Miyazaki – Where Food Meets Art

If there’s one downside to living in West Cork, it’s that I’m always last to the party when great places to eat in the City open up!  Cork City may only be a 50 minute drive up the road, but when you’re laid back lifestyle in sleepy West Cork seems to never be that laid back, the City can feel as far away as Letterkenny!

If there’s one downside to living in West Cork, it’s that I’m always last to the party when great places to eat in the City open up!  Cork City may only be a 50 minute drive up the road, but when you’re laid back lifestyle in sleepy West Cork seems to never be that laid back, the City can feel as far away as Letterkenny!

Still, when I do get to go up, there is always plenty of time set aside to get to one of the eateries on my never end list of places to try out.  For a very long time, Miyazaki has been right at the top of that list, ever since John McKenna couldn’t stop raving about it during his teaching day for the UCC Creative Food Writing Course I completed in September 2015!

If you’re on Instagram and you’re looking for a great page to stalk then make sure you like @miyazaki_cork for endless hours of food porn pics to dribble and swoon over!

Takashi Miyazaki is the owner and head chef of this tiny little eatery on Evergreen Street, a stone’s throw from the imposing St Finbarr’s Cathedral in Cork City.  Contrary to what some disgruntled people who flock to complain to the likes of TripAdvisor is that primarily this is a take-away and not a sit-down restaurant.  There is limited seating on high-stalls on the periphery of the front of house, and these seats are only meant to be taken for those dishes on the menu that are designated “eat-in” dishes only – mainly the noodle dishes and mainly because of the bucket of broth that everything sits in.  Clearly not a practical take-away dish!  There is one such dish that I have salivated over for a long while is Takashi’s Special Lemon Ramen – I can’t explain why, but this is the dish that has been calling me to this place for the last number of months.

And so, a few days before hand I had been in touch with Takashi to see if he was going to be a) open and b) around so I could meet him in person.  The answer came back yes, to both, emphatically.  I was delighted.

We arrived, and a throng of students were expertly utilising their chopsticks digging into their bowls of noddle soup.  No room for us, but we were happy to wait, no way were we going to smash and grab a takeaway. I was going for the full immersive experience.

Assorted Nigiri Platter

We placed our order: assorted Nigiri platter to share, Prawn Soba for himself and the Lemon Ramen for me (phew, it’s not always on the menu!).  I also ordered a cup of Cold Barley Water without knowing what that could possibly taste like, but my curiosity dictates.  Takashi was busy in his kitchen so I decided to wait until after we had eaten hoping that maybe then he would have a few minutes to chat with us.

Prawn Soba

Now, most Ramen joints in the city are busy, bustling places with far too many staff and music that is on too loud.  It appeals to the student-types and such, which is grand, but in Miyazaki there is none of that cacophany.  The gentle sound of traditional Japanese music was barely there.  As I looked around over to the open kitchen there was Takashi, alone, moving effortlessly from flame to workstation all composure and serenity.

Takashi Miyazaki moves effortlessly from flame to workstation…

We got word that a couple of extra bits were being prepared by Chef especially for us.  I couldn’t believe it when the first piece of food art that was put before us was a dish that Takashi had posted up on his IG account a few days previous that had fascinated me.  Purple potato tofu with Ginger and Shiso Miso and Mirin Dashi.  A perfect sphere of purple contrasted against the deep mahogany of the dashi.

Purple potato tofu with Ginger and Shiso Miso and Mirin Dashi

Next, another sphere of tofu this time made with peanuts, coated in black sesame seeds and deep fried again floating in a sea of dashi: “Rikyu-agedashi”.  This sphere was finished off with fresh wasabi and a flake of dried bonito.  As the flake sat atop the hot tofu sphere, it started to move and was reminiscent of the plastic fish found in Christmas crackers that contorts when in contact with the heat of your palm; food that moves in mysterious ways!  Both of these tofu spheres tasted completely different.  Both were elegant to behold and brought out the curiosity in us: purple tofu and animated garnishes.  Magical food.


Next came our ramen bowls.  I think we may have sat looking at each others’ food for quite some time.  The intricate placement of noodles, sesame seed, delicate rings of chive herb and of course the dashi stock.  My lemon ramen was finished with slices of pork rib, so slowly cooked that the meat fell away at the touch of my ill-handled chopsticks.  Piled high in the centre, a stack of ultra-fine spring onions cut with zen-like precision and in contrast to the fresh spring onions sat infusing in the broth.  Atop the onion stack, delicate slithers of preserved lemon generously releasing their fragrance and providing the sweet zesty hit to cut through the iodine saltiness of the stock.  Layers upon layers of flavour, all in perfect balance.

Takashi’s Special Lemon Ramen

A note on the Cold Barley Water.  I’ll accept, it doesn’t sound very inviting, but let me tell you this.  If you see it on a menu, try it!  It has an aroma akin to flat Coca-Cola (bear with me!), and a taste that is nutty from the roasted barley, like coffee but without the bitterness, utterly refreshing and clean on the palette. A real surprise, very pleasant indeed!  Takashi told me afterwards that this is a very traditional Japanese drink and that it always reminds him of his childhood.  Running home from school, opening the fridge door where his mother would have the barley water made and well chilled, ready to drink.

It’s a known fact that eating a bowl of slurpy noodles with chopsticks is not the best way of enticing conversation.  But it kinda didn’t matter.  As the restaurant emptied out of seated diners, and the those seeking takeaway sustenance ebbed and flowed, I became aware that between the gentle precision of the music, the well-rehearsed movements of chef Miyazaki in the kitchen and the rhythmic pattern of lifting, cooling and inhaling the noodles; dipping the spoon for broth and garnish, became almost like a meditation.  Like I had been transported off to a noodle house in Kyoto.  It felt surreal to think like that and then to look up out of the window and across the city towards Shandon Bells.  Definitely not Kyoto, lads.


Trying to explain what Japanese food tastes like is impossoble without ending up reeling off, mantra-like, the five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), but I think this is the point.  For all the poetic language that exists to try to describe it, overall it is food that is meant to be experienced.  As though to simply apply superfluous adjectives and hyperbole is to conduct some massive injustice to the years of skill and experience that goes into these plates of food; of food art.

Did we enjoy our food?  Immensely.  Will we return?  Absolutely.  Did I go over the top with this review?  Definitely not.  Would we recommend everyone to visit Miyazaki?  You betcha!

Thank you Takashi….see you again soon.

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