The coast of Maine is one of those places where chefs from the big city decamp. Successful chefs.
Melissa Kelly gave up a bright career in NYC to open the farm-to-table restaurant Primo in Rockport. Likewise, Masa Miyake departed NYC to open a hole-in-the-wall sushi spot in Portland in 2007.
The original, tiny, Miyake restaurant recently moved and revamped; it is now larger and comfortably chic. Locals seem torn between bemoaning the loss of the old space and bursting with pride that their beloved chef is thriving and gaining in reputation.
And word is spreading fast that Masa Mikaye—who cooked alongside Daniel Boulud at the original Michelin starred Oceana in New York—is the great sushi master of New England.
I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down at the counter in front of the genial Masa Miyake for his 5 course omakase tasting menu. We talked briefly about his farm as well as his new ramen shop, Pai Men Miyake.
The first taste was white asparagus with dashi, truffle, sesame oil, and pickled daikon. It was a brilliant opening course, not overly salty. It immediately set the palate for what was to arrive next.
Second course was a sashimi plate with a memorable lobster tail that had been diced with yuzu and then returned to the shell. It was cold and perfect. There is a lot of lobster to be had in Maine, and this was my favorite presentation during my time there. While not as mannered as the version served at Le Bernardin, it was fresh and simple. I immediately wanted to attempt recreating it at home.
The next course was monkfish liver terrine, which, if memory serves, was a special that night. I ordered it in addition to the tasting menu. Buttery and divine, it had a consistency similar to foie gras.
Following this was a snapper head in a rich soy broth. While it looks a little gruesome (that’s the eyeball pictured, and to the right are some fang-like top teeth), it was a sweet and savory umami bomb. So good we almost ordered another. I popped the eyeball in my mouth— it had a slightly rubbery texture and not much flavor. The bits of flesh on the head, however, were delectable.
Next was a bowl of clams in a light broth. This might also have been off the tasting menu.
This was followed by a vertical masterpiece topped with fiddleheads. The height on this dish seemed like a throwback to early 90s NYC, but it was well composed with all the elements working together flavorwise.
Then a tiny seared quail, expertly cooked. The flesh was still pink inside and it had a nice soy glaze.
Excellent quality nigiri. After all, the ocean is mere blocks away from the restaurant.
For dessert we had goat cheese cheesecake. The milk for the cake was from the goats at Miyake’s farm; I had to try it. Topped with cherries and pickle plum, it was cooling and earthy with a vinegar-y snap. It was a nice finish to an outstanding meal.