A new Japanese restaurant in Great Neck. The prospect was about as thrilling to me as a new nail salon. But walking into Miraku I had a sense that the restaurant aspired to more than standard Japanese cuisine at competitive prices.
The location, on Middle Neck Road a block south of the LIRR station, has had a number of tenants -- Banyan, Great Neck Steak House, Dino’s and Pulcinella among them -- but I can’t remember it looking this good. Miraku, which opened in late August, is all stone and tile and wood and modern lighting.
Along the back wall of the dining room is a spot-lit sushi bar. Its menu expresses variety not in the number of “signature” rolls (there are but nine) but in the fish itself: eight types of tuna, five types of clam, four types of salmon, three types of yellowtail.
Miraku’s non-sushi offerings go way beyond seaweed salad and tempura: a warm salad of grilled wild mushrooms deepened by a touch of truffle oil, falafel made with edamame instead of chickpeas, grilled shisito peppers seasoned with pimenton sea salt. Even old favorites such as miso eggplant and spinach oshitashi are prepared with verve.
Prices are gentle. No starter costs more than $10; more than half are less than $7. Many mains are under $20. The much smaller lunch menu looks to be a real bargain (nothing more than $14) and includes some intriguing-sounding noodle and rice dishes.
The gentleman who took our drinks order was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Miraku's sake list, we all ordered some -- and got a mini-lesson.
The sake expert turned out to be general manager Richard Eng, a veteran of Jean Georges in Manhattan and Nanking in New Hyde Park. He told us that the family of the restaurant's owner, Jing Chen, has long been in the wholesale fish business, supplying high-end Asian restaurants. That explained the eight kinds of tuna.
Miraku is at 31 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, 516-466-6369.
Photo: The sushi bar at Miraku.