At Mira Sushi and Izakaya, Vegetarian Options Are Drawn From the Chef's Culture
Mira Sushi and Izakaya's (46 West 22nd Street, 212-989-7889) ultra-modern interior is a reflection of its menu, an assortment of dishes that blends chef Brian Tsao's Taiwanese and Korean background with Japanese cuisine. The food is a reflection of Tsao's contemporary view on health-conscious fare, which incorporates farm-to-table ingredients and as many gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options as possible.
Tsao says the menu's separate vegetarian section is particularly inspired by his culture. "It's very funny. In a lot of Asian restaurants, there's always -- especially Chinese restaurants -- a vegetable section," he says. "It's not to cater to vegetarians, but it's just there with every Chinese meal: You have a meat dish, a fish dish, a noodle dish, and a vegetable dish. I'm pretty intrigued by vegetarian menus and vegan food culture. I'm not vegan, but I tried vegetarian first and then I decided to try vegan. I basically had a hard time finding anything to eat. You have to cook everything yourself, so that's where that got kicked off."
Mira has vegetarian sushi, but we decided to order dishes from the portion of the menu where Tsao gets a little more creative.
The vegan sesame soba noodle dish ($12) is one of the chef's favorites. The soba is a popular Japanese noodle, usually eaten chilled with a dipping sauce or in a noodle soup. Tsao serves his soba noodles warm, tossed in a light parsley oil and sesame sauce, and served with carrot, bean sprouts, onion, and scallions. Though Asian in nature, that dish tastes quite like an Italian pasta dish; the parsley oil is creamy, akin to an Alfredo sauce. The sesame oil -- prevalent in many of Tsao's dishes -- enhances the flavor. Accompanying grilled onions and scallions lend pungency, while a red ring of chile-soy sauce adds spice. This is definitely a winning order.
The tofu and vegetable rice bowl ($12), a popular Japanese dish, is both gluten-free and vegan. A bed of rice is stacked with shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, bean sprouts, tofu, green beans, carrots, radishes, and zucchini, and you can add a sunny-side-up egg if you want. While the vegetables are steamed and unseasoned, the dish is served with gochujang, a spicy-sweet Korean condiment. The restaurant makes its gochujang in-house.
You might try, too, the vegan asparagus ($8), which is grilled and served with sweet, nutty hazelnut butter. And don't miss the silken tofu ($7) or the wild mushroom salad ($8), which is made with a pear vinaigrette and truffle oil.
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