The Babylon dining scene just got a major boost with a sleek Japanese fusion concept now open in the historic Bank of Babylon building. Mito Modern Japanese cuisine, which also has a location at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, opened Dec. 8 in the lavish two-level space that most recently held Monsoon: Steak & Sushi.
The new restaurant is just as flashy as its predecessor, Monsoon, which was owned by the Bohlsen Restaurant Group of Tellers Chophouse. (Co-owner Kurt Bohlsen said earlier this year they were officially pulling the plug on Monsoon and another concept, H2O in East Islip, and would instead rent the spaces out.)
The 1922 building's facade may be a towering block of stone, but inside you'll find a high-ceilinged bar area with a plush decorating scheme. The second level is still dark and moody, punctuated by Buddha statues, while the bottom floor features roomy tables in an art deco lounge setting. Private dining areas line the hallway in the back.
Mito's biggest strength seems to be its sushi, which is of a higher quality than many that of other fusion restaurants. Head chef Chul Kee Ko, who worked at Buddha Bar and Jean-Georges in New York City, has a generous touch with rolls and stuffs them with fat strips of keenly sourced fish. The Ultimate Toro roll ($28) is a standout with two varieties of fatty tuna belly stuffed with jalapeños and finished with fresh truffle shavings. It's truly decadent.
But the soft opening menu dances between Japanese and Chinese standards, with a whole section of wok dishes (kung pao chicken, General Tso's, etc.) as well as a respectable dumpling program. The dim sum tasting platter ($18) arrives with each dumpling a different color and just as tasty as they appear. The Iberico pork and shrimp shumai with its deeper savory pork flavor could stand against the best dim sum houses on Long Island.
The cocktail selection veers toward sweet '90s kitsch, so why not splurge on one of the 10 bottles of premium sake? The Dassai 45 junmai daiginjo is a safe bet at $35, with crisp notes of honeydew, it's served in a shallow glass receptacle that highlights the sake's delicate flavors.
Mito Modern Japanese Cuisine, 48 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-668-8232, themito.com. Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.