Pai Men Miyake's Chirashi, a One-Bowl Meal for Sashimi Lovers in Portland, ME
You know how it is when you get attached to a restaurant dish and can't bring yourself to order anything else. That's how it's been between me and the paitan ramen at Pai Men Miyake. Those noodles and I have been inseparable for two years.
And yet, my eye can't help but wander over to the other side of the menu, where owner Masa Miyake offers a small handful of sushi dishes. It's clearly a nod to the patrons who feel a little sad that they have to pick between the chefs two empires: the noodles in Monument Square and the gorgeous fish he serves a few blocks away at his flagship sushi bar. I appreciate the gesture.
The fish dish that finally snagged me last week was the chirashi ($15). Though the word literally translates to "scattered," the reference is to the looseness of the ingredients, which can be most any mix of colorful stuff on top of rice, not the care with which it's prepared. On the contrary, I always think of classic chirashi as the composed salad of sushi preparations: a bed of vinegared rice overlaid with fanned out fish fillets and tidy bunches of vegetables set just so.
No surprise, the chirashi at Pai Men Miyake is particularly nice—and, frankly, well portioned for the price. The deep bowl is well padded with rice, on top of which sits a trio of sashimi: salmon, tuna, and bronzini, all impeccably fresh. The bronzini might be some of the best I've had—delicately sweet, rich, and clean. There are also thick wedges of tamago, silky avocado, a heap of tobiko beads, pickled mushrooms (the menu says enoki, but I'm pretty sure these were shiitakes), and julienned carrot and cukes. It's a pretty awesome one-bowl meal.
Of course, I ordered the ramen, too.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.