This week I decided to travel outside the county again and explore a restaurant in Hagerstown. If you don’t live in some of the more western parts of Frederick County, like Middletown, you may have already chucked this review aside because the drive to Hagerstown alone is a hike.
However, I’ve found that sometimes it’s worth a drive to get some good food. In this case, we’re talking about good Japanese food and sushi, which can be tough to find.
There is, of course, the Asian grocery store, H-Mart, which I reviewed last year. It promises good sushi and other Asian cuisines, and there are plenty of other sushi restaurants in and around Frederick. But maybe one day you’ll find yourself in Hagerstown and will really be craving some sushi or udon noodles or fried rice.
That’s where Mizu Japanese restaurant enters the picture.
Their menu is primarily made up of sushi — traditional sushi a la carte options, sashimi, classic rolls, specialty rolls, sushi appetizers like tuna tartare — the options take up half the menu.
It can be daunting, I will admit. So many options and so many descriptions to read, which with sushi I’ve always found to be very important. After all, you don’t want to accidentally order a roll that has a type of fish in it that you don’t like.
When I perused over the two-page long list of specialty rolls at Mizu, most seemed to offer the same combinations of ingredients, but there were a few that stood out.
First the self-named Mizu Roll. Big, fresh chunks of tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado all wrapped with sticky rice and green soy paper.
It’s as pretty as it is tasty. If you’re like me and like to really taste the fish in your sushi rolls I recommend the Mizu Roll. It’s not drenched in sauce or crazy toppings and its simple and bright flavors are allowed to shine through.
If you’re the opposite of me and like your sushi to not taste like sushi at all I would go for the Honado Roll. Spicy tuna, avocado, cream cheese and a little bit of crunchy tobiko filling are wrapped in sticky rice and traditional seaweed. This whole roll is then dunked in tempura batter and fried.
The roll is served hot, just coming out of the fryer, which may taste wrong to some sushi lovers, but offers a different and interesting taste bud experience. You kind of feel like you’re eating a cream cheese wonton or a spring roll, and it’s definitely a roll for those who don’t like too much of a fishy taste.
If you’re in between the two extremes and like some fun in your sushi go for the Hagerstown Roll. Out of all the rolls I tried this was my favorite. Not only is it absolutely delicious but I felt like it offered something for everyone.
The Hagerstown Roll is stuffed with crab meat, avocado, and cucumber. But what really makes this roll shine is the topping – a heaping amount of baked, shredded crab meat, chopped shrimp, some sesame seeds and breadcrumbs to add some crunch, a sprinkling of caviar, and a drizzle of spicy mayo. Perfection. If you’re not into the fishy-fishes of traditional sushi like tuna and yellowtail this roll offers a great alternative of crab and shrimp. The avocado and cucumber bring a refreshing, clean taste, while the topping brings it all together with an explosion of sweet-tangy flavors.
If you’re not a sushi lover, fear not, there are still options for you. The fare that I feel Mizu does best besides sushi is their hibachi.
Hibachi refers to a traditional Japanese heating method used to cook meats, seafood and vegetables.
During a dinner visit, I ordered the filet mignon and scallop hibachi combination. The meat, which I requested to be cooked medium-rare, was unbelievably tender and tasty. It was also cooked perfectly. The steak had what tasted like a simple seasoning of salt and pepper but the cooking method of hibachi allowed the flavor of the meat itself to really shine through, and I found it to be absolutely addicting.
Just thinking about it now while writing this review is making my mouth water.
The scallops, although a little undercooked, had that same simple but bursting flavor and paired well with the fried rice served alongside.
I also tried Mizu’s udon, which is a thick Japanese noodle made of wheat flour. Although it is usually served in soup form, Mizu gives diners the option of having their udon in a soup or stir-fried, along with their choice of meat.
I chose to have my udon stir-fried with shrimp. The shrimp were a little small but there were many, and although the udon noodles could have been a little chewier, this dish had that perfect sesame stir-fry flavor.
Like I said at the beginning of this piece, it can be tough to find good sushi and Japanese food outside major cities like New York and L.A., but Mizu Japanese Restaurant at the end of a strip mall in Hagerstown is quietly serving up authentic flavors and fresh fish.
The restaurant is quiet most nights and I hope that more people will continue to discover and appreciate the traditional and delicious dishes that Mizu serves up. And if you’re feeling like taking a drive, it may be worth it to have a purpose at the end and stop at Mizu.
Katryna Perera is the food reporter and critic for the Frederick News-Post. A longtime “food enthusiast” she has taken cooking classes both domestically and internationally and is continuously following food trends and restaurant openings. She also briefly studied food reporting while attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill; on Instagram: @kjp_eats.
Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.