Japanese food. We also decided that if you are looking for the traditional style Japanese food that most of us all love, Mikuni is again probably not the restaurant for you.
That said, Mikuni does provide a unique take on Japanese cuisine and dining experience. They boast an impressive full bar, and a wide variety of crazy sushi rolls that would take on any courageous adventurer. If you are looking for a night on the town and are willing to spend the money, Mikuni is the place to be.
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at email@example.com.