You might think that I could manage to follow my own rules for writing dining reviews. I only have a couple and they have served me and Southern Arizona Guide well for six years now.
Dining Review Rule #1: “Thou shalt not review a restaurant until it has been in business for at least one year.”
Why, you ask? Restaurants are incredibly complicated businesses and a large percentage fail within the first three years. It takes at least a year for management to get it all right. Turnover in that first year is horrendous: wait staff, chefs, dishwashers, busboys. And don’t forget about menu changes. It often takes a year or more for restaurants to figure out what their customers like and don’t like.
How Did MiAn Get Its Name? Ask Michael.
So, you ask, why is Jim doing a dining review of MiAn Sushi and Modern Asian Cuisine when it has only been open since March 2017, a mere seven months? Fair question. But first, let's clear up one little detail ... how is MiAn pronounced?
Sure, it could be My-An, but it isn't. According to the manager, Michael Lopez, the correct pronunciation is Mee-Awn with the emphasis on the second syllable. Michael grew up only a few blocks from this restaurant in the Presidio District. Unlike the MiAn chefs who have strong backgrounds in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine, Michael was trained in French cooking.
His family has deep Tucson roots and are related to the Carrillo family known for many historic landmarks such as Carrillo Gardens and the Arizona Historical Society's Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House. I am sure Michael will be happy to explain to you how MiAn got its name.
MiAn Is New, But What A Pedigree!
MiAn, the new Asian restaurant Downtown in the Tucson Electric Power (TEP) building at Broadway and 6th Avenue is new. But its owner, Bin An, has been in the restaurant business for almost his whole life. By the time he was 11, he was working full time for his father, Kwang C. An, who currently owns Mr. An’s Teppan Steak, Sushi and Seafood on North Oracle Road.
Mr. An the Elder also owned several other local restaurants including Sakura on the East Side. Over time, Mr. An the Younger was president of all of his fathers companies; plus owning Sapporo in Scottsdale for five years before selling it in 2005.
So, I figured Bin (pron. “Bean”) did not need another year to figure out how to operate a successful Asian restaurant.
My first experience at MiAn was the day before the All Souls Procession last week. Neighbor Roy and I had gone to Amory Park to photograph the Procession of the Little Angels. We arrived a little early so we walked a block to MiAn and ordered drinks and appetizers.
Drinks & Appetizers
Roy ordered a beer and calamari. I ordered pork rolls and a cocktail called Hibiscus Lemonade. Of course, we shared appetizers and determined immediately to return soon with Ms. Karen.
Now, Ms. Karen, my wife, nurse, and webmistress, refuses to eat raw fish (except, of course, oysters on the half shell). So I knew she was not going to go for the sushi. But MiAn has a lot of other great dishes.
First, we all ordered a glass of the house wine, a Sauvignon Blanc ($7). And half way through our main dishes, we re-ordered same.
Second, we ordered the calamari appetizer to share. The previous week we had told Karen how exceptional their calamari is and now she is a fan.
Ms. Karen ordered the Mongolian beef with spicy ginger soy ($15). Roy ordered the house Lo Mein with vegatables, shrimp, chicken and beef ($16). I ordered the Kung Pao Shrimp with peanuts, zucchini, chestnuts, and mushrooms ($16).
Karen: I thought MiAn had an extensive menu. The Calamari was served fried, of course, but I had never witnessed such large cuts. I went with the Mongolian Beef. Mildly spicy, good sauce but I wish I had gone with a plate with more veggies. Quantity was more than adequate. We went home with to go boxes. The wine was fine and the Miso Crème Brûlée, one of my favorite desserts, was to die for. Not sure I have ever had better.
Roy: I was impressed with the decor. Call it modern oriental. The location on the trolley line adds to the atmosphere. The staff was attentive and friendly. There was ample seating, both inside and outside. The outdoor fire pits add to the ambiance.
As for the food: sublime is misused so often but it would apply here. We enjoyed an appetizer of perfectly prepared calamari. One of the diners noted the size of the portion, which was ample for 3 people.
I had the house Lo-Mein. A combination of chicken, beef and shrimp. Diners have the choice of rice or wheat noodles. Those with gluten intolerance will appreciate the options.
The sauce was perfect. The overall dish was enjoyable and quite filling. This however did not stop the three of us from engaging in a belly busting dessert of Crème Brûlée. Three spoons later we had all but licked the dessert dish. Marvelous! MiAn is a fine addition to the growing number of "A" list restaurants settling in Downtown Tucson.
Jim: My Kung Pao Shrimp was excellent. I should mention that not only is the food delicious, but the portions are considerable. Both Karen & I took some home. Roy, on the other hand, is not known for leaving any Asian food on his plate. When it comes to Asian, Roy knows his stuff, having been to Asia several times.
Our waitress, Natalie, was a sprite young lady with a quick wit. Following our main course, she inquired as to dessert. We asked her what she suggests. She started to go down the list but got no farther than Crème Brûlée. We ordered one with 3 spoons ($8).
The Crème Brûlée lasted maybe 59 seconds. When Natalie returned, Roy offered to kill any two people of her choice if she would give him the recipe. She smiled but the look in her eyes said, “I hope he’s kidding.”
There are already dozens of good reasons for Tucson suburbanites to come Downtown and rejoice in its resurrection. MiAn alone definitely makes the drive worthwhile.
MiAn has a very large area for sidewalk seating and an even larger dining room and bar. The interior décor, furnishings, and lighting are all very contemporary, not at all in keeping with the historic nature of Downtown. But in the large glass structure that is the modern TEP building, it all works.
Do we wholehearted recommend MiAn to our friends and family. We do. Five Saguaros!
MiAn Sushi and Modern Asian Cuisine
88 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85701