Review by Naomi Boxall
Miga is a Japanese/Korean restaurant, tucked on the side street V Tržnice next to the Pavillion in Vinohrady. Recently opened, it may suffer from a low customer count – we were the only customers for two hours at dinner. It´s a family-run restaurant, Ma out the back, Pa on front of house with the two boys – one of whom both serves and cooks. There´s a display cabinet as you walk down the steps into the gloom that has thin slices of fish laid out in individual containers. But there are smiles aplenty, and the smiles are heartfelt.
Our wits were needed to give the menu appropriate attention, diverse as it was. The usual fare was on offer: salmon, avocado, tuna, sea bream, octopus, squid, mussels and clams, shrimp, eel, mackerel and kimchee – each as nigiri sushi, maki sushi, and most as sashimi. Vegetarians are warned that even the vegetarian roll comes with (flying) fish roe, but there are noodle dishes without fish, fishpaste or meat. Shrimp, tofu, seaweed rolls and squid were offered tempura style. The ‘reserve menu´ (call ahead to order) had beef sashimi (with pear, cucumber and pinenuts) which intrigued, and might be worth a second visit.
During menu prevarications (the staff were patience personified), miso soup and picked salad were provided (both free). This miso soup was far superior to any other that I´ve ever tasted. It had taste – it had texture. Chewy kelp, crunchy spring onions and a nutty/seedy aftertaste thanks to black sesame seeds. The salad was unremarkable, save for the piquant horseradish sauce spilled through it.
The pajeon followed (described as green onion, red pepper, egg and sesame oil), and we were served a delicious, panfried to golden-brown perfection pancake stuffed with cephalopods and bivalves (squid, mussel and clams the most identifiable). Too much biology knowledge is a dangerous thing, so I tried to eat around them – but the disposable wooden chopsticks and 10” long spring onion shoots hampered my dexterity somewhat.
On the other hand, the tuna dadaggi was sensational. Sprinkled liberally with deep fried slivers of garlic and strings of spring onion, the tuna was seared about two millimetres around the edges. Cleaved from the fillet in half inch slices that soaked in a gentle ponzu sauce the only negative was the cold temperature of the fish (one was still a bit frozen). Conversely, this may indicate a low risk of stumbling across Pseudoterranova decipiens and developing anisakis complex.
Salmon sashimi and nigiri sushi came next, the sashimi so delicate and transparent, (I thought) I would save it for last. I´d ordered eel and prawn nigiri which were accompanied by two extra (free) salmon nigiri. The fish was rubbery enough to assume they´d been leftover from lunch. Similarly with the eel, it bounced in my mouth instead of breaking apart and melting. Disappointing nigiri. But, the sashimi: salmon strips that fairly adorned themselves with roe, wasabi (hot, but much brighter green than the true wasabi I´ve tasted elsewhere) and the homemade pickled ginger, rolled them up and ate themselves.
Hunger almost sated, a second pot of tea was brought us (unrequested). It had a distinct anise flavour; anise is often used to treat digestive problems. Did the staff know something about our menu choices that we didn´t?
Our final, ordered, dish was jeyuk pokkum: pork with Korean hot pepper paste, black sesame, mushrooms and rice. I´m not sure if they´ve dulled down the hot pepper paste, but it barely registered as being hot. It was, however a tasty, if fatty, indulgence – and we were saved from having to overeat by the staff preparing a doggy bag for us.
Our stretched out postures didn´t prevent the staff from bringing us some (free) fruit, ever-so-delicately carved. Three segments of different types of apple, with a flip-top-skin, and a sliver of honeydew melon so sweet, it finally lived up to its name, both served with three dots of hoi-sin sauce alongside.
We then received an additional (free) sashimi dish: sea-bream (but no more accurate taxonomy was available), accompanied by an anchovie-like fish fillet that was curled up on itself and drenched in a gentle oil of no discernible flavour. Now fit to burst, the bill was brought quickly when we requested it.
I´m not sure whether it was because we were the only people there that we had such amazing treatment. It was as though the family wanted to show us what they were capable of – and in many ways, I wish I´d just allowed them to make our menu choices for us. But if I´d missed the tuna dadaggi I´d have been disappointed.
The décor is ‘under transition´; an eclectic mix of wall hangings (Japanese theatre masks, fans, downloaded and laminated photos of sushi, and bland framed watercolours of Prague). A hook-and-chain suspended petrified tree trunk centre ceiling, evoked a pagan sensation from my date as much as it reminded me of vertebrae. Something akin to fusuma covers half of the street-level windows and old-style wood panelling accosts the walls, enclosing several booths and tables. The chairs are high chintz, and saloon doors lead to the apricot painted and scented bathrooms: which are themselves, spotlessly clean.
This is a restaurant I would like to see go far. Some of the food leaves a little to be desired, but the atmosphere, while a little bewildering, is delightfully charming in a family way. I´d come here again, and bring a date, a colleague or friends, but would be more selective with the menu and – in particular – avoid the nigiri.