Mikado Thai Pepper: An Eden for the Undecisive
This week food writer Clara Park reviews Mikado Thai Pepper in Ardmore.
As you might expect, Thai Pepper and Mikado used to be separate restaurants, featuring Thai and Japanese cuisine, respectively. I went to Thai Pepper when I was in high school and remember a bustling restaurant with patrons getting their pad thai fix and munching on satay. I never dined at Mikado but heard good things about it.
While it may seem odd to combine a Thai and Japanese restaurant, it's not the first time I've encountered this. I reviewed a Thai-sushi restaurant in Marple Newtown a few months back which changed ownership shortly after the review was published. (It is now a stand-alone Japanese place.)
Similarly, the executive chef at Mikad0 Thai Pepper is a talented Japanese man named Takao Iinuma, who is also the boss chef of Azie. I had the opportunity to interview him and was amazed at his dedication, work ethic and professionalism.
When I ordered my dinner from Mikado Thai Pepper, I had a hankering for sushi and ordered a spicy tuna roll, super dragon roll, sashimi regular (not deluxe) with an uni sushi add-on and avocado salad. The spicy tuna roll featured deep, ruby red, grapefruit-colored bits of tuna dressed with spicy mayo, nestled in sushi rice, wrapped in nori and wrapped with a final layer of sushi rice and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. It was a great rendition of a traditional favorite.
The super dragon roll had actual king crab (none of the fluorescent imitation crab meat sticks here), avocado, cucumber, eel slices and crunchy tempura bits. The whole concoction was wrapped in nori and brushed with the sweet and savory eel glaze. It was so very good.
The sashimi regular is an eight-piece plate, and that night it was two pieces each of tuna, salmon, red snapper and fluke. The plate came with ultrathin threads of daikon, fresh shiso leaf and plenty of pickled ginger (it was beige and not bright pink—the mark of inferior, cheaper pickled ginger). The fish was firm, fresh and refreshing. Sushi and sashimi should be all these things, and never smell fishy or feel mushy. Both are signs the fish has turned.
I added an order of uni (sea urchin) sushi which was briney and delicious. Good uni should taste like the ocean and be an earthy orange. It is not for everyone, but for fans, it is one of life's pleasures. The sushi/sashimi list also has delicacies like toro (fatty tuna), hokkigai (surf clam) and botan ebi (sweet shrimp). These items are not common, and are a testament to the quality of product here.
The avocado salad was excellent, the greens fresh and crisp and the avocado perfectly ripe. The thin carrot strings, cucumber and grape tomatoes were a step up from the typical cole slaw carrot and unripe beefsteak tomato quarters you see at many other Japanese restaurants. The ginger dressing was more like a traditional French vinaigrette—thinner and with more oil than the more common thick and chunky ginger dressings you'll find. Mikado Thai Pepper's was more savory and had a more unctuous mouth feel, but both types of ginger dressing are tasty.
The service was professional and friendly, my order was waiting for me when I arrived and the to-go bag had packets of low-sodium soy sauce, chopsticks and napkins. The interior of the restaurant is clean and the sushi bar is well lit, catching your eye as soon as you enter the space. I was impressed with the food here, and will be sure to come back again. Next time I may even try some of the Thai offerings, but rest assured, I will still order off the sushi menu. It's too good to pass up.
I guess that's one of the other great things about this place. You don't have to choose. You can have it all.