The unexpected pleasure of shumai

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by Eric Ginsburg

 The most important thing I learned on my first trip to Mizu Japanese Cuisine is that next time, I need to order more shumai.

Two globular, steamed dumplings — shumai — came automatically as an appetizer in the bento box I ordered off the lunch menu, initially overshadowed by the tray of food before me. I quickly realized the brilliance of these tiny morsels after biting into one, and resolved immediately to save the other as a dessert of sorts, allowing the flavor to linger in my mouth as long as possible.

Quick research tells me Japanese shumai is pork ground to a paste as opposed to Chinese shumai with minced shrimp or beef, which accurately describes the taste and texture here. Mizu actually offers shrimp or pork varieties on its list of appetizers, and next time I might load up on these alone.

In five years since opening its doors, Mizu earned a positive reputation in plenty Winston-Salem circles, likely because the tastiness of the food extends to the entreés including an extensive sushi list and other authentic choices. It also can t hurt that servers are attentive and that there are a variety of affordable lunch options.

I glossed over several tantalizing menu items, including the lunch-roll special that I heard a few other diners select, udon and hibachi. Instead springing for the bento box with six California rolls, the hidden treasure shumai, shrimp and veggie tempura, and salmon teriyaki. The deal offers a choice from a list of five, including the salmon, but the tempura shrimp would’ve been redundant and chicken and beef options too heavy given the total amount of food.

I didn’t even realize the meal came with choice of soup or salad and a mound of rice as well — needless to say I left full. Aside from the shumai, a piece of broccoli tempura and the salmon were the highlights, with the California rolls meeting expectations as well.

There’s plenty else to choose from, three menus worth presented at lunch even, with non-special sushi options ranging from $12-15.

Fogged glass shields patrons from the surrounding strip mall — the hilariously named Sherwood Plaza on Robinhood Road — and is far enough from the street to allow a calm dining atmosphere.

If you aren’t coming for a business meeting or to catch up with your granddaughter, like the tables on either side of me, try sitting at the sushi bar in front of two focused chefs. Bring a friend or two, order rolls to share and then watch the chefs prepare it. And don’t forget the shumai.

Since we’re on the subject again, another word on the nuggets of joy: They are deceptively unassuming, especially compared to the elegantly presented items up and down the sushi menu (take a gander at the professionally-photographed Mizu Special Rolls on the restaurant’s site to see what I mean — it’s like softcore food porn).

In light traffic, the restaurant is a three-minute drive from Wake Forest University’s campus. As I finished my meal, five women I took for Wake seniors walked in. After ordering, their conversation turned nostalgic.

“I’m really going to miss Mizu,” one of them said.

Her friends murmured agreement, and one added that’s why she was coming here as many times as she can before they leave.

 

Mizu Japanese Cuisine, 3374 Robinhood Road, Winston-Salem. 336.774.9797. mizuwinstonsalem.com. $$