Halifax has more sushi spots than you can shake a sheet of nori at, which makes it hard to imagine how one manages to stand out from the other. But Milamodo succeeds quite nicely, with a two-step business model: First by locating itself outside the downtown core, and then quietly going about business.
The only Halifax Japanese restaurant listed in this year’s edition of the Where to Eat in Canada guide, Milamodo deserves far more attention than it gets locally, sitting off the radar in a strip mall in Clayton Park. The interior of Milamodo is tastefully subdued, with soothing, muted shades on the wall and tables; all the better to let the intricate presentations of the food soar.
Tonight we start with edamame ($3.95), boiled soybeans. These beans are eaten by pulling one’s teeth along the tough pod to extract the tender round morsels inside. Cheap and filling, these are worth the work to get them out of the pods. Next we’re on to gyoza (5/$6.00), little dumplings with a soy dipping sauce. Like most dumplings, gyoza can be filled with assorted things; these are stuffed with spicy minced pork.
Rounding out the appetizers, we split a seafood salad ($8.95), a large bowl of crisp shredded vegetables, thinly sliced octopus, butterflied shrimp and raw salmon. A lovely rice vinegar dressing provides a tart counterpoint to the mellow tones of the raw fish.
Main courses come with a salad (again, lettuce and crisp shredded vegetables) and that Japanese staple, miso soup. Miso is fermented soybean paste, and the soup that it’s made with is an acquired taste that I’ve not managed to acquire. I always try it, and this is not as salty as some I’ve had. My dinner companion, however, is a miso soup fan and really likes Milamodo’s broth.
The beef sashimi is an Asian take on beef carpaccio; paper thin slices of raw striploin that have been seared on the outside, which comes arranged on a plate with ponzu sauce. Ponzu is a versatile dipping sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar and lemon juice among other ingredients; its sharp, acidic taste is an excellent foil for the beef.
Although Milamodo has more on the menu than sushi, and everything we’ve tried is quite fabulous, it’s the sushi that we are here for and sushi chef Stephen Tao Ling does not disappoint. We’ve ordered an assortment of maki, nigiri and sashimi (all can be bought either as a platter or by the piece and the prices are comparable to other Halisushi joints). This is where Tao Ling shines—the sushi is tightly rolled and impeccably presented, no rice falling out, nothing slapped on a plate. We sample many of Milamodo’s offerings, but the California rolls, with their avocado, carrot and cucumber stuffing, and the spicy tuna rolls are standouts for the crunchy vegetables and taste bud-tickling tuna respectively.
For dessert, we can’t bear to pass up the banana tempura. Presented like a banana split, these lightly battered slices of banana are sprinkled with icing sugar and topped with green tea and wasabi ice cream. Milamodo may be building a reputation quietly, but the food announces loud and clear that the attention it’s receiving is well deserved.
Milamodo Japanese Cuisine30 Farnham Gate Road(in the Rockingham Ridge Plaza)446-6888Monday-Wednesday lunch 11:30-2:30, dinner 4:30-9pmThursday-Friday lunch 11:30-2:30, dinner 4:30-10pmSaturday 12:00-3:00, dinner 4:30-10pmSunday closed
Find Liz Feltham online at: www.foodcritic.ca