March 13, 2013

Foodie Face-Off: Miyake vs. Plum Tree

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While Miyake covers all the basics in terms of cuisine, Plum Tree’s menu practically begged me to taste-test outside my comfort zone, making Plum Tree the clear winner.

Food and Service

This is Ithaca, home of the nation’s best hotel school. This having been said, we do care about hospitality and good service. I’m glad to say that Plum Tree doesn’t disappoint. My waiter was extremely helpful whenever we had questions and gave us ample time to read over all of the options on the menu. Sometimes I put people on the spot and they don’t take the time to give me a genuine answer, but I could tell that he thought about it before he recommended the Pop Up Roll and the Takoyaki.

The Takoyaki was described by the waiter to me as octopus balls. Octopus balls? Is this really a good idea? I decided to be spontaneous; I don’t regret it. When they arrived, I realized that Takoyaki isn’t really octopus genitals, but more of a Japanese variation of calamari. When my teeth sunk into the fried shell filled with octopus tentacles, the warm juicy inside was surprisingly soft and extremely flavorful. Sprinkled with fish tempura flakes and set in a tangy mayonnaise sauce, the Takoyaki carries a strong fish aroma.

The Mermaid Roll, filled with shrimp tempura, eel and asparagus topped with avocado, spicy mayo, masago and drizzled with eel sauce, was a colorful sight.The eel flavor was just enough to add a smoky flavor to the roll, and the generous layer of avocado on top added a creaminess the eel and shrimp tempura.

The Pop Up Roll, stuffed with raw spicy salmon, crabmeat, shrimp, avocado and crunchy cucumber with masago and tempura flakes on the outside, was my favorite dish of the evening. The spicy salmon was the star of the roll. The slippery texture and mild spiciness of the salmon were perfectly balanced by the salty masago and super crunchy tempura flakes. The avocado, shrimp and crabmeat added extra filling to the tightly stuffed roll, making the flavors explode.

Lastly, the yaki udon noodles with vegetables and chicken were served stir fried and piping hot. The steamy and saucy noodles came on a cast iron skillet, the onions were caramelized and the chicken was juicy. The Yaki Udon was heavier and a great addition a lighter sushi.


Plum Tree’s interior is simpler and the lighting is on the dim side. The décor is nothing to get excited over, but it’s clean and cozy. However, the jams in this place were much more fun. If there is such a thing as sushi music, Plum Tree’s tracks are it.  I jammed out as I pigged out.

Value and Final Word

When it comes down to it, Plum Tree exceeded my expectations. If you ask for recommendations or take a chance to try something new, I really think you’ll be surprised at what Plum Tree has to offer. Everything that we ordered was a hit. The bill came out to a little over $50, which gave us ample room to leave a tip. It’s not the cheapest sushi, but there was definitely some bang for the buck.

-Kay Xiao

Miyake may boast some of the best sushi in Ithaca, but when it comes to venturing out of the box, Miyake fails to offer dishes for the more daring diners out there.Food and ServiceOur first dish, gyoza, looked handmade and were filled with a classic combination of chives, pork and vermicelli. The appetizer was savory and filling, however the dumplings themselves were not particularly flavorful. Second to arrive was an order of Spicy Grilled Pork and the Yakiniku Don: broiled sirloin, egg and mixed vegetables. The service was impeccable, each dish following the next in a matter of minutes, which allowed us to pace ourselves. The Spicy Pork is possibly one of my new favorite dishes in Collegetown. It was very tender and flavorful, sweet and savory and paired well with rice. The Yakiniku Don, however, was disappointing. The texture was more watery compared to the previous dish due to the combination of egg and vegetables. The dish’s complimentary Miso Soup had the perfect balance of salt, seaweed and tofu. It was much less salty than your typical Miso Soup, but was still flavorful.    Finally, to the sushi portion of the evening. Filled with crab, avocado and cucumber, overlaid with salmon, topped with crunchy panko and finished with drizzled honey-wasabi sauce, this Prince Roll looked and tasted wonderful. The Crazy Girl Roll (spicy tuna, eel and avocado, fried tempura-style) received mixed reviews from my friends: one raved about the umami tones while another maintained that it tasted more like a mozzarella stick than sushi. AtmosphereMiyake has a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, and seems to cater well to us college students. It is cozy, well-lit and spacious. The cheerful mix of pop-rock that plays quietly in the background makes it a good place for a first date or just for hanging out with friends.  Value and Final WordLike any restaurant, Miyake has its culinary highs and lows. What sets it apart is its lovely atmosphere, its extremely fresh food and its exceptionally quick service. While slightly pricey, Miyake is nonetheless an affordable option, especially for sushi and for easily entertained friends.-Emily Foster

Original Author: Kay Xiao