Monday, July 16, 2018

Enjoyment: M.I.A. at Mia

by quinne anderson (writer), Los Angeles, October 23, 2006


The quick, ten-word review:
Accepts major credit cards.

If you're getting your mani/pedi done and you want to read the full catty review, plod on.
When I first drove by Mia on Eagle Rock Boulevard, I was -- as our surfing friends would say -- stoked to see a new sushi joint in the works. Eagle Rock is Los Angeles' latest up-and-coming neighborhood, its turf yet untainted by an overabundance of commercial shenanigans. Its residents still enjoy a semblance of peace and quiet in the vicious sprawl that is Los Angeles. But don't be fooled; the people who reside in this east-side haven still have metropolitan needs. Not having to drive across town to the west side, where notably good sushi is in abundance, is one of those needs.
I thought to myself that Mia's sudden existence was a sign. It's just what the Eagle Rock area needs: a little bit of class. Upon arrival at the restaurant, the feeling of chic, modern, Asian-Californian fusion decor titillates you. It's got the ambience down pat. It's small and cozy, but sexy in a mellow, unobtrusive way. The atmosphere is minimalist; the calm colors and sensuous lighting make you glad you brought a date.
Despite its already-bustling Monday night crowd (apparently everyone else was excited to have a local sushi spot, too!), we were seated immediately at the cramped bar. We prefer to order from the chefs there, bit by bit, as our stomachs dictate, and when the waiter brought us an order slip, that was our first disappointment. He was wise enough, however, to also bring us the pair of small Asahis we had ordered (we were saddened by the lack of big beers), and we seized that opportunity to request some miso soup and some edamame. The miso was delivered with fresh cilantro floating in its midst -- it was a very strange, very Californian addition to the soup, and luckily for them, I'm a big fan of cilantro. I'm not sure the rest of the public would agree, however. The edamame left much to be desired: it was a half-full bowl of sickly, brownish soybeans that looked as though they'd been boiled and then left in the sun for a few hours to catch a tan. The result was inedible: the inner peel was filmy and gooey, and the beans inside were tasteless and mushy. Slightly alarmed by the poor quality of the produce, we were apprehensive that the quality of the fish would match that of its vegetative counterpart. We ordered modestly in caution, requesting only a spicy tuna roll, an order of hamachi and an order of albacore.
Our fears were momentarily assuaged, however, as the chef handed us our platters with the customary mounds of wasabi and ginger. The ginger was sliced in large pieces and was tangy and delicious. Sadly, the ginger was the star of the Mia show. The yellowtail was edible at best, and only in a spirit of kindness will I say that the albacore was sub-par. The spicy tuna roll came in second place to the fresh ginger, but that's only because it's nigh impossible to screw up a spicy tuna roll.
Now, I must say that the presentation was nice -- pleasing to the eye. But appearance does not make up for an egregious lack of quality fish, nor does it make up for servers repeatedly reaching over you to retrieve their orders from the chefs. Nor does it excuse the servers from taking food from you before you've finished eating it, or rudely reaching between you and your date to grab (without asking) your soy sauce to hand to another customer. Now, you may think I'm being over-critical and petulant, but I've got some serving experience of my own, and when someone has food on their plate or in their bowl, I ask them if they're finished before whisking away the dishes.
The atmosphere had quickly gone from cozy (at first glance) to cramped (upon seating). The layout is poorly planned, and despite the overabundance of staff, which only added to the air of claustrophobia, we felt ignored. After swallowing our "meal," we requested the bill and downed our beers as quickly as possible, in hopes of making a mad dash to Trader Joe's market before they closed.
I remember that behind and above the chefs is a mantel where five Eastern statues stand with closed eyes, presumably keeping a vigil over the restaurant. I wonder now whether or not their eyes were originally open, but upon viewing the disaster of a restaurant before them, squeezed their eyes shut and refused to re-open them. Or perhaps they knew all along what an aberration Mia is, and closed their eyes from the get-go, hoping that it would all just go away. Perhaps I'll ask the owner to have sushi with me at Asuka in Westwood, where the fish is almost unbearably delicious. Then I could inquire over a nice meal about the reason for the statues' visual repose.
Eagle Rock residents beware. Dole out the gas money and head to the west side. It's worth the time, it's worth the trouble, and it's worth the saved trips to the bathroom the next day. I can only hope that our experience there was an anomalous one. Either way, Mia accepts all major credit cards.

About the Writer

quinne anderson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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