Midori Sushi and Grill is a neat little hole in the wall sushi place located on Loch Rane Blvd in the shopping center right in front of the Orange Park Country Club. Midori offers all sorts of sushi options as well as almost any Japanese hibachi option you could want. The restaurant has been open for 7 years and over that time has earned a reputation as Orange Park’s best sushi joint. Whenever we keep hearing a restaurant is the best in the city(in this case Orange Park) in a particular genre of food we always feel obligated to go see for ourselves. Chef Kevin Lin at Midori invited us over to check it out and we were happy to oblige.
Food: We started off the meal with the Kani Cheesesteak on the appetizers section of the menu. This is a battered and fried “roll” filled with cream cheese and krab. The roll is served with sweet and sour sauce. The Kani Cheesesteak reminds me a bit of the sushi version of crab Rangoon with a lighter outer fried layer. This roll actually comes out hot. The warm cream cheese melts into and around the krab and gives you this nice warm gooey texture. If you’re not a sushi eater, this could be a way to ease in. There’s no rice in the roll and it should appeal to the typical American palate.
The next item we tried was the Chicken Maki. We asked chef Kevin to bring us his most popular non-seafood roll since we know a number of our readers may not be big fans of raw fish. Many people who are not sushi fans don’t even realize that many sushi places offer delicious sushi options that are not raw fish. I strongly recommend the chicken maki if you aren’t very adventurous or don’t generally like seafood. We joked after trying it that it’s the Japanese version of a chicken nugget. It’s basically a chicken nugget in sushi form. White meat chicken with a panko breadcrumb coating, covered with a sauce that’s almost half way between BBQ and sweet and sour. This “roll” also didn’t contain sushi rice. It was sheer joy for a fried food lover. It would actually be a killer appetizer to split a chicken maki roll if you did plan to order more adventurous sushi options for your main course.
Next we got into more of what you expect with sushi. We took a stab at the Iron Chef Roll containing Tuna, Shrimp, and softshell crab. Instead of Nori, the Iron Chef roll uses Kombu seaweed. It’s paper-thin, crisp, and totally not chewy like Nori. Because Chef Kevin is really picky about his fish, this roll really surprised me. I’ve eaten sushi with Tuna from high end places and sketchy places and this is up there with some of the best I’ve ever had. For a roll containing Tuna, Shrimp, and Softshell crab I forgot I was eating seafood. The different textures and flavors and complete lack of fishiness really show attention to fish quality. If you visit Midori this is definitely one roll you should consider trying. If this one isn’t for you try asking chef Kevin what options he can make for you with Kombu seaweed instead of Nori.
We took a break from sushi for a bit and tried something from the grill for our next dish. The hibachi Chicken and Shrimp we were served reinforced the impression we got from the iron chef roll that this place is really focused on quality ingredients. The shrimp were large and delicious. The chicken was remarkably tender in comparison to other hibachi grilled chicken we’ve had around town. If Hibachi is more your speed you won’t be disappointed.
Our final roll was the Samurai Roll off the specials board. This was very visually appealing and tasty. The Samurai roll contains Salmon, Spicy Tuna, Avocado, and FOUR different kinds of caviar, and Yuzu(citrus) Sauce. The Caviar was great. I don’t think I’ve had an opportunity before to directly compare four different kinds of caviar. Each type of caviar had a slightly different flavor and texture. While that in and of itself is cool, the mix of fish and avocado coupled with the bright citrus of the yuzu sauce made this one of the rare rolls I’ve eaten that both looked and tasted amazing.
Service: Midori is a true family business with Chef Kevin’s brother answering the phones and his wife Bonnie serving the guests. On our visit everyone was very attentive to our needs and the food arrived quickly. We dined later in the evening so we ended up being the only ones in the restaurant. Midori seems to do more brisk lunch business so if you want time to chat with the chef and have everything personalized you may find dinner time is more conducive to that.
After we finished eating we got a chance to sit and chat with Chef Kevin Lin and learn a bit more about Midori. Chef Kevin is the sushi chef every one of the six days a week Midori is open. Rain or shine he’s there. He shared with us that one of his favorite things to do is to meet his customers, learn their flavor preferences and create custom rolls suited just for each customer’s preferences. This pretty much embodies what we love about small local restaurants. A chef at a small restaurant gets a chance to get to know each regular customer and personalize things to a degree that larger restaurants just aren’t able to because of their size. The folks at Midori have made big fans out of us with their attention to fresh high quality ingredients and their desire to offer something enjoyable to every type of diner, sushi fan or not.
Note: Chef Kevin is an acquaintance of ours who upon learning we had created a restaurant review site focused on showcasing small local restaurants, invited us out to try Midori. We always accept these invites and they are typically comped meals. Our policy with comped reviews is to post the positive ones and in the case of a bad experience we’ll write the review and provide a copy to the chef so they can improve. To us it seems a little disingenuous for someone to invite you to their “home” feed you only to turn around and publish something that could be damaging. On the other hand when we drop in and spend our hard earned money on a restaurant and we have a bad experience we feel it’s completely fair game for us to write a negative review. Thankfully up until this point with the handful of comped meals we’ve had we never had a bad experience. When a restaurant invites you out to review them, in most cases they know you’re coming and you’re going to see their A game. You don’t always have the typical diner’s experience but you also normally get to try more of the menu and get the opportunity to write a more complete review.