Don't Judge a Café by its Clients' Covers 

The medical profession needs help, and I’m not talking about bedside manner or rising health-care costs

Nyo Shii Creative Café
5282 Medical Drive, Suite 115
593-4040
11am-3:30pm, Mon-Fri (orders taken starting at 10am)
Credit cards
$4.29-9.99
Accessible
The medical profession needs help, and I’m not talking about bedside manner or rising health-care costs. No, I have a far more superficial topic in mind: fashion. Having recently experienced two lunches at Nyo shii, an Asian-American fusion restaurant hidden behind the Westgate complex at Babcock and Medical, I am painfully aware of the latest in smock and scrub non-style. Is dowdiness supposed to inspire confidence? Does McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy make it all OK? If the docs and nurses need inspiration, they could even look to the professional kitchen: chef’s pants now have snappy patterns; their colorful clogs are actually cool; and an insouciant scarf (or backwards baseball cap — probably not gonna happen with docs) can add a touch of je ne sais quois. OK, enough of that rant; I don’t know what got into me.

Well, I do to a degree: Nyo shii has been decorated by its charming staff, and though it won’t win any awards, it is at least not knee-jerk Asian with fans and tassled lanterns. (Do the sponged walls also betray a subtle operating-room influence?) Nyo shii also offers a bookshelf full of design (and food) tomes for the edification of those waiting for takeout, and some of that design savvy seems to have rubbed off on the kitchen in the presentation of dishes. Deep-fried gyoza, filled with ground chicken, were carefully arranged on a pretty green plate. Crisp and light, the dumplings needed the accompanying, soy-based dip but were a good warm-up to another handsome platter (darker green this time) — the deep-fried Izzy Roll, one of those inside-out sushis, accessorized with a dab of light-green wasabi and some sliced strawberries. Yes, the crab that occupied pride of place within the appealing wrapping of toasty rice was of the surimi sort (“of the highest quality” according to our server), and the total package wasn’t mind-blowing, despite a spicy mayo dressing. But it was good enough to suggest trying the tuna version with avocado, masago, and crab. Make that krab.

The calamari-seafood salad would, and did, make an appealing light lunch with a cup of miso soup afloat with scallion tops, tofu, and just maybe a little mushroom. Keep stirring for best effect. The salad was actually mostly krab when I tried it, though there was some calamari in addition to the very green and crunchy seaweed, some red cabbage, slivered carrot, snappy romaine, and a very nice sesame-based dressing. This one’s a keeper. I’m less sure about revisiting the California Roll, containing more krab, plus cucumber and avocado; it was adequate, but not as wild as California normally implies. (Think chef’s pants ablaze with chiles for a fashion reference.) As well, the Korea-inspired spicy pork bulgogi bowl is frequently lustier at a straight Korean restaurant, but the pork here is thin and tender, with a sneaky heat that creeps up on you, and the bowl was easily dispatched. (The accompanying house-made eggrolls, light and crisp, did seem to be missing the expected ground beef, but we liked them regardless.)

There’s a very American-seeming grilled-chicken salad at Nyo shii; it also sports cheddar and hard-boiled egg. But Asian-American fusion on a single plate is better represented by the chicken-teriyaki salad. The chicken and vegetables, both grilled with teriyaki sauce, offer just the right amount of traditional flavor, and the greens are great. But the residual teriyaki sauce tends to get a little too enthusiastic for the greens; the citrus bite of the advertised ponzu dressing, which we found hard to ferret out, would have countered its sweetness. (On this dish, think a little nip and tuck for a medical comparison.)

There’s no Japanese or Korean influence apparent at all in Nyo shii’s burgers; the bacon jalapeño cheeseburger is just that — no krab anywhere in sight. Ditto the club sandwiches. The melting grilled sandwiches admit of a little Italian influence, but I tried one that smacked more of California: roasted vegetables with melted Swiss and a pesto mayo. This is a sandwich with good bones, metaphorically speaking, that could use a little filling out — let’s use the Botox analogy, uniting fashion and medicine — with more and punchier pesto mayo. Maybe even a little wasabi for an East-meets-West encounter. The house-made chocolate-chip cookies, however, are freshly scrubbed and all-American in their straightforward goodness, and the excellent strawberry-based smoothie with protein powder is perfect for dynamic scrubs and smocks on the go. Now if they’d just look the part …

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