M is for Michelle, H is for Hong and K is Ken, and together the MHK family team has been busy.
Their restaurant on Merivale Road has just reopened after an exterior facelift and some interior sprucing up. The outer look is tidier, more eye-catching to the thousands of cars that buzz by each day. Inside, the large room with its centre sushi bar and tiered seating has been furnished with dozens of white leather chairs, the tables now covered with linen and paper toppers, the look certainly glitzier than the plain Jane of before, though it remains an interesting blend of kitsch and cool.
All cool too on Richmond Road. You find the same white leather seating at the black granite sushi bar, along the lively red wall inlaid with a trio of giant fish tanks, tucked up to tables that will accommodate about 30 sushi eaters. It’s a comfy-chic place, warm and linger-able.
At MHK in Westboro there’s fish in the walls as well as on the menu. Other than soup, tea and sake, the offerings are all raw and cold. It’s a winning formula in a part of town ripe for a sushi bar: reasonably priced rice snacks, elegantly crafted with fresh material, in handsome surroundings. I like the rice here, well cooked and well seasoned such that it’s neither gluey nor too sweet or too cold. The cuts are clean and sharp, and the arrangements are attractive and made to order.
The trick to fully enjoying both MHKs is to focus on the sushi. That’s easy on Richmond Road: it’s what’s on offer. At the Merivale Road MHK, whose full name is MHK Sushi and Asian Fusion Restaurant, you will do better to leave the attempts at Asian Fusion aside. In fact, I’d eschew anything cooked. The miso soup is dull, the pork dumplings are watery, the filling gristly. The tempura is too heavy, too stodgy. The Thai curries taste of powder and cornstarch; the Pad Thai is very boring; the Mongolian beef is tough and littered with jarred garlic; the green seafood curry features overcooked fish and mealy mussels, tired broccoli, and too much tinned stuff – baby corn, water chestnuts. The vanilla shrimp tastes unpleasantly like dessert – shrimp in a commercial mayonnaise with vanilla extract set on iceberg lettuce. Doesn’t turn my crank.
So – here’s what you do. Until they’ve figured out the hot stuff, order lots of sushi. You will be served by kind, thoughtful people, and you will enjoy everything they bring you. Start with a delicate seaweed salad and then either order a la carte treats or one of their special maki platters – the dragon roll with unagi, cucumber, avocado and fish roe is very pretty; the kiss roll featuring spicy tuna is just that – spicy. The spider roll is a pleasurable contrast of crispy and supple, all crunch and soft, with a bite of heat and perfectly calibrated rice in a roll that holds together nicely and goes down awfully well.