Miyagi, 77 Bold Street, Liverpool
Before the contemporary East-meets-West décor had a chance to make a first impression, the beaming smile of our waitress, Rebecca, stole in there and set the tone. Happy and helpful throughout the evening, she showed us to one of the handful of open booths that line the side of the restaurant. Here, we ordered a potent pair of cocktails, and took in the Eurasian fusion of old and new in the exposed brick, opulent jade-and-gold painted ceilings, Parisian café furniture, and modern oriental art. It’s a crossover of cultures that sits in harmony with the building, up at the increasingly foody top end of Bold Street.
As the drinks arrived, we were treated to more of the style and substance that runs through Miyagi. The Smoked Plum Old Fashioned comes bottled, entombed in a crushed-ice casket, and ready to be poured over a frozen ball that could stop the gobbiest of gobs. And to match the spectacle, a real punch of oaky, smoky syrup, fresh from Madison Avenue via Mount Fuji. Maybe. The Miygoni is a fresh and zesty hit of an apéritif, and the perfect primer for the pick ‘n’ mix that follows.
On trend, the dishes arrive as and when they’re ready, and soon enough a beautifully-plated picnic filled our table. Staple starter, Tempura Tiger Prawns are huge, juicy morsels, generously encased in a crisp crunch that sings of seaside, while the Mixed Yakitori trio of skewers shows off charred chunks of teriyaki beef, glazed chicken, and minted lamb, a scattering of sesame and soy allowing the meats to speak for themselves. And speak they do: fluent Japanese with a slight Scouse twang.
The Fried Crispy Duck Gyoza are a delightful way to dine on Daffy or Donald: pockets of superbly seasoned shredded duck – all the better for their buttery bite – really fly after a dip in the accompanying pool of hoi sin, with its treacled burst of star anise.
Bao Buns with Robata Grilled Beef make for a decadent alternative to a burger: the meltingly rare fillet is a treat when sandwiched into the glutinous steamed rolls, along with the light, ginger-dressed salad and the homely heat of wasabi and nori sauce. These can really take a bao.
Sides of al dente Asian Greens and mixed Samurai Fries are elevated by spice, seeds and a Kimchi Mayo that cracks quite a fire. Meanwhile, the suitably-sized wine list will give pleasure to the pickiest palates – we wet our whistles with white: a very reasonable French Sauvignon that balanced and cleansed with mineral and gooseberry chords.
With the menu offering a dictionary of delights, we were disappointed to fill up, missing out on amongst others, Ramen, Laksa, Suckling Belly Pork, and Grilled Seabass. Options are alluring enough to merit several return visits: judging on the plates we sampled, it would be difficult to go wrong. Room, though, is always reserved in this belly for something sweet, and the occupant was delivered in the form of Passionfruit and Mango Brûlée, a coffee cup teeming with textures: shards of sugar against a custard both rich and tropically zinging, complimented by the savoury crumble of a dainty green tea biscuit. Clever, tasty, respectful: it can visit again any time.
To walk off the feast, we tackled the stairs and had a nosey around the first floor, where neon strips and anime prints deliver a karate chop that might floor Mr Miyagi himself. Here, diners are transported to 21st century Tokyo through adventurous design, fizzing with dynamism and inviting revelry. It’s a surprise indicative of the Miyagi experience: bold – often brilliant – bullet points punctuating pages of well-preserved poems.