When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Miu's Cuisine Location: 2314 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe Open: Almost two months Eats: Sichuan and Cantonese Price: $11 to $30 per person
There's a lot of talk of hidden gems in the restaurant world, but Tempe's Miu's Cuisine really is almost hidden. And it delivers on being a gem.
It's located in a windowless, storefront-less building of concrete block that used to be an old Eagles Hall. There's a narrow drive to the parking lot in back, and if it weren't for a banner reading "CUISINE" with a few Chinese lanterns hanging outside the rear entrance, you might not even know it's a restaurant.
Then there's the very good food. And that's when you understand this hidden gem's secret will be a tough one to keep.
Of the eight culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine, two are represented here: Cantonese (most familiar to Westerners) and Sichuan (bold and spicy). Miu's has a chef for each in its kitchen.
With about 150 loosely described items, the menu can be a bit daunting. The servers will do their best to help, but there are some things (like what Sichuan pepper does to the tongue) that are best experienced firsthand. For newcomers, the best course of action may be to gather up some adventurous dining companions and have some fun.
You could start with garlicky chunks of ice cold cucumber ($5.95), or, for offal lovers, a heaping plate of spicy beef tripe ($6.95).
On the soup side, there is a delicate and smooth West Lake beef chowder ($7.95/small) with egg whites and tofu that's pretty much perfect. And for those who prefer their soups on the oily, spicy, and seafood-filled side, a fish with tofu pudding concoction ($12.95) should do the trick.
For meat dishes, a perfectly prepared plate of aromatic cumin-flavored beef ($10.95) flecked with sauteed onions and celery fared better than the spicy lamb ribs ($12.95), which were crispy to the point of dryness and offered little in the way of meat. Thankfully, a plate of heady sauteed pea sprouts with minced garlic ($7.50) made for an excellent accompaniment.
With its white walls, neatly arranged tables, and a few standard Chinese restaurant décor items, Miu's Cuisine does its best to brighten up its windowless room. And unlike many Chinese restaurants in the Valley, Miu's has a youthful vibe -- from the upbeat music playing through the speakers to its groups of 20-something regulars to an owner who isn't even old enough to buy the restaurant's beer.
They all add to Miu's charm -- and are just a few more reasons to pay a visit. I can't wait to return for more.
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Miu's Cuisine 2314 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe 480-966-3098
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily