First night at Maiko...


I was fortunate enough to have driven by Maiko last night (Saturday 3/5) and went inside to see if they were open for business.

We thought we would only get a drink but the owner told us that the sushi bar was open, too. We sat at the sushi bar in front of the main chef, Oshima-san (I believe that was his name). He served us a number of Edo-mae style sushi dishes including a marinated seabass, an ebi that had been marinated with vinegar and egg, saba, hamachi, a huge piece of unagi and a light tamago crepe made with cream and sugar (as a palate cleanser). All were excellent.

It seems like Oshima-san is on the fence about moving to Austin. He's working everyday this week at Maiko but after that will commute from DFW on the weekends (he's in charge of building a sushi bar at the Gaylord Resort near the DFW airport). I hope he will decide to stay in Austin fulltime.

My friend, who is originally from Japan, thought that it was the best sushi she has had in Austin since moving here several years ago (she's been to uchi, masashino, miyako, etc.). The rest of the menu is Asian-fusion and only moderately interesting from my perspective (but hey I was there for the sushi). They are still trying to get their act together (no shoyu at the bar at first when we started eating, a little disorganized, etc.). Definitely worth trying out.

The only weirdness is the sign. It reads "Maiko" in English at the bottom and "Modern Dance" in katakana above. Not sure what part of the large restaurant houses the modern dance studio (LOL)...

Be careful, however about parking in the small lot next to Maiko! The ownders of that urban stylefest frat party at "Oslo" will have you car towed away by their 'valet' service (even without any signage).

by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2005-03-12 12:16
We did not even know Maiko was open, but just happened by on Thursday. It was very slow, so I think very few people know that it is open. First impression: We were greated by not one, but several drop dead gorgeous, tall model type girls. (The reason for this will be realized as you read on.) It fits in with the contempo decor. The bar had a small crowd; all seemed to be friends of the people who work there. The bar is very hip and trendy. The atmosphere is very laid back. The servers are in jeans. I thought this was cool (I used to wait tables) and we thought appropriate in Austin anyway. The service was very efficient. Three different waiters constantly worked together to get food, drinks and sushi to us. The sushi is incredible. The rolls are huge and interesting. Twice the size of what we get at Kenichi. The nigiri is different than anything you get here. We thought the prices were a bit high for a new restaurant trying to build business in a competitive downtown market though. We didn't have much food, though we were told the Sea Bass is the best. We saw bartender from Kenichi come in to check things out and visit... that is when we noticed John Kenichi is at Maiko now! He was the man at Kenichi. (The gorgeous girls at the door, well that's John's trademark. We should have known.) On the disappointing note, we never got to meet the famed chef Onami. Maiko has spent a lot of money building the place and hiring talent. (I know John Kenichi and Seiju Onami don;t come cheap.) Will they make it? I hope so.

by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 2005-03-14 12:29
My friends and I enjoyed our sushi there Sunday night. The nigiri and maki were large portions. The fish was very good. The menu is confusing. The portions are 2 pieces per order of sushi and 3 pieces for sashimi, but the menu does not say that. It just has prices next to the name of the fish. A man saw our confusion and quickly came up to explain how the menu works. The menu looks cheap too. It is made of paper and has a lot of typos. Prices are in between Kenichi and Uchi. Service was perhaps the worst I have experienced in Austin so far. The restaurant was nearly empty and we had an impossible time getting service. When our waitress wasn't hiding, she was busy talking and eating at the sushi bar. The restaurant itself is modern and casual. No table cloths, minimal settings at the table. You have to ask for water and soy sauce, which was extremely difficult when our waitress would not wait on us. Overall, I will give it a thumbs down from the bad service. Maiko has some bugs to work out. It is their first week, so I will give them a second chance in a month, but we will sit at the sushi bar.

by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 2005-03-14 21:51
We were there sunday night as well, just few of my close friends. I was told that Maiko is the best comtemporary Japanese restaurant in town from other people who have dined there. We have ordered and tried little of bit of everything from (Appetizer) Fried Unagi & Crab Cake Score:A+, (Starter) Maiko Salad Score: A. which is a must-try if you like asian pears. Because it was such of a big group, I was fortunate enough to snatch few bites from other people's plate. Shrimp & Scallop Sei San, and Saikyo Miso Sea Bass also a must. The previous review was on the dot about the food but is definetly off-key when he or she mentioned about the service. The wait staffs were wonderful; we have no problem, no complaints. Drinks were served immediately within 2 minutes after we have sat down. Whoever trained the wait staff did a wonderful job. I don't know where the previous person went because it doesn't make sense to me that you have to ask for water. Everyone knows that waitress takes drink order before anything, doesn't matter if it is a Japanese restaurant or an Italian restaurant-the fundamentals, the principals are all the same. And the story about the waitress sat down and ate at the sushi bar can not possibly be true. I have worked at several restaurant during my college years and none of them will allow their wait staff to sit down in dinning room and eat while she is on duty not to mention a sushi bar. Let's just say I will definetly go back in the future because one of the wait staff told me they are planning to have happy hour and lunch special starting soon.

by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2005-03-15 18:10
Sushi Lover Too, my experience was completely different from yours, service-wise. The food was fine, with a few exceptions. We ordered off of the sushi and kitchen menus to try a variety of dishes. But the service was horrendous. The restaurant was almost completely empty when we arrived and stayed that way until we left, with only a handful of tables occupied. A waitress came out after a few minutes to deliver menus and a winelist. They only had two sakes on the menu, so we went with wine, a Reisling. We had to repeat "reisling" several times. It was the only one on the menu so there shouldn't have been any confusion. She brought us water after several minutes, and then brought out the wine - and someone who appeared to be a floor manager - to help her open it. It was a SCREW-TOP! When we ordered, I had a few questions about the menu. There is a tartare offered with tuna or beef and we weren't sure which to order. Our waitress recommended the beef because "the tuna isn't that good." Whoever is training this staff should never let them describe a menu item as "not that good." Then we wondered about the sushi servings. She told us that there was one piece to an order, making it some very expensive sushi. Our salad and (overcooked) edamame came out first, and then our sushi. Sure enough, there were two pieces to an order and she never noted it, causing us to order (and pay for) twice what we wanted to eat. Then the chicken dish came out. She dropped it on me. Instead of apologizing for spilling the dish all over my blazer and jeans, she whisked it away to get another. She didn't come back for several minutes, never told a manager, never offered to comp the dish or reimburse me for dry cleaning. The "tartare" came out and it was fully cooked beef. We told her that we had ordered tartare and she argued that it didn't say raw anywhere on the menu. So she brought us an inedible raw beef dish. At the end of each course, she would take away our chopsticks, and we'd have to ask someone to replace them after waiting for several minutes for her to take some initiative. Management must have known something was wrong because while they spoke to every table in the room, they never even approached us to ask about our impressions or to apologize for our incompetent service. We did go in the first week, so I can understand that a restaurant would have a few kinks to work out, but these service issues were inexcusable. This girl was completely unprofessional, but so were the people that hired her. It's not enough for a waitstaff to be attractive (and she wasn't particularly so) when they ruin what has the potential to be a perfectly decent restaurant experience. Maiko has had months to get its act together in terms of staffing. Wasn't it supposed to open at the end of last year? I know for a fact that the menu was printed far enough in advance of the opening to have the waitstaff better informed. I'm so turned off by this experience that I don't plan on going back anytime soon, if ever. And if I did, I would definitely sit at the sushi bar.

by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 2005-03-18 15:36
The wife and I tried Maiko for the first time this past Wednesday. The first impressions were so-so...great ambience, no crowds (which is great in my book), but the sushi menu seemed limited and the roll selections just did not excite me. My impression was that it was another Kenichi...all style, no substance. My wife remarked that we would be returning to our trusty "Moose" (Musashino) for the kind of sushi we enjoy. The server came by and gave us his best dramatic performance. I like it when a server is helpful and attentive...ours seemed like he was performing a role...a little dramatic with the specials and remarking that the had "foie GRAS". If I wanted chopped liver I wouldn't have come to a sushi place...but I digress. We were then informed that the menu was just a starter menu, and that as soon as they figured out "local tastes" they would adjust and fill out the menu. I had a business card from Musashino in my jacket from my last visit and thought twice about offering it to the server and telling him that if they wanted to figure out Austin's taste for sushi, Musashino was the place to start. My poor attitude aside, we ordered the sushi. We ordered the salmon and smoked salmon nigiri, crab nigiri, and wagyu nigiri. I think we also ordered maguro and hamachi nigiri as well. As far as rolls, we got the volcano which was a california with spicy crawfish, another one whose name escapes me but it contained yellowtail, salmon, and mango. I am not one for fruit in my rolls but the selection was a little limited and I am not big on eel. Needless to say I was a little disappointed but tried to make the best of it. I could not have misjudged the place more. The crab nigiri was simply amazing...I have not had better anywhere else. The selections could not have been more fresh, the rice could not have been more perfect. Each and every piece of fish was top notch and the experience was excellent. The servers, although a bit dramatic, were attentive...3 seperate servers came over to check on us throughout the meal. The cost was reasonable for Austin, in line with other top sushi restaurants. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. After the meal, the owner came over and introduced himself...a nice man by the name of Benny. He seemed to truly care that we had a good experience, which was nice. I told him I was glad that I was able to come to his restaurant before there are lines out the door, which is inevitable. I look forward to the expanded menu and a wider selection of rolls in the future...but I will definitely be back. sushifreak

by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2005-03-22 00:34
I decided to try Maiko for a second time after reading my first review and hearing positive comments since my initial visit. Things have definitely changed. My original gripes with the restaurant were not about the food or the setting, but the service. From what I could see, most of those problems have been fixed. I sat at the bar after arriving around 7:30. Again, the restaurant was slow. The bartender was great - friendly but unobtrusive. Maiko is still working out kinks in its wine list - several selections were unavailable - but the bartender more than made up for it, serving generous pours of wines normally only offered by the bottle. Dining at the bar was a pleasure. The bartender and other front of house staff worked in tandem, which made the service casual and efficient. Unlike last time, the service really allowed me to focus on the food, which was very good to excellent. I tried several dishes from the kitchen, but no sushi. It sounds like some people love them, but I found the rolls a little bit overwhelming on my last visit. A flounder carpaccio was delicious and so simple. It was garnished with radish sprouts, which provided a nice kick, toasted pine nuts, sea salt and yuzu and green tea oils. It was a great take on crudo, with Asian influences that accentuated the flavor of the fish without overpowering it. I also tried the pumpkin gnocchi. It was offered with a foie gras emulsion or a seafood bisque. I chose the latter, which was a delicious reduction of shrimp stock and roasted tomatoes, tossed with pea sprouts and other aromatic greens. It could have used more acidity to balance out the sweetness of the pumpkin and pea shoots, but was a well-composed and delicious dish. The floor manager came over to ask about my meal and was very responsive to my questions and comments. I'm very happy to see Maiko doing better. It's a wonderful space with excellent food and, from what I experienced tonight, the service to complement it.