Aside from being the name of the restaurant which serves Okinawan cuisine, Mimigar (1 Nanson Road, #01-08 Gallery Hotel, tel:6235 1511) also refers to pig's ears which happens to be one of the specialty of the restaurant. Okinawan cuisine as I have learnt lately appears to share similarity in style or influence to Chinese/Taiwanese food. There seems quite a bit of stir frying involved in the dishes. Pork apparently is widely used and considered to be an important ingredient. Interestingly, seafood seemed to be much less visible then in other Japanese restaurants. More interestingly, Okinawan cuisine also features a taco rice which is something that is identifiable as Mexican and also probably as most would guess what it might be. Tomato salsa, melted cheese and shredded lettuce over rice. The ones here comes in the regular variety and also a chef's special which includes curry.
The pleasant ambience of this place, along with it's location seems to suggest that the restaurant would be rather pricey, but that is apparently far from the case. That being said, the bill does add up since the portions here works pretty much like Chinese food and comes in small portioned dishes. Also not to neglect the mentioning of the fact that this place charges for their otoshi which consists of some simmered vegetable, pickled vegetables and a fried potato ball without any indication of so by the serving staff nor the menu. Considering that most of the dishes are priced less than the otoshi itself, I thought it was quite expensive at $10 per person.
The mimigar is something that would probably be of an acquired taste. The dish is essentially the skin from the pig's ears along with cartilage. So as you can imagine, the texture of the dish is both chewy and crunchy and thinking of pig's ears as you eat them probably doesn't really help you enjoy it much if you're having them for the first time like I am. Apart from the texture, there is very little to be said of the taste beyond the creamy peanut paste which coats the shredded pig ear skins. I would say that as interesting as it might be (it doesn't taste too bad), I'm probably in no hurry to order these again.
The umi budou are also known as sea grapes. I hadn't the faintest idea what sea grapes where until the lady chef explained that they looked and tasted like tobiko in texture, but was actually a sea based plant lifeform. As you can see from the picture, these pretty looking jade colored tiny globules that come in long bunches do appear very much like flying fish roe. The taste is however akin to a very, and I mean very, mild flavored seaweed. Texture wise, it comes across like roe with the same burst in your mouth effect. They were served with a dish of ponzu which really makes them very appetizing.
I'm quite impressed with the rafute which is basically very tender simmered pork belly. These are served hot with a sweetish sauce and fat that disintegrates in your mouth. The great thing about the pork belly is that it stayed soft even after the dish got cold and tasted still as good. I'll be sure to get more of these if I come back to this place.
The rayu-ae is actually an appetizer, the first of it's kind I've had and I must say that I enjoyed it a lot. There's cubes of maguro, cream cheese, shredded leek and all of that tossed in what is described on the menu as Ishigaki Island special chilli oil that is surprisingly very fragrant stuff. What impressed me about this dish is that the curry-like chilli oil blended really harmoniously in terms of flavor with the tuna and cream cheese, creating a very mouth watering effect.
There's the hirayahcis are some sort of Japanese pancakes. The curry and cheese flavor didn't quite turn out the way I imagined it to be as there was really little cheese in the pancake. The curry had the spice, but not the edge, but that wasn't something I wasn't prepared for in Japanese food. What I didn't expect was that the menu mentioned daikon which I could neither see or taste and a citrus based sauce which I suspect to be ponzu which also didn't arrive with the dish. Instead, there were bits of minced meat (I think it was beef) and the whole thing reminded me in a good way of murtabak. This was actually quite good and comforting to the point that I was happily downing the slices almost non-stop.
The pork innards soup is something that most of us here would be quite accustomed to in the Chinese form of the dish. The main difference of this nakam-jiru is that the taste of the soup is surprisingly, more strongly of mushroom than the other pork innards. I was tempted to ask for pepper for this one, but it's not because that it tasted bad. It's merely because this was pretty much like having the regular pork innards soup which I normally have with a healthy dose of pepper.
I was initially a little apprehensive of this dessert. The original intention was to try an Earl Grey cheesecake from the menu which wasn't available, so this was one of the other 2 or 3 options remaining which I had picked. The apprehension comes from the fact that green tea and macha based desserts are everywhere and the taste has become a diluted fad that everyone else is trying to replicate for the lack of originality on their part. Fortunately for Mimigar, this green tea mousse of theirs was retentive of the green tea fragrance instead of just the ubiquitous tea and sugar. I enjoyed this one.
On the overall, the food at Mimigar was quite unexpected in many ways, but also in pleasant manners. I like this place enough to think of returning to try more of their offerings some time in the future.see pics here