This week, we're in Ithaca's northeast at Mitsuba, the area's newest Japanese restaurant. It's just off Triphammer Road next to Applebee's, in the former location of Kyushu, and they serve sushi and hibachi with a flair for beautiful presentation.
It's the fourth location in a small, family-owned chain opened by Eric Jiang, with other locations in the Utica area, and while they're opening in a town with other Japanese restaurants to choose from, they have the advantage of being in a familiar location that's already pretty well equipped.
An edamame appetizer, steamed soybeans, is a good way to start your meal. We also enjoyed a mango salmon appetizer special on one visit, and the gyoza, stuffed Japanese dumplings, come with a spicy, creamy dipping sauce.
Full dinners come with soup, a delicious rich onion broth that's sprinkled with mushrooms, and the salad bar. It's the first time we can recall a salad bar in a Japanese steakhouse, but it does offer a little variety in your salad -- and they've got that sweet and tangy ginger dressing that's common to Japanese restaurant salads.
Sushi at Mitsuba is often adorned with impressive decorative touches.The sushi is fresh and beautifully prepared, with some creative options like the volcano roll, a hot tempura fried roll with whitefish, or the Mitsuba lobster roll, lobster, mango, and avocado topped with crabmeat. We're as impressed with the presentation, with colorful edible orchids or even dry ice, as we are with the taste.
Hibachi is the style of Japanese steakhouse where the food is prepared on a table-side grill right in front of you, and while it's not cheap, Mitsuba has reasonably priced hibachi lunches or dinners with chicken, salmon, steak or filet mignon, even scallops or lobster tail.
Think of hibachi as dinner and a show!The hibachi chef we had was funny and goofy, putting on a nice show and having a good time with us while preparing dinner. The vegetables ended up crisp, the steak cooked to order, the scallops and salmon weren't overdone -- all of it was on the mark.
All of the above can be done without any meat or seafood, sticking to vegetables, if you'd like a vegetarian meal. Do speak up if you'd prefer to go vegan, since some items are cooked with butter.
As with many other area eateries, Mitsuba offers smaller lunch portions for much smaller prices at lunchtime. And, as of this writing, they still have some grand-opening offers that include a free sushi roll or buy-three-get-one-free hibachi if you ask, and additional specials if you check in on Foursquare.
Plan on spending $12-20 for lunch or $15-30 for dinner, and don't hesitate to ask for a box to take half your hibachi home for another meal. Find Mitsuba at 2300 North Triphammer Road, visit mitsubasushi.com, or call 607-319-0760 and tell them you heard about them here.