[Hole In the Wall] The Cheap Japanese Fare at Miyabi-Tei Is Your Chopstick-Ready Stimulus Plan

The Curry That Does You a Favor

Santouka Ramen gets all the love from foodies among the stalls in Costa Mesa’s Mitsuwa Marketplace, but it’s Miyabi-Tei that draws longer, more consistent lines. The reasons for this are multifold: impossibly quick service, ridiculously cheap prices, lovably gruff workers, and a mastery of many dishes—all immortalized in plastic replicas that sit next to the counter in a display case with accompanying names and prices—that the other restaurants in this food court don’t even attempt.

Here is where Orange County’s Japanese line up to order donburi, a catch-all term for bowls of rice covered with seemingly anything. You can order it with eel, and then enjoy strips glazed with teriyaki sauce, as soft as veal and just as luscious. The most popular version is katsudon, with breaded pork hunks chopped and mixed in with rice and sautéed onions, all baptized by an egg that’s between runny and scrambled. Those who don’t order the donburi usually content themselves with the curry, a sea of thick, brown liquid surrounding a mound of rice. Miyabi-Tei’s curry possesses everything wonderful about the dish: sweet, not spicy at all, but brimming with unctuous flavor, with red pickles on the side for tartness. The curry-and-rice dish alone is wonderful, but spring for some katsu chunks—few things in Orange County are better-tasting than katsu flakes dissolved into steaming curry, then scooped into your mouth. And do what you will with the hard-boiled egg that tops the dish—I usually eat it alone, preferring its flavor in one dose rather than spread across manna.

Other dishes aren’t as elaborate but nevertheless impress. Bento boxes? Good, if not memorable. A huge fillet of mackerel is essentially the fish with some rice, but what more do you need? Although the green iced tea milk is wonderful, save cash and take advantage of the free ice water. And ask for extra thimbles of the relishy salad dressing. I’m not sure what’s it made of, but it’s addictive; slather it on meat, and no one will give you a second look.

Seriously, though: the bargains. Their combo special of kake soba (soba noodles served hot or cold, decorated only with scallions and fishcake slices) with curry consists of a massive soup bowl, a medium-sized salad and a “small” curry plate that can quell the loudest hunger pangs. After taxes, it’s $6.25. Split with a friend, you can eat big for three bucks and a dime. Economy got you down? Miyabi-Tei is your stimulus plan for the rest of this godforsaken year.

Miyabi-tei in the Mitsuwa Marketplace Food Court, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 754-7044.



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