.Temple of Umami at Miyuki

My friends can be divided into two groups: those who have never heard of Miyuki, a Japanese restaurant in Watsonville, and those who worship it. The eyes of the latter would widen as they recounted unfamiliar dishes—and quickly turn distressed when they found out that I’d never been there, after which they would insist that we make a pilgrimage at once.
So last week, I finally wound my way through the strawberry capital to the temple of all things umami. Two loyal Miyuki-ers (Miyuki-ites?) joined me. One friend is from Watsonville and the other grew up in Japantown over the hill, so I didn’t even bother picking up the menu, and let them fill our table with plate after plate of Japanese homestyle cooking.
The first dish to arrive, Tataki, turned out to be my favorite of the evening: slim slices of raw, buttery albacore, lounging under onion, seaweed, fresh ginger, and lime.
Next up was the mysterious yet aptly named Scallop Dynamite, which was a steaming egg custard served in an oyster shell with tiny pieces of tender scallop hidden within. The whole thing is bubbling and golden, glazed with salty ponzu sauce and dusted with sesame seeds. I investigated this delightful dish with my chopsticks before giving up and happily slurping it, Hog Island-style.
More dishes arrived. My friend opened a snug lacquered box and revealed a dark filet of grilled eel, caramelized with sweetened soy sauce, on a bed of rice.
Steam flowed from Udon Nabeyaki, a hot pot of thick, toothsome noodles in a rich, deeply flavorful broth, in which a dropped egg poached itself among the fish cake and mushrooms, accompanied by a crispy pile of crackling vegetable and shrimp tempura. Removing the lid from a painted tea cup, I found a steamy egg soup with bites of seven different kinds of seafood (I counted). We cleansed our palates with dignified pyramids of rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds and slices of pickled beet. Somehow we managed to cram a platter of Chef’s Choice sashimi and a few bombers of Asahi beer among the mayhem.
Embarrassingly full, we extended our meal by reliving it in detail on the drive home. And lo, I was thus anointed.

452 E Lake Ave., Watsonville, 728-1620.


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