From left: The Green Monster; The Drunken General’s Chicken//Photo byJavyDiaz
The Firecracker Roll is a favorite of longtime regulars//Photo byJavyDiaz
The sauce may have seemed, on the face of things, an odd accompaniment for a roll of salmon and avocado. But part of what the best sushi chefs do is surprise us. That kind of creativity made Mikis a hit right out of the chute. The way diners raved about its Hairy Mexican roll in the old days—no matter how we may have cringed when speaking the name—you might have thought the sushi world had been turned upside down.
Some now lament what they perceive as a “corporate” approach to food that stifles such creativity, but the Big Fish group continues favorites such as the Firecracker and the Hairy Mexican. So I suggest another way to look at the change: Big Fish has given Mikis a long-overdue kick in the rear.
Having opened more than a dozen popular restaurants over the past 20 years, the group clearly knows what it is doing. Across the Big Fish portfolio, the food may not be astoundingly creative, but it is creative enough to keep patrons intrigued. It is priced fairly. It is consistently well executed, and it is served in fun, lively places. That is true at Mikimotos, as it is at Washington Street Ale House next door and Stingray in Rehoboth. Big Fish acquired all three from the Cherry Tree Group, and it has been updating them ever since.
At Mikis, update means renovation. New graphics on one wall have replaced quirky anime art as a way to reflect the Big Fish brand, but they’re pretty sharp nonetheless. Grass coverings on other walls do more to create a contemporary Asian vibe than the anime prints ever did. New tables and chairs, shiny new white plates, new pendant lamps and other touches all show Big Fish’s desire to freshen up.
The company also imported some different culinary ideas, and it improved some of the mainstay dishes. Mikimotos’ take on General Tso’s, the Drunken General’s Chicken, is made with high-quality tenders, and the kitchen takes great care to cook the tempura right. The result is tender on the inside, crispier on the outside—an overall better dish than before, and beautifully plated. Another example: Some longtimers may miss the bacon that once wrapped the twin filets mignon with mushrooms and onions, but beef lovers will appreciate the better cut and larger new filets.
The menu is loaded with dishes such as grilled Mongolian barbecue lamb chops, miso-glazed sea bass, a handful of rice and noodle dishes such as Pad Thai, and a sinfully fun pile of Loaded Asian Street Fries with duck confit, a dice of avocado and a drizzle of zingy garlic sauce. But sushi is still the big draw. Big Fish may have brought on a new sushi chef—a huge change to those who don’t adapt well—but that hasn’t changed anything drastically. The signature rolls remain as good as ever.
Loaded fries with duckconfitand avocado//Photo byJavyDiaz
There were minor missteps, as there would have been anywhere, and some items could use a bit of tweaking. Our steamed chicken-mushroom dumplings were delicious but gummy, and there was nothing distinctive about the dipping sauce. We also found it impossible to prevent the roe—the crowning touch of the salmon carpaccio appetizer—from rolling off the fish. But all was forgiven when a fat Green Monster—tempura soft-shell crab rolled with crawfish salad topped with slices of avocado and wasabi mayo—arrived. And to heap gluttony on top of gluttony—the antithesis of the sushi experience—we did ourselves in with a roll of eel and cucumber, because it was just that irresistible.
So in this case, if you’ve never visited, or haven’t visited in a while and you’re wondering whether or not reading the online reviews is worth your time, it’s not. Judge for yourself. Mikimotos remains, essentially, what Mikimotos has always been. Some may complain about change, but without Big Fish’s intervention far worse changes could have happened. The city could have lost its premier sushi place, and plenty of us sushi lovers would have been out of luck.
Steamed dumplings stuffed with chicken and mushrooms//Photo byJavyDiaz
MikimotosAsian Grill and Sushi Bar
1212 Washington St., Wilmington
Prices: Appetizers,$8–$16;entrées,$12–$38;sushi,$8–$18; sashimi: $4–$11
Recommended: The Drunken General’sChicken, The Green Monster Roll, The Firecracker Roll