To open a Japanese restaurant in Great Neck, where there are enough old sushi spots to deplete the new Fulton Fish Market, requires a combination of fearlessness and finesse. Miraku has both.
At once, local competitors seem tired and tiresome, part of another decade, geared toward a different appetite. Miraku comes across as very much today and a preview of tomorrow. Its little adventure is under way at the address of several short-timers, among them Banyan Asian Fusion and Great Neck Steak House.
The site has been streamlined, brightened, transformed into a stone-and-tile showcase, with a glittery backdrop for the illuminated sushi bar, striking lantern-style lighting and carved-wood booth dividers. Befitting the "modern Japanese izakaya" subtitle, the beverage bar is popular, too -- sake central.
What's billed as fish and chips arrives as four seaweed-tempura rafts with spiced crab, tuna, yellowtail and salmon, each capped with a toasted taro chip. They're excellent. The pearly fluke crudo, rolled and sporting daikon sprouts, glistening from yuzu dressing and truffle oil, resembles four delicate boutonnieres. The silky texture of seared, spiced albacore contrasts with a crown of crackling onion threads. Flavorful fried red snapper is boosted by red chili pepper and sweet-sour sauce; braised tuna belly, by sweet soy. Miso-glazed Japanese mackerel and Alaskan black cod also stand out, as do the house-made shrimp shumai. Miraku's owners oversee a fish wholesaler, and the selection is extensive. Try sushi or sashimi of fine red sea bream, horse mackerel and amberjack. The Bollywood roll heads the curiosities, accenting tuna and avocado with curry aioli. Veering across borders: a skewer of tasty chicken meatball; grilled wild mushrooms shiny from truffle oil; grilled golden pompano with roasted cherry tomatoes; grilled rack of lamb with roasted Brussels sprouts and pomegranate-plum sauce. Jing Chen, a proprietor, says seasonal additions are coming, too.
Satisfactory yakitori, spinach with sesame dressing, grilled shishito peppers. But Japanese sardines are almost carbonized; crabcakes, standard; smoked-tofu sushi, beyond smoky; most signature rolls overorchestrated, including the Italia with mozzarella.
THE BOTTOM LINE