Meiji-Ens the best of Broadways Little Tokyo offerings
When Noodlehead, the Pan-Asian restaurant on Northeast Broadway, closed earlier this year, I was disappointed that a Japanese restaurant was opening in its place. That brought the total number of Japanese spots along Northeast Broadway to six. Holy mackerel! Broadway needed another Japanese restaurant like the Pearl needs another hair salon. And yet, after visiting Meiji-En (2226 N.E. Broadway, 503-284-6774), I realized that sometimes we don't know what we need. Meiji-En is better than the rest of the Japanese restaurants on the stretch.
High ceilings make Meiji-En feel more spacious than it actually is. It's also clean and pleasantly uncluttered with a few regular tables, three tatami rooms and a short sushi bar toward the back.
The widescreen television at the back of Meiji-En is typical of restaurants in Tokyo, but that doesn't make it any less distasteful. On my last visit it silently played 'Cops,' which we avoided by sitting in one of the tatami rooms. Watching a sweaty, shirtless guy being tackled and pinned to the ground by a couple of adrenaline-pumped cops isn't really part of a relaxing meal.
Owner Vincent Pham formerly made sushi at Yuki and Sinju, so it's not surprising that the best thing at Meiji-En is the prettily presented, creative sushi. If navigating the long menu seems daunting, order one of the sushi platters, which include a satisfying selection of pieces. But save room for the Meiji roll, an elaborate construction of slightly crispy deep-fried shrimp topped with super-moist diced spicy tuna and fish roe. The combination of cooked and raw, crispy and soft is fabulous.
I'm not a big tempura fan, but I ordered the shrimp tempura for my 6-year-old - it was quite flavorful, served piping-hot and crispy. It would be even better with a thinner coating. Meiji-En's yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) is a winner. A lot of places tend to overcook yakitori, which dries it out and reduces the flavor, but at Meiji-En the plump chicken pieces are slightly charred but still moist.
Service at the restaurant is fine. Desserts consist of a few ice creams, including an intensely flavored green tea ice cream. If you like coffee after dinner, hop next door to Costello Cafe for a cup of Stumptown.
Meiji-En is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
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Yikes, school's out! I have to keep my little creatures occupied and entertained for the next 90-some days. I'll start with a trip to DiPrima Dolci. The bakery, famous for traditional Italian desserts, is celebrating its fourth anniversary from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 17, with live music, free tastes of breads, pizzas, biscotti and other sweet treats. When Patricia DiPrima-LeConche opened the bakery in 2002 the street was very different.
'There were only a few businesses on the street: a Plaid Pantry, Beaterville Cafe, a dog-wash place, a couple of automotive places. Since we opened a number of businesses decided if we could make it, probably they could, too. Sal's, Mio Sushi, Sagittarius Cafe, SohBet and Roux all moved in after we did.
'We definitely have something to celebrate Saturday, because we're still at it.'
The party also celebrates new outdoor garden seating and a wine bar.
DiPrima Dolci (1936 N. Killingsworth St., 503-283-5936) is open 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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Not celebrating are fans of owner-baker Melissa McKinney's Criollo Bakery (4727 N.E. Fremont St.), which closed last Saturday after two years. No word yet on what's going into the space next.
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Benjamin Dyer, co-owner of Simpatica Dining Hall (828 S.E. Ash St., 503-235-1600), has announced some changes. Don't panic - Simpatica is still serving Sunday brunches and Saturday dinners. But now it's also open for dinner on Friday and Sunday.
The Friday dinners will be just like the family-style Saturday dinners, but on Sunday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Simpatica will present what the cooks are calling Ten Sandwiches. There will be a choice of 10 sandwiches (like the scrumptious buffalo Philly cheese steak) plus a side of cole- slaw or fried gnocchi.
And just to make things complicated (or 'interesting,' as Dyer calls it) on Sunday, June 25, there will be no Ten Sandwiches. Instead David Padberg of Park Kitchen will prepare a special dinner. Cuisine and price have not yet been determined. What we do know is that reservations will be required. Call 503-235-1600 for information.