On 41st Avenue, Pink Godzilla and Miyako each offer unique Japanese specialties
Capitola’s 41st Avenue is home to numerous sushi restaurants. Miyako, across from the mall, is a full-service Japanese Restaurant. During a weekday lunch hour, the buffet ($9.95) was popular, stocked with tempura asparagus, seaweed and red bell pepper relish, fried tofu, chicken drumsticks, and glass noodle sauté.
But I was surfing for sushi. On the helpful laminated placemats, photographs of sashimi were identified by both their Japanese and English names. I ordered Lunch Special #3 ($12.95), with seven pieces of nigiri sushi chosen by the chef.
A steaming bowl of soup, in which suspended miso upswelled in its clear broth, was made traditionally with a strip of seaweed, bright slivers of green onion, and cubed tofu. The surprisingly large pottery bowl of salad held cold, crunchy iceberg lettuce, carrot and cucumber, which were drizzled with delectable sesame dressing.
The raw nigiri sushi, each resting on a pillow of sushi rice, included delicately flavored pink salmon, flavorful mackerel topped with grated ginger, a chewy purple and white slice of octopus tentacle, and tamago, a dense and slightly sweet egg omelet tied to its rice with a strip of seaweed.
Miyako Japanese Restaurant, 1820 41st Ave., Capitola, 462-5288. Beer and wine. Serving lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. weekdays and 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
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‘Kanpai!’ we toasted with tiny tumblers of warm sake while waiting for our order at Pink Godzilla. I was armed with the Sustainable Sushi Seafood guide from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, in search of greener sushi. Could I avoid unagi (eel), octopus, monkfish, shrimp, yellowtail, bluefin tuna and red snapper, and still enjoy supper?
Saba Shio ($6.75) was a large fillet of broiled mackerel served with daikon radish purée. I enjoyed the flaky texture and crispy skin. Sprinkles of shichimi togarashi added mild chili flavor to the rich fish.
Six large, tender bay scallops, sashimi Hotate ($6.95) had the enjoyable texture of jellied cranberry sauce. Tasting the decorative leaf of shiso, a member of the mint family, I noted a savory pepper and coriander aftertaste.
I was happy to find Japanese Croquettes ($4.50) on the menu. Three burger-sized patties were coated with fine Panko bread crumbs and deep fried. After dipping the crackly crisp disks into salty-sweet tonkatsu sauce, I bit into the soft mashed potato and carrot centers; a simple, yet wonderful appetizer.
We then moved on to makimono roll-style sushi. The server was surprised at my order of vegan Natto Maki ($4.25). While definitely an acquired taste, these slimy, brown fermented soybeans have a smoky and almost nutty flavor.
The California Roll ($3) was beautiful and tasty. Imitation Krab, soft avocado, and crunchy cucumber were rolled in nori seaweed with the rice on the outside, and then dredged in tiny orange tobiko fish roe, giving the rolls a crystalline shimmer.
Savoring the last bit of sake, I noted that green sushi can be marvelous.
Pink Godzilla, 830 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 464-2586. Beer and wine. Serving dinner from 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday.