While I can't join the singing chorus of awesome, I will say that it was a pleasant experience. I realize that is damning with faint praise and I really really want to like Mitsu Neko. The restaurant is obviously a labor of love. What it isn't is what you are expecting of Japanese cuisine. Remove any preconceived notion of what Asian or sushi is and just go for the food. I do intend to go back and give them another try. You have to like them for their friendliness, attentive service, and quality of food.
Mitsu Neko is located in an unlovely strip mall anchored by a store that caters to rednecks. It doesn't look terribly promising from the outside. Step inside and you are transported to a chic dark place that really isn't Branson. It's got a very urban vibe that would make it a great place to take a date.
You'll be greeted by the server, who is also one of the owners. She's a wonderfully bubbly lady who is obviously chuffed that you are there. They take great pride in presenting fresh ingredients with flourish. Presentation is simple, clean, and very elegant. Your awesome date cred just got bumped up a notch.
I ordered hot tea to give myself time to peruse the menu. I was expecting your usual generic green tea, but was served Stash tea. Smiles, not a thing wrong with that. Excellent choice, but it was my first indication that we weren't going to be following a traditional Asian path.
I glanced over the appetizers and was very pleased to see the care they took in noting that their miso soup was MSG free. What a thoughtful choice. The main courses seemed very ambitious and were unfortunately out of my price range. I do look forward to trying them, but I must confess to a bit of sticker shock. I like to be prepared to encounter 30 dollar entrees, rather than having them bushwhack me.
I moved on to the sushi list, the restaurant consensus was one of bliss. Yet I must say I was disappointed at the very limited selection. I have no doubt that what was offered was of the finest quality, however, not having unagi seemed a bit of a misstep. I kept looking and thinking about what was missing rather than what was there.
The sushi menu concentrated on their Asian fusion sushi. I must confess to being a sushi wimp. I like vegetable sushi and unagi. There wasn't a lot of choice for a sushi wimp. The Western half of the fusion seemed to be concerned with an overwhelming desire to put cream cheese in the sushi. I never have made peace with this, it seems sacrilege.
I ordered the edamame, which was served with the usual sea salt and a surprising splash of sesame oil. This dish perfectly sums up my mixed feeling about Mitsu Neko. They took a plebeian standard and gave it a fresh twist. On the one hand, the sesame oil added a depth of smokiness that elevated them to out of the ordinary. On the other literal hand, the oil made it a bit like wrasslin with bbq ribs. Attentive waitress to the rescue. No sooner had I thought "This is going to be an unholy mess", despairing as to the imminent destruction of the one lovely plum paper napkin that accompanied my place setting, then a stack of paper napkins was placed thoughtfully on the table. The edamame were delicious and my hands are rather soft, if sesamey.
I ordered the vegetable sushi and the Pink Sting sushi, as it was the only eel offered on the menu. Pink Sting is...odd. Salmon and eel rub along well, a bit of avocado. And pineapple. With a deft stroke of a strawberry sauce on top. No, I don't know either. People were raving about the restaurant's bold choice to mix fruit and fish. Me, I'm not convinced. I'm going all grumpy cat here: how about no? It was very disconcerting to have this soprano note of sweet buzz sawing through the rich flavors. It wasn't bad. It wasn't awful. It was just...no.
Normally, I like to switch back and forth between my sushi orders. I plowed through Pink Sting like a runner going over hurdles, just to get to the vegetable sushi. Again, kinda sorta vaugely. Not bad. Not awful. Just..sighs. I have no qualm about the quality of their ingredients. Lovely fresh firm vegetables. And asparagus. Imagine the asparagus as the horns on the helmet of a Valkyrie. It dominated the roll. It beat the other hapless vegetables into squeaks of submissive flavor. I was dearly hoping for a hint of Asian exoticism. A bit of preserved gourd or pickled radish to go with the usual cucumber and avocado. I got caps lock asparagus.
I am going to go back. I want this place to succeed. The owners have such a enthusiastic "Gee whiz, let's put on a show kids!" attitude. Don't go with any preconceived notions. Do bring a date. This is about as posh as Branson gets.
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