It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of sushi. I’ve eaten at numerous sushi buffets spanning across a couple states and stuffed myself to the brink of hospitalization each time. I’ve made faux tuna out of watermelon and even written a narrative for a food writing class at Yale about how I grew up afraid of sushi but came to love it.
To me, sushi balances a plethora of food qualities that you normally don’t see together except at high-end restaurants. Given small, traditional portion sizes, sushi tends to err on the healthy side, but it’s not a simple amalgamation of vegetables. Sushi provides delicate pieces of raw fish and presents them in an artistic, elegant manner. The variety of flavors can vary dramatically, letting the chef’s creativity shine, but the basis remains the same: raw fish bundled with extra ingredients wrapped in rice and nori. In America, sandwiches remain the iconic lunch food, but in Japan, sushi has a firm grasp of that role.
However, as much as I love sushi and appreciate its diversity, there’s a limit to how precisely my tongue can discern flavors or textures and my mind remember them. Perhaps it’s because I mainly eat at sushi buffets and always end up consuming more rolls than I can count, but I find it hard to come out of a sushi restaurant with a firm opinion on what roll was best and why it was so good. Throughout the course of dinner—or lunch—the variety of rolls all blend into similar flavor-texture profiles. There are crunchy rolls, sweet rolls, spicy rolls, and so on. When I dine at different sushi buffets or restaurants, the same phenomenon occurs and I stereotype sushi into these standardized flavor-texture profiles. Rarely do I come across a roll and say, “Wow, this is something different.” My reactions generally follow the lines of “Wow, this tastes great, but I can’t exactly say if it’s better than the roll I had at that other place.”
Miya’s Sushi helped me escape this “monotony”—if you could call it that. At Miya’s, you can find fresh, non-traditional sushi that combines ingredients you would never have suspected go well together—let alone, in a sushi roll. The chef/owner, Bun Lai, frequently catches fish used in the restaurant himself. I know this because I follow his Tumblr blog, through which he regularly posts today’s catch in the morning. By the evening, the fish or whatever edible that was caught is probably inside the bellies of several lucky diners. Lai strives to source ingredients locally when possible and keeps up with modern food trends. The chicken used in some of his rolls are organic, and he is currently in the process of transitioning rolls into gluten-free versions. The rice used in all of Miya’s rolls is a healthy amalgamation of brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oat grains and flax seed. The complimentary miso soup oftentimes comprises of seaweed trapped a few miles from the restaurant, and the ginger, which is cut thick, includes traces of agave nectar. Miya’s, quite simply, is the healthy foodie’s mecca of sushi.
The menu spans a lengthy 20+ pages and can be made into a book. Many of the dishes, which oftentimes have bizarre names such as Romping With Goats or The Sky Is Falling, are detailed with a short back story behind its creation or other fun snippet. The Lost Tribe of Chiang Roll, for example, is said to have been created in honor of Rabbi Jim Ponet and “his incomparable wife, Elona.” The story behind each roll at Miya’s adds a sense of adventure and freshness to each bite, but when ingredients such as catfish, okra, american sharp cheddar cheese grits, spring onions, parsley, burnt chili pepper, and tomato salsa are thrown together into a singular roll, as is in the case of The Greatest Sushi South of the Mason-Dixon Line Roll, such introduction seems unnecessary.
Despite, or perhaps as a result of, its admirable goals and experimentation, Miya’s tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it phenomenon. Not everyone can stomach the brown rice, which tends to edge on the overcooked and sticky side. Not everyone can accept the taste of sweet sushi that has cheese in it, but with the level of innovation in sushi-making that occurs at Miya’s, it would be a shame not to give the place a shot or two.
Note: Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of Miya’s more daring rolls at the moment, but if you go on their website or Lai’s Tumblr, you can find pictures of some of the more interesting creations.
68 Howe St
New Haven, CT 06511