Friday, August 10, 2007

Revisiting Old Haunts in Riverside: Miyako

Today found me in Riverside, running some errands (yes, errands on my vacation - does that not suck or what). After that, I took myself over to the Canyon Crest Town Center near the University of California, Riverside. The Town Center was just up the street from me when I lived in Riverside. It’s one of those places that always has lots of businesses opening and closing, including a budget cinema-cum-storefront church. I also remember a little Italian deli that, overnight, as if by magic, turned into a water and ice cream store (buying large jugs of water is popular out here – if you’ve ever tasted the tap water, you’d taste why).

A few businesses have lingered for a very long time. Four of my favorites have endured for at least a decade. One favorite Chinese-Thai place, the Little Emperor, is closed for remodeling, but I remember a good lunch buffet and a very hot squid dish that had me sweating one night. I took my parents to another fave one time they visited me, Romano’s Italian Restaurant. It’s a lovely place (it's not the Brass Elephant, but I still say it's charming) with decent Italian food. A third is a favorite local chain, Papi’s Tacos al Carbón. Their burritos and tacos are simple, flavorful and (if you want ‘em that way) hot. I never got to try their huevos rancheros, but I’m sure it’s good.

Little Emperor, Romano’s and Papi’s were all there when I first moved to SoCal, ten years ago next month (Damn, has it really been that long?). A fourth one popped up only a few years after that. Miyako’s Japanese Restaurant took over for a previous Japanese place that was there when I moved out West. They had a good teriyaki-tempura-cutlet combo that the new place carried over. They also had lots of sushi, but at the time I really hadn’t become a sushi convert like I am now. So I never ate it.

I found myself getting exactly that at Miyako today. Specifically, a dish I’ve never seen at any Japanese restaurant before. This dish, which they call roe-ju ($13), is a not-so-thick layer of rice with several kinds of raw fish eggs on top, along with sea urchin (yuck) and, perhaps, some kind of eel (yum). Four different kinds of fish eggs. I am going to show off my ignorance of different fish eggs by describing them by color and size! They gave me the large orange fish eggs, the small, caviar-size red eggs, a green wasabi version of those eggs, and an orange version of those same small eggs. I don’t know what they were flavored with, but I couldn’t get enough of it all – well, except for the sea urchin (again, yuck).

Add to that two pieces of mackerel sushi ($4) and a Diet coke ($1.50) ad the total after tax was about $19.50. Money well spent. Sadly, I was too full for the tempura ice cream that they only started serving after I moved back to Maryland 3 ½ years ago. Oh well. I know where else to get it.