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Posted on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 5:41 a.m.

Renovated Miki succeeds with expanded offerings, beautiful presentation

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett


Sushi rolls at Miki by Sushi Zen.

Melanie Maxwell |

For a long time, sushi-savvy friends of ours from Brighton have urged us to try their local raw-fish favorite, Sushi Zen.

Now we can just invite them down to Ann Arbor: Yoon and Felisha Kim, owners of the Brighton restaurant, now have an Ann Arbor outpost at Miki, the Japanese restaurant they purchased recently when it came up for sale.

The Kims have been renovating Miki, a longstanding Ann Arbor favorite of ours, renewing it both culinarily — the new menu blends Miki’s and Sushi Zen’s — and physically — it’s now lighter, more open and more comfortable.

The news of all these changes, despite such great reports about the mother ship, didn’t exactly make us happy. Miki, just up the block from home, was our Japanese-food canteen, our go-to spot for Japanese take out or dining in. I’d say we were more than a little worried about the updates to the classic sushi menu that were promised.

The hearty, yelled greeting from the sushi chefs — to us and each subsequent party entering — wasn’t reassuring. Neither was a sushi menu longer and more intricate than “War and Peace.” But we’ve been won over by the quality and variety of the offerings, as well as by the warmth of the new owners — who seem to understand, among other things, that some of us will need a little hand-holding to get over our Miki attachment.

To that end, for example, you can still get a Miki California roll (made with a mayonnaise-seafood salad), if that’s the version you imprinted on. You can still get a CAA (cucumber, avocado, asparagus roll) or a perfect yellowtail scallion roll, albeit a little plumper than the one Miki served. Devotees of Miki’s ginger salad dressing will have to adjust to Sushi Zen’s — it’s not a ringer for it, but it’s close and delicious in its own right.


Miki, by Sushi Zen
106 S. First St., Ann Arbor

  • Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 3-10 p.m.

  • Plastic: Yes.

  • Liquor: Yes.

  • Prices: Moderate.

  • Value: More expensive rolls offer good value and there are many well-priced lunch combos.

  • Noise level: Above “Zen” levels, but very peaceful and conducive to conversation.

  • Wheelchair access: Yes.

But you’ll want to go modern and sample the expanded menu and above all, the sushi list. Just be warned: It takes a long time to read through it, and there are lots of variations on a theme of white tuna along the way.

There are also excursions into new sushi territory — sushi with melted mozzarella inside is a cross-border foray, for sure. My daughter insisted we try it, and while it wasn’t a top choice for me (that honor falls to the super spider roll, with succulent tempura soft-shell crab and veggies), I had to admit it wasn’t bad at all.

Prices for the more elaborate rolls are not small — but neither are the rolls themselves. Most are supersized, generous enough to share and to make a meal with fewer rather than more. And the presentation is spectacular, with plates adorned with greens and carved vegetable and fruit flowers — a joy to behold as well as to eat.

The variety extends to appetizers. You can munch on edamame, but why not try Sushi Zen’s avocado boat — a cool combo of tempura-battered avocado halves filled with crab and spicy tuna — or sample squid bombs, a crunchy spherical variant on ubiquitous fried calamari? A pair of soft-shell crabs, laquered to bronze in their batter, is another great starter to share.

Lunch brings lots of well-priced combos and mini-versions of the bentos available at dinner. Korean dishes like bibimbap find their way onto Sushi Zen’s menu, too, just as they have at other area Japanese restaurants. But you won’t turn to them out of boredom with the Japanese menu here, which could keep you exploring indefinitely.

Susan Isaacs Nisbett writes about music and food for


Jung Eom

Fri, Sep 9, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

I was at Miki last Friday and the place was crowded with many people. Host immediately welcomed us and seat us right away. We asked for corner table and they accomodated us accordingly. I got California Roll with real crab salad and it was like heaven in my mouth. Real crab is always available as well as snow crab, fatty tuna, and sea urchin. I know these because I asked my server for next visit. When I dined at old Miki, the sushi was thinner and smaller. Under new management, their sushi is much larger and cut thick. Some people probably don't like thick pieces but I do like them. However, my boy friend wanted thinner pieces and they had no problem of doing that. You just have to ask for it. They have another location in Brighton and I have been there many times since they opened in 2007. The place is much smaller but IT IS SO BUSY almost everyday sometimes the wait is more then 45 minutes. If you look for Sushi Zen on you will see ALL good reviews about them. Owners are always there and try to get to know you and your family which is plus for any local businesses. Oh! They have 20% student discoun on every Monday and 1/2 off wine on every Wednesday. Something for fun on weekdays. I really hope they do good in Ann Arbor! I will visit soon again for sure.

Atticus F.

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

I was not impressed! went in 3 weeks ago, only to find that they are no longer using real crab in the California rolls!!!! It's now like one of the cheepo sushi places on campus. Miki used to be one of my favorite resaurants, and at this point, I will probably never go back.


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

I meant to say the sashimi was hacked into large chunks.


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

We too live only a few blocks from Miki and used to go there regularly in the old days. At the end, we were disappointed and were happy to see it was under new ownership. However, we were even more disappointed in the new Miki by Sushi Zen and will never return. Although the miso soup and the salad were delicious, the sushi was anything but. It did not seem fresh and was hacked into large chunks, not at all like the buttery melt-in-your mouth yellow tail we had enjoyed in the early Miki days. Even our cousins, who are artists from San Francisco, were disappointed when here for the Art Fair. They used to rave about Miki and said it rivaled San Francisco sushi. This year they tried the current Miki and agreed that it was no longer good. On another note, I long for Dave Shima and Wasabi. Please come back to Ann Arbor, Dave!!


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

I checked them out last week and was extremely impressed! It had been awhile since I had last ventured back to the original Miki, given the lack luster experience we had there at the tail-end of the previous owner's stint there. But we were not only blown away by the super high quality of the sushi ingredients, incredible (tastey & beautiful) roll creations, but the service was friendly & welcoming too, a complete 180 from our last trip there. I really do hope they do well in their new spot, I heard however that they plan on changing the name to Sushi Zen. A part of me hopes they leave it as Miki...