Sandwiched between Chipotle and Quizno’s on South Figueroa Street, Midori Go serves up fast food counter-cafeteria style. Occupying the former location of the California Grill, the Japanese spot, which is roughly two months old, possesses an interior aesthetic that’s clean and sleek and boasts a futuristic and modern menu.
Midori Go specializes in sushi dishes, so connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine seeking noodle or curry dishes will be disappointed. But the variety is solid nonetheless, with a selection of sides, bowls and bento boxes in addition to the sushi menu offerings.
Despite this solid menu, some inconsistencies prevail.
Aside from a handful of barstools at a window counter inside, diners must opt for outdoor seating given the restaurant’s modest size.
But Midori Go’s interior isn’t the only thing that’s small. Orders taken “for here” just might be received in a “to-go” container of either plastic or styrofoam, which in turn might be comically over-sized given the meager portions of food inside.
Still, the main factor of which Midori Go should be judged, the quality of its food, is variable.
The salmon skin roll, from the substantial list of specialty rolls on the menu, is excellent. The salmon skin itself is flavorful and deliciously stretchy, and the addition of cucumber is subtle and refreshing. And the rice, so often a failure at fast-Asian joints, tastes moist and fresh here.
The “Yummy Roll,” a specialty containing salmon and tempura flakes but centered on “masago,” or capelin roe, is appreciatively straightforward. Those who enjoy the somewhat savory taste of fish eggs enough to tolerate its mushy conglomeration will enjoy this roll.
The spicy scallop roll is a good option for diners who make a point of seeking out spicy dishes. With plenty of flavor and texture, the spicy scallop roll’s impact can, as is ever the case with Japanese cuisine, be magnified with a judicious or even reckless application of wasabi.
Perhaps best of all, though, the specialty rolls all seem appropriately priced at either $6 or $9.
From the smaller menu simply labeled “SUSHI,” the salmon and tuna sushi dishes consist of slices of raw fish on balls of rice, served with sauces on the side. The options are fine, if not exciting, and the same can be said of their execution.
The fish itself tends toward either blandness or, when interlaid with lemon slices, overpowering bitterness.
Of course, this is probably meant to be remedied by dipping the sushi in the sauces provided, although diners with sturdy taste buds and a passion for strong flavors might prefer to slather the sauces on their sushi, instead.
It would be charitable to simply say that the sides at Midori Go are also not a strong suit. The edamame, a frequent snack staple of Japanese cuisine, are small and flavorless.
The vegetable tempura that accompanies some of the dishes is soggy and lacks the crispiness and strong textural variety one craves.
The miso soup, for its part, isn’t necessarily bad, but does possess enough of an unusual aftertaste that further consumption seems unnecessary.
The side salads, for their part, are pretty good. The vegetables are appropriately fresh and crisp, and the dressing on the side is savory enough to bump the flavor profile up a notch — an accomplished feat in the dismal world of fast-food side salads.
The baked mussels are an unusual and ambitious highlight of the side menu. The creamy sauce on top adds abundant flavor and spice to the tender meat beneath. And though not exactly filling for the price, those who can afford and enjoy the shellfish will appreciate balancing the more delicate flavors of the menu with this dish.
The bento boxes and rice bowls also make for surprisingly high-quality options.
The bulgogi beef bowl receives the highest recommendation, with beef that is tender, flavorful and well-seasoned, and onions that add an ever greater kick. With all the rice bowls at $6 or less, it’s probably also one of the better values to be had.
Finally, the beverage selection has a couple notable items. Aside from the small but expected selection of fountain sodas and bottled water, diners also have the options of canned green tea and the popular “how did they get the marble in the bottle?” ramune soda, giving a slight air of authenticity to the Japanese fast-food experience.
On its own, Midori Go would be an above-average, $10-or-less, fast-food alternative to burgers and subs, where one could hone in on a favorite dish and stop in periodically for a change of pace. In the greater context of USC, though, any new options are nothing short of a blessing, and Midori Go is no exception.