Shiki Sushi Bar & Thai Restaurant

The restaurant at Medford's Fourth and Fir streets has dispensed with an "Asian fusion" theme but still pairs dissimilar cuisines under new owners.

Shiki Sushi Bar & Thai Restaurant took over the lackluster My Plate about six months into the latter's debut at the erstwhile location of Red Rock Italian Eatery. With its expansive patio fronting the railroad tracks, this building is among the most underappreciated restaurant spaces in town. Occupied by no fewer than five eateries over the past dozen years, this spot never seems to distinguish itself enough to compel crowds to the fringes of downtown.

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Shiki Sushi Bar & Thai Restaurant

17 W. Fourth St., Medford

541-779-8831

Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Open for dinner from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 p.m. Sunday.

Rather than distinctive fare, however, Shiki evidently aspires to mass appeal with sushi and Thai cuisines, both genres that have proliferated around Medford over the past few years. Chinese dishes complemented sushi when Shiki opened in 2004 on Medford's North Riverside Avenue.

With its move closer to downtown, Shiki adopted some My Plate specialties, including pasta with Panang curry and meatballs. My Plate patrons likely will notice that other items, various ravioli, for example, have been streamlined into a single choice. Chicken remains Shiki's sole ravioli, served in green-curry sauce.

Sushi factors heavily into Shiki's operation, with about half the menu devoted to dozens of specialty rolls, nigiri, sashimi and combinations of the most popular items. Fans of Bonsai Teriyaki Sushi, which shuttered its Sixth Street location this winter and consolidated across town on East Barnett Road, will see Shiki filling the Japanese niche just a little more than a block away — and with some unusual twists.

Teriyaki accented with green tea makes for a sauce that isn't so cloyingly sweet as the typical version. Available on both the lunch and dinner menus, this lightly sauced stir-fry mixes tender-crisp carrots, broccoli and zucchini with creamy tofu, instead of the leathery, batch-fried cubes served in many Thai and Japanese eateries. Even the rice has a particularly pleasant texture.

This and 11 other items priced at $7 compose the lunch menu. Each comes with surprisingly rich miso soup and a vegetable spring roll. Both Shiki's portions and care with preparation make for a good value at lunchtime, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Also available for lunch are sushi combinations served with miso soup or house salad. Prices range from $10.50 for an eight-piece California roll and four assorted nigiri to $15 for six pieces of salmon sashimi and two each of yellowtail and ahi nigiri.

My co-worker surprisingly ordered the No. 3 combo ($12): an eight-piece Philly roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber) and an eight-piece Shiki roll (ahi, avocado, cucumber and the tiny flying-fish eggs called masago). Granted, these are pretty safe bets for sushi newbies, but he seemed to welcome trying more from the sushi menu. I'd return for scallops, mackerel and quail eggs and just wish Shiki served sea urchin, admittedly a hard sell in this area.

Shiki is among the few local restaurants, however, offering fresh summer rolls ($7.95). It's hard to see how raw vegetables and cooked shrimp wrapped in tender rice paper don't appeal, but local restaurateurs maintain that fresh rolls are labor-intensive and go to waste if enough customers don't order them daily.

The spinach-basil potstickers also are intriguing, although the duck-filled version we ordered didn't bode well for Shiki's steamed appetizers. While I loved the dumplings' topping of fried, minced garlic, the dish otherwise lacked the savory flavor one expects from duck, which could have been any meat. The kitchen could have remedied that shortcoming, however, by giving the filling more time to heat through.

Shiki has no reason to rush orders to the table. Customers will enjoy lingering in the expansive, high-ceilinged dining room festooned with globe- and star-shaped paper lanterns and furnished with attractive wooden tables and leather upholstery. Dinner is served from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, until 9 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-779-8831.

— Sarah Lemon


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