Mikata features plenty of sizzle with less flash
New Hampshire Union Leader | February 15. 2012 9:11AM
Our Gourmet: The usual crowd at Japanese teppanyaki tables — where patrons surround a grill table and watch as their food is prepared — are often steep in their drinks and cheering as chefs chop food and stir-fry with a flourish. Not so at Mikata on a recent night, where chefs just did their job and diners took part in a good meal. Hibachi grill chefs elsewhere encourage boisterous reactions (and larger tips) from their dinner guests, but not here. Except for a small birthday party for a young patron a few grills away, the scene was quietly classy and focused on food. We liked that. 9/10
TDC: Comfortable, clean and spacious are the watchwords at Mikata, where diners can join other guests around the grill, or choose a seat at the 10-chair sushi bar, or relax in a private booth in the sushi-bar room, away from the cocktail lounge and the majority of the teppanyaki tables. We chose a booth and enjoyed the calm of a private dinner, subtly lit under slotted rice-paper lantern lights and richly decorated in a maroon motif and light bamboo window coverings. Booths are well-spaced, adding to the privacy, and far enough from the grills for easy conversation. 8/10
OG: There is a wide range of choices of beef, poultry, seafood and various combinations for meals offered grill-side, and they are also available from the kitchen for those who choose a booth, table or the bar. Twenty-seven different dinner selections ranging from $14.95 to $39.95 are accompanied by soup, salad, rice, vegetables, a shrimp appetizer and dessert. That, in addition to a lengthy sushi and sashimi menu (as a dinner order or al a carte) along with a very fine appetizer menu, makes deciding what to order nearly impossible. 9/10
TDC: I found it difficult to decide on what to order, owing simply to a much-stimulated appetite and a vast menu. A Spicy Tuna Salad appetizer ($12.95) caught my eye, along with Deep-Fried Soft Shell Crab Tempura appetizer ($9.95), Seafood Miso Soup ($8.95) and an overwhelming-sounding filet mignon, lobster, shrimp and chicken dinner (it is the King Dinner on the menu, $39.95). Specialty desserts Green Tea ice cream and Tempura ice cream also sounded interesting, as did all the various maki and hand rolled sushi and shashimi. As good as all of that sounded, I had a terrific dinner — and ordered none of the above. 9/10
OG: The soft-shell crab on the appetizer menu was a delicious starter, and a bargain. At $9.95, one expects just the crab, but this order was accompanied by several pieces of vegetable tempura along with the crab, which was generous, fresh and lightly battered, deep-fried perfectly to light crispy. Very tasty, with a nice ginger/scallion sauce on the side. 9/10
TDC: Gyoza ($5.95) was one of the smaller appetizers on the menu and it suited my outlook just fine. I was preparing for a delightful meal, and did not want to fill up on preliminaries. Fried beef dumplings at Japanese steakhouses are so much more delicate and tasty than their Chinese counterparts — well worth ordering if only to learn the difference. Eight pieces was plenty to share, too. 7/10
OG: After the tempura crab, a nice bowl of Miso soup and a small salad, I went full Japanese with a large plate of sushi for dinner. The combination California & Tekka Maki dinner special ($18.95) brings 24 nicely arranged bite-sized portions of sushi, six of the rice-around California combination of cucumber, avocado and salmon with fish roe sprinkled on top; and the stylish seaweed-wrapped rice and mahi tuna Tekka Roll. Happily, OG's eyes were larger than his appetite, and eight pieces remained to make a great lunch the next day. Fresh, delicate, nicely presented and delicious! 8/10
TDC: The Ninja ($24.95) chef-suggestion dinner was all as advertised and more, as well it should be for the price. A combination of chicken, shrimp and scallops was stir-fried in a light brown Japanese sauce with bean sprouts, sliced white onions, pineapple, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. A true feast.
Accompanied by a fine small bowl of hibachi-fried rice, lightly seasoned and lightly fried, it's a highly recommended Mikata dinner. 9/10
All the rest 18/20
OG: While the chefs at the half-dozen or so smartly-appointed teppanyaki grills were quiet and businesslike, our server, Wei (Steven), while also quiet, attended us with an unabashed flair for his profession. Each serving was delivered with a reserved, stylish flourish, and an obvious affection for making guests feel at home, comfortable and well-served.
He was suave and smooth, commanded no attention, and impressed us with what appeared to be the Mikata company's quest for the quality restaurant experience, start to finish. Excellent, friendly, unobtrusive service. 10/10
TDC: Some of the dinners are a bit pricey at Mikata, but the quality of the food, the setting and the service measure up to the price. It's a very nice spot for a leisurely lunch among friends, or a well-appointed business lunch, and a fine destination for a family birthday or other special occasion. The large menu of exotic martinis and specialty cocktails could liven up any dinner outing.