Midori Steak House & Wasabi sushi

Midori Steak House (now closed)

202-A Colonades Way
Upper level Waverly Place Shopping Center
Cary, NC 27511
(919) 232-5333

Greg Cox gives this place 2.5 stars.

We went on a weeknight, hoping to avoid the usual assortment of teenagers and parents who think toddlers and random jets of flame go together. We managed to avoid the former, but not the latter. Now, I have patience aplenty for most children, and sympathy (limited) for some parents. But, good grief, what the hell are you doing with your kid out at 9PM on a weeknight? This is why God invented babysitters. And you’re rich enough to order lobster and steak; don’t try to say you can’t afford the sitter. Parents, if you must haul out the loinfruit, God made TGI Friday’s (or Boston Market or Denny’s or Shoney’s or Darryl’s or Elmo’s Diner or any of the other countless kid-friendly establishments) for dining with a toddler. Good rule of thumb: if there aren’t crayons on the table AND a kid’s menu, pre-schoolers and ill-behaved K-5s need not apply. Live it, learn it, love it.

Ahem.

Once we managed to phase out the raucous, shrill shrieking of the aforementioned dissatisfied youngster, we looked around. It’s been recently redecorated—you can see the smudges of blue paint on the fall ceiling. New cooking tables. Newish curtains. Weird curtains. There’s a sushi bar in the front, Japanese/Sushi/Thai dining to the left, and the typical Japanese teppanyaki (thanks, GC, for that new word) tables to the right. We were essentially the only people in the place when we walked in, so they gave us a minute to look at menus and choose which restaurant within a restaurant to go to.

That, I’ll note, bugs me. It’s all coming out of the same kitchen. It sucks to get to the door and have to decide *again* where to go for dinner. And it’s nice– especially when dining out with lots of friends–to have access to several different kinds of cuisine. I totally would have enjoyed some of the more ‘interesting’ sushi rolls from the bar, but they didn’t seem to be offered table side.

We chose the steakhouse side, after careful consideration by the vegetarian in our party. He was pleased to note a dinner labelled ‘The Vegetarian’ on the fancy grill menu, something he says is fairly rare. We sat. Service was a little pokey, for a fairly empty restaurant, but maybe they’d let everyone go home early. But we weren’t in a hurry, so we chatted and eventually an extremely young (I turned to M and said, “Um, wow, when did 12-year-olds become waiters?”) gentleman took our drink and appetizer orders.

Once that was accomplished, things began to hum along. Their sweet tea is not quite Lipton — perhaps a mix of herbal and regular — but good just the same. (I consider myself an expert on sweet iced tea — the best in town is at Cloo’s Coney Island or my mother’s kitchen counter.) We ordered the
regular spring rolls, at the urging of GC and found his advice quite accurate. They more resembled the minced chicken or shrimp you find at Neo-China or Sushi/Thai or any other host of local Thai places. Properly cooked, filling well-spiced, and served with a really kick-ass chili sauce. We tried to
avoid licking the condiment cups clean.

Our chef joined us, a young black gentleman with a well-groomed moustache. He was soft spoken, a bit rusty with some of the more flamboyant skills, but not unsteady with any of the basics. He made a bit of a mess serving the saucier items (but not the sauce), and he didn’t attempt any of the crazy acrobatics, but he made the fire-y volcano and tapped out various beats with the implements and generally seemed to be having a good time. We saw two other chefs begin serving customers while we were there. One was a bit better (he did flip shrimp bits into his hat) and the other was of the same skill as our fellow.

We started with mixed vegetables: zucchini, broccoli, carrot, and onion with a soy, butter and oil sautee. The 2-shrimp appetizer was also good, if I bit overdone Honestly, I’ve never seen an table-side grilled shrimp that wasn’t a bit more than done. Shrimp are hard. Ditto for lobster. We had both noodles (delicious) and rice (also quite good). Both were properly salted and the pasta had toasted sesame seeds. Mixed with the vegetables, it was flawless.

My entree was shrimp and scallops. I was fairly impressed with both, though the heavy dose of fresh lemon juice wasn’t entirely to my liking. My companions loved it though, so I think that’s just a palate issue. The shrimp were, again, just a bit well-done, but the scallops were actually quite nice. M also had shrimp, and hers were Flambé, with a darker, spicier sauce that I preferred. C ordered the surf and turf, and was pleased to have his beef arrive on his plate beautifully brown and crisp on the outside, blood red on the inside. Rare, as he had requested. In his exuberance over the red meat, I didn’t think to ask about the crustacean, but he’ll probably comment on that himself, if he sees this.

Our vegetarian probably got the worst meal of the lot, but I believe even with that he was more than sated at meal’s end. He had started with edamame, from which we all filched a taste or two. Not overcooked, and nicely salted. Yum. (Though in the opposite case with shrimp, I’ve never seen edamame cooked poorly — even from the freezer section, it’s pretty good.) His ‘vegetarian’ meal unfortunately included the onion soup — made with chicken stock. Luckily, we inquired before B dug in. His salad — the same as the rest of us — was iceberg with ginger dressing. Normally I like my salad to
have various lettuces and veggies, but a good ginger dressing can come on iceberg alone and be acceptable, which this certainly was.

B was a bit wary and only took a few bites–after the experience with the soup he was notably suspicious. When the cooking started, he alerted the chef who, in response, cooked the vegetables first. He also gave B a double helping, but it would have been nice to perhaps sizzle up a pile of fancier
ingredients — mushrooms or eggplant or tofu even — for The Vegetarian. Though I he was still eating by the time the last bit of cow came off the grill, and he had leftovers like the rest of us. Carbs, baby..

Speaking of carbs… we would have liked to have made it to dessert, but with the piles of rice and pasta, and the extra appetizers, the ‘Chocolate Confusion’ was out of the question. Which was disappointing, because we were a little confused by the Confusion. Maybe they meant confection?

Overall, I have to go with a middling — a medium, if you will — grade. (Maybe if I do this more often I’ll come up with a good rating scheme.) The food was easily the best I’ve had at a local Japanese steakhouse, and I’d be willing to go back for those spring rolls certainly, and their deliciousness could convince me to try the Thai or sushi options. Perhaps I am swayed by the rotgut tummy-ache that the oily oily buttery-ness of food from the grill always gives me, but it wasn’t the most impressive meal I’ve had lately. But it’s still the best Japanese steakhouse I’ve been to around here. And, Kanki, this means you.

Wasabi

MacGregor Village
107 Edinburgh South Dr.
Cary, NC 27511
Phone: (919)460-7980

Wasabi is, hands-down, my favorite sushi restaurant in the area. I’ve heard rumor there is better sushi to be had at this place or that place, and I’m sure that, on occasion, there is a better roll to be found elsewhere. (Notable among those, the Count Basie at Sushi Blues or, oddly enough, the Crunchy Shrimp you can get at Wellspring when the punk rawk sushi chef is working.) But in terms of a place to return to, a menu that is equally well-handled from apertif to iced coffee, and a nice all-around environment, Wasabi definately pulls away from the pack.

Their sushi begs first mention. Their menu is immense, one of the largest I’ve seen. It has a large range of cooked sushi concoctions, of which the inside out (i/o) dragon is my very favorite. It’s a trifle simple–tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, masago, topped with spicy mayonaise. I really love spicy mayo. I did learn at Wasabi, however, that is is possible to put too much spicy mayo on a roll. Let’s just say you should never order the i/o dragon with extra spicy mayo. Just don’t.

My second favorite of the cooked rolls is a tie between the crunchy shrimp–a tempura shrimp roll topped with crab–and the deep fried bakery–a battered and fried version of the bagel roll (salmon and cream cheese). The dipping sauce alone for the bakery is divine, even if I do always end up with it on my sweater. It is sweet and thick and sumptous. They also offer some rolls for the adventurous types: rolls with raisins or bananas or other weird items that friends assure me are perfectly… interesting.

I’m also a big fan of their a la carte sashimi menu. For a virtual raw sushi virgin like myself, it was lovely to be able to order a piece or two of the raw fish I found curious, but wasn’t ready to make my whole meal. The hunks of tuna and salmon are soft and buttery, almost melting in your mouth. And they’ve never arrived at the table warm or mushy or cloudy-looking. Unlike at other places. (Now I’m talking to you Sushi-Thai on Lake Boone!)

Their Thai dishes also seemed to be handled with the same sure, simple hand. Their rendition of Pad Thai is flavorful and uncomplicated, and portions are more than enough for 2 good-sized meals. The same is true of their sweet and mild curries, though they do back off on the spices just a bit too much. (You’ll have to insist you really like spicy food to get them to make anything approaching true spicy curry.) This is, of course, according to taste: one friend highly recommends the Red Snapper on Fire. He orders it every time we visit, and swears it’s the best delicate pairing of sweet and hot and spicy he’s ever tasted. Another friend raved about a now-defunct delicacy — Kobe beef Tetaki. The paper-thin slices of raw specialty cow was a dish found exclusively at Wasabi, but its $50 price tag was a bit steeper than most customers would pay, and it was discontinued due to lack of interest. (Though this friend is still petitioning to get it back, if anyone’s interested.)

Dessert is rarely an option when we go, but every once in a while we’ll manage to save a little room for the closer. Fried cheesecake is what one might expect — sweet and buttery and icy cold in the center with melty edges and a crisp tempura crust. Another tempura–banana–is also more than passable, with a crisp crust and honey drizzled on top. A third fried option is the simple rendition of doughnuts– snips of puffy dough served with a sweetened condensed milk and nut sauce for dipping. They remind me most of beignets, the Cafe du Monde of MacGregor Village.

Our favorite thing about the place, however, is that we get treated like regulars. I’ve been there on intimate evenings out, and it’s lovely, but the true test of a good waitstaff is how they handle a large party. We hit Wasabi once or twice a month, with anywhere from 12 to 20 people in our party. We call ahead, and there is always a table waiting in the back when we arrive. the owner / manager is standing by to greet us, and several people who bustle around ensuring that an empty dish or glass does not linger in that state are prompt and ready. Any mistakes are rectified immediately–though they are few and far between. After a few visits, the bartender started having us carry the tab from the bar to our table and a lot of times, our dessert course comes with extra. One night they were out of the cheesecake, and the proprietor treated the whole table to red bean ice cream instead. It was delicious.

So, if you’re in the mood for some moderately priced sushi in a place with a little flair, Wasabi’s the ticket. Tell ‘em the party Garibaldi sent you.

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