Midorikawa's small surprises

By Dong Fangyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-14 08:11:52

Midorikawa's small surprises

The dining environment of Midorikawa.[Photos by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

A tiny restaurant is a big hit with fans of Japanese fare, Dong Fangyu reports.

Perched in a quiet compound near the Workers' Stadium, it is easy to miss Midorikawa unless you are deliberately looking for it. But this tiny Japanese restaurant captures every nuance of the art of sushi making and is a top destination for Beijing foodies. Some say it is one of the few genuine Japanese restaurants in Beijing while others hesitate to recommend it for fear that it will become too crowded and prompt higher prices.

The restaurant is named after its master chef Midorikawa Yoshiteru. It is thanks to the 61-year-old from Tokyo with 40 years' experience in sushi making, that the restaurant has managed to build such an enviable reputation.

The decor is nothing special - there are only a handful of tables, a sushi counter with seven seats and muted saffron-yellow lighting - but Midorikawa offers an intimate escape from the outside world. Everything seems to slow down: chefs prepare sushi with precision, and diners feel enveloped in the soft, quiet ambiance, slowly savoring the gastronomic journey.

During our lunch only the occasional solo diner took a seat at the sushi bar, all seemed to be regular patrons familiar with the chefs. Some spoke in Japanese with Chef Midorikawa and one diner commented in Chinese, "Every time I'm on a business trip in Beijing, I come here. Today I went to the old Midorikawa, only to find that you had relocated, so I found my way here."

Originally in an alley in Sanlitun, Midorikawa recently relocated, and many loyal customers followed.

There are a wide variety of a la carte dishes. We opted for the set lunch menu - 300 yuan per person including appetizer, sashimi, sushi, soup, boiled dish, grilled dish, fried fish, and dessert. It's a comprehensive package, but since all are small plates, the portion is suitable for one person dining while trying the different varieties.

My dining companion and I admit that we are not huge fans of Japanese food, especially sashimi. We simply couldn't tell the difference between many of Beijing's fancy Japanese restaurants - all seem to be good - that was until we discovered Midorikawa.

An assortment of sashimi including yellow tail collars, fatty tuna, and sea bream all create a melt-in-the-mouth flavor with a little aroma. Though the colors were different in different fish varieties, they were all bright colors.

Assorted nigiri sushi including flatfish, beef, sweet prawn, salmon, and tuna ones was also excellent. The temperature, thickness, and the taste were perfect.

Wasabi was grated on the spot and dabbed onto the thinly cut meat before being pressed onto the rice. Freshly made wasabi is milder than the ubiquitous mustard with food coloring, and enhances the flavor.

We loved the sea urchin sushi most. Light, sweet, and with a little briny flavor - the instant it hits your tastes buds you will be reminded of the pure, deep ocean.

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