It says something about a restaurant when the presentation is so beautiful, the tuna sashimi so mild and the ambiance so pleasant that – despite your better instincts – you find yourself reaching for a piece of raw squid and actually enjoying it.
Mizu is just that kind of a place. The love of food here is so evident that you can't help but get caught up in the frenzy of this culinary culture. Mizu has always been one of the sushi places people flock to, but now there's one more reason to stop by – Mizu got a new chef.
Chef Seiji Matsumoto has been working in kitchens for more than 50 years – first in Japan and then in the United States. It took a few years of wooing, but owner Annie Zheng finally got him to come work at Mizu.
What's so special about Matsumoto? Well, for starters, Matsumoto is trained in kaiseki, a dinner eaten on special occasions using whatever food is in season at the time. The preparation for kaiseki requires a set of specific skills that few chefs in the United States know. Because of the dinner's complexity, Mizu will only serve kaiseki to groups of five or more who make reservations at least five days in advance. Mizu will also offer kaiseki on the menu occasionally so that any size group may try it.
"It's very hard to find a chef with this kind of knowledge," Zheng says. "We are very excited."
If you're just stopping in for a regular meal, Zheng suggests you order a cold appetizer, hot appetizer and some sushi. The tuna sashimi melts in your mouth and the presentation is nearly too pretty to destroy by ingesting. Another popular dish is the yakitori – or Japanese skewers – traditionally made with chicken. Zheng (who is too creative to leave it at chicken) also offers duck, pork belly, squid, scallops, mushrooms and more. Each skewer holds not just the taste of the high-quality ingredients, but also the complex and delightful taste of the charcoal grill it's cooked on. The bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes are a real stand-out. Each skewer costs between $2 and $8.
The decor of Mizu manages to perfectly strike the balance between upscale and comfortable. While the lovely design looks like a place best reserved for special dates or adult gatherings, there are several couples with kids dining in on any given day. Zheng seems to know all of her customers and is thankful to have such great "neighbors."
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Christy Bonstell