Restaurants around Yale form a pattern as you head farther west. There’s Ivy Noodle, the scourge of Broadway, where an obnoxious staff sucks all the pleasure out of the excellent food they serve. Next comes Basil on Howe Street, where food as tasty as Ivy Noodle’s finds its match in decent service but is made bland by nonexistent ambience. And now, if you are in the mood for a walk farther down the road comes Mizu Sushi on Whalley Avenue, a Japanese restaurant which successfully combines good staff and great food in a bold, if somewhat misguided, atmosphere.
Entering Mizu Sushi is like stepping into the inside of a mouth: Everything is painted a hideous shade of dark skin-pink. The restaurant discreetly divides into two portions — one has a more relaxed bar-like setting, while the other is more spacious. But after you get accustomed to the dim lighting and ubiquitous pinkness, the experience takes a turn for the better which remains consistent to the end. Immediately after I settled into a comfy half-booth, the Japanese pop song playing on the stereo segued into Celine Dion’s age-old classic, “My Heart Will Go On.” I was hoping the progression would end with Lady Antebellum or, better yet, Gaga but it sadly ended with more Japanese pop.
The service is the exact opposite of Ivy Noodle, pleasant as well as efficient. The waiter’s English skills were not the best, but one is more inclined to forgive when he has the grace to smile and is willing to help the customer with the plethora of options on the menu. The selection is impressive, and necessitates a second visit for those who wish to further explore the array of dishes. On this particular trip, the staff maintained a continuous procession of fresh food that always arrived promptly.
Sushi, the restaurant’s prime attraction, stands up admirably to its competitors, offering juicy flavor without Miya’s pretension. My buffet platter consisted of nine pieces of colorful fish: salmon, red clam, tuna, Spanish mackerel, yellow tail and striped bass wrapped in succulent rice, and served in a large dish. Fantastic presentation was equaled by freshness of ingredients. Shrimp tempura dipped in teriyaki sauce and served with white rice was crispy and steamy. The only hiccup occurred when the waiter brought miso soup which gave off an offensive odor and whose udon noodles were only half cooked. Prices are sensible to begin with, but coupled with the 20 percent discount applicable to Yale students and faculty, they are downright reasonable. Mizu also offers an “all you can eat” buffet special for just under $20 which features a sushi option and an assortment of other choices. Fortunately, Mizu does not enforce the ridiculous requirement to finish everything on the plate before ordering more (I’m looking at you, Sushi Palace). They also offer free delivery.
Mizu has yet to become anchored in the Yale community, and it is certainly not near enough to campus for a casual meal after Toad’s. What’s more, a midnight snack of hibachi chicken is impossible because the restaurant closes at 11 p.m. (and 10 on weekdays)! But for a classy, sit-down experience that will keep your purse intact or simply curb a capricious sushi craving, Mizu Sushi wooes with fabulous food and gracious service. All in all, it is well worth the walk down the Whalley, especially if you stay away from the soups!