100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 92, Chirashi Lunch at Sushi Miyagi

Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

This is not a deal you can easily find inside the Loop. But you won't find Miyagi inside the Loop either.

Not the Miyagi of Karate Kid fame, of course. We're talking about an even more badass Mr. Miyagi: The sushi chef and owner of Sushi Miyagi in Chinatown, a nondescript Japanese restaurant with some of the best sashimi in town.

Sushi Miyagi opened nearly seven years ago, and since then, it's slowly been developing an ardent following thanks to the care and precision with which Miyagi and his wife, the restaurant's only employee, prepare and serve Japanese cuisine. And with 11 lunch specials to choose from--the best of which is only $12--the value can't be beat.

The chirashi lunch at Sushi Miyagi offers a little bit of several different varieties of raw seafood. The word chirashi literally means scattered, so a chirashi bowl is filled with whatever sashimi the chef wants to put in it. At Sushi Miyagi, though, you can rest assured it will all be top quality and delicious.

As Katharine Shilcutt wrote in her review of Sushi Miyagi back in 2010, it's difficult to do justice to the beautiful raw seafood with mere words. How do you describe perfectly cut raw fish?

Each species, of course, has a slightly different flavor. The tuna is substantial and closest in nature to tender beef carpaccio, though without any sear on the outside. The salmon is briny and buttery with a slight minerality. Mackerel is oily and tastes like the ocean.

A chirashi bowl contains fresh, cool (but not cold) slices of these fish, as well as several other varieties, depending upon what Miyagi has just gotten in from local fish merchants and his Dallas distributor who imports directly from Japan. It also contains bitter, slightly fuzzy shiso leaves, a traditional garnish in Japan, but one that is usually replicated here in the United States at lesser sushi restaurants with that garish green plastic crap.

Miyagi takes pride in his food, though. Only the best will do. And that chirashi bowl, brimming with bright, fresh fruit of the ocean, is definitely the best.

The list so far: No. 93, Finocchiona Sandwich at Siphon Coffee No. 94, Combo Catracho at Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant No. 95, Tamal de Puerco at Andes Cafe No. 96, Cheeseburger at Sparkle's Hamburger Spot No. 97, Mi Quang at Simply Pho No. 98, Helado de Lúcuma at Pollo Bravo No. 99, Fat Fries at Fat Bao No. 100, Fish Bánh Mì at La Baguette

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Kaitlin Steinberg