The wonderful fussiness of Japanese cuisine results in some truly artful presentations. There’s so much attention to detail in some dishes, it feels almost like an offense to sully them with a knife and fork.
This attention to detail is abundantly evident at Magokoro, a four-year-old restaurant located in a strip mall on Menaul. You see it in the two peas and small pile of picked radish atop a precisely molded pile of rice in a bowl of curry. It’s there in the half-moon-shaped pieces of panko-crusted mackerel, the tail fins sticking out, leaned against a bowl of dipping sauce. Most notably, it shines in teishoku, the eat-in version of a bento box, the myriad items each occupying their own plate across a lacquered serving tray.
Five days a week, Magokoro – the word means sincerity in Japanese – opens for lunch, closes for a couple hours and then reopens at dinner with a different menu based around bowls of ramen. The space is quite small. During a recent lunch, the dozen or so tables were occupied, and a couple of lone diners hunched over their food at the bar. The music – soothing, New Age-y stuff – was accompanied by the discordant sounds of a guy scraping food off plates in the hallway next to the kitchen.
The lunch menu has great variety, starting with about a dozen small plates like potstickers and dumplings costing from $4 to $7.75. Aji fry ($6.50), a traditional Japanese dish of mackerel deep fried in panko breading, offers a chance to try a fish not often seen on menus around here. The frying is well executed, leaving a crunchy panko sheath over the oily, marbled flesh of the fish. The textural contrast is compelling even if the fish’s strong flavor takes some getting used to.