Phantom Diner

Mitaka, Harrisburg – The Phantom Diner, Central PA Magazine, November 2009

Written by The Phantom Diner | Oct 19, 2009 5:38 PM

I’m not sure why Mitaka is located where it is — on a sort of out-of-the-way street in a sort of out-of-the-way section of Harrisburg — but I am sure if you go there as a fan of dim sum and/or sushi (or even if you go as an unwilling dragged-along, you-gotta-try-this-stuff patron), you will find your way back.

Opened last December, Mitaka is operated by the same folks who run Miyako on Harrisburg’s Second Street “restaurant row.” Miyako is long a favorite sushi spot with a large and loyal following for eat-in and takeout.

Miyako and Mitaka share a basic menu, are well-run and have similar neat, clean-lined Spartan interiors, very good food and excellent service. Miyako has long been a favorite of mine.

Mitaka, which is on South 29th Street, a long way from “restaurant row,” offers an expanded selection of Asian cuisine and, unlike Miyako, does not have a liquor license. It is BYOB.

But the main, critical and delightful difference is, Mitaka offers dim sum — delicate Chinese small plates (dim sum loosely translates to “touch the heart”) served as dumplings in little steamer baskets or as rice dishes wrapped in lotus leaf, or in any of dozens of different ways.

Dim sum is a real treat. At Mitaka, it is priced from $3.25 to $5.25 per order and includes such varied offerings as beef tripe, roast pork or chicken buns (basically delicious little steamed-dough purses filled with meat), spare ribs with black bean sauce, scallion pancakes, shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, chive and shrimp dumplings, eggplant stuffed with seafood or chicken, bean curd skin with pork, turnip cakes and even “Phoenix claw” with black bean sauce (novices might want to pass on the last one; it’s chicken feet, fried then steamed … for many, an acquired taste).

The nice thing about dim sum is, you can try different types and share; most portions are easily enough for two. The dangerous thing about dim sum is, you can get caught up in ordering multiple dishes, which can quickly run up your bill.

But, fear not, Mitaka is very reasonable, especially since it’s BYOB.

Among the dim sum I ate and shared were excellent dim sum house dumplings ($4.25) filled with pork and nuts, and chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf ($5.25), very moist and tasty, a great Chinese small plate.

The menu also offers hot and cold Japanese appetizers such as edamame, spring rolls, fried soft-shell crab, sunomono (a cucumber, vinegar and seaweed salad), pan-fried vegetable dumplings, vegetable or shrimp tempura, a four-piece sushi serving and a six-piece sashimi serving, all in the $3.25 to $7.95 range.

(For the uninitiated, sashimi is thin-sliced raw fish; sushi is raw fish wrapped in rice and/or seaweed. Newcomers might want to start with sushi rather than sashimi and perhaps lean toward crab or salmon rolls rather than, say, eel or sea urchin.)

The rest of the large menu is the same as the menu at Miyako and at most good sushi restaurants. That is to say, there’s a wide variety to choose from, and there are options for those just not into raw seafood.

There are soups and salads, including clear soup, a light broth with slivers of crabmeat, for just $1.75; a seaweed salad for $5; seafood soup with shrimp, crab, scallops and spinach for $7; an avocado salad with mixed greens and ginger dressing for $6; and a spicy assorted-fish salad for $11.

Donburi (a sort of large Japanese-style omelet made with chicken or pork and served in a bowl over rice) is $13; lo mein noodles with shrimp or chicken, $10 and $9, respectively. A number of entrees cater to non–sushi fans, such as chicken teriyaki ($12), chicken or pork hibachi ($13), shrimp tempura ($14) and much, much more.

A wonderful noodle soup — great on a cold or rainy day — is served with beef or shrimp or chicken or duck and your choice of noodles: ramen, egg, soba, buckwheat, udon or wheat. It’s a meal all on its own, and a bargain, priced from $9 for noodles with chicken to $12 for noodles with seafood.

There are plenty of sushi and sashimi dinners. Sushi for two, for example, includes 12 assorted pieces and two chef rolls for $30. The usual long list of chef’s special rolls includes “TNT,” made with tuna, whitefish, salmon and avocado battered in a hot and spicy tempura, and plenty of sushi and rolls are offered à la carte.

Mitaka is open for lunch and dinner. A separate luncheon menu offers much of the same food but also includes lots of specials, bento boxes, soups and donburi.

Asian, especially Japanese, cuisine is often ignored when it comes to dining out. This is a shame. Not only is it economical, but there’s also a reason why the Japanese people have the longest life expectancy on earth. A diet based on fish, rice and seaweed is proven healthy. And Mitaka on Harrisburg’s 29th Street provides a tasty and healthy dose of it.

MITAKA

560 S. 29th St., Harrisburg; BYOB; on-site parking; currently open for lunch and dinner six days a week, closed Tue; 717-920-1818; pasushi.com

Published in Phantom Diner

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