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Misoya Bistro offers plenty of options

Misoya Bistro is a perennial favorite in downtown Medford, serving Japanese and Korean specialties on Vogel Plaza next to the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

Since opening in 2011, the restaurant has expanded its seating area, enclosing its former patio to create a larger dining room, while still offering outdoor seating near the Vogel Plaza fountains. Because the outdoor seating is now in the public plaza, no alcohol can be served there.

On a Friday evening out, my husband and I took a seat at the sushi bar so we could peruse the seafood options and watch the skilled chef work.

A bowl of salted edamame appeared almost instantly so we could nibble while we studied the extensive menu.

Looking for a combination plate perfect for sharing, we opted for a $16.95 "awesome sushi" combo that included a California roll and two pieces each of rich red tuna, fresh salmon and cooked shrimp. We asked for no shrimp, hoping instead to substitute mackerel, which is especially favored by my husband and usually about the same price as the more pedestrian shrimp. Instead, the chef substituted mild snapper, another top choice, and provided a separate order of mackerel for $4.50. The meaty mackerel, topped with thinly sliced lemon, a bit of grated ginger and a delicate garnish of green onion, was excellent.

All the fish in the combo was fresh and of high quality, and, nearly as important, the rice was perfectly cooked. The California roll was delicious, with cool mock crab salad inside and the toasty crunch of sesame seeds on the outside. 

I also had to order Misoya's mochi roll, an unusual offering for $9.95 that wraps some of my favorite sushi ingredients — salmon, tobiko and avocado — in rice paper instead of nori.

The bright, salty taste of flying-fish roe and citrusy tang of ponzu soy sauce accented the rich salmon and avocado with layers of flavor, while a bit of romaine lettuce added texture. The rice paper was tender and milder than the seaweed that typically bundles a sushi roll.

As evening wound down and the sushi chef started to clean up, he prepared us a complimentary pair of tiny hand rolls featuring strips of salmon belly, cucumber and zesty radish sprouts wrapped in cones of crisp, toasted nori.

To accompany our meal, we ordered a Hou Hou Shu sparkling sake for $15 a bottle, a festive choice that I enjoy with food. It's mellow, not too sweet, and who doesn't love tiny bubbles?

We capped off our meal with an order of mochi ice cream for $4.50. Each small ball of ice cream — one green tea, one mango and one strawberry — was wrapped in a thin, chewy layer of mochi and cut into quarters, then drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with a dab of whipped cream and maraschino cherry. The bright colors, creamy centers and glutinous mochi make this dessert just plain fun.

If you're not in the mood for sushi, Misoya offers plenty of other options, including teriyaki, bento boxes, yakisoba, ramen and Korean specialties. The savory yakisoba is a sizzling treat, and the spicy ramen is perfect for wintry weather.

I also like the bibimbap, a Korean crispy rice dish piled with vegetables and meat, then topped with a fried egg. The kitchen often defaults to beef bibimbap, so if you want a vegetarian version, make sure the server knows. The head chef is Korean and prepares daily specials not listed on the menu; check with the server about those, too.

Misoya is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-772-4120 or see www.misoya-bistro.com for details.

— Anita Burke

The 'awesome sushi' combo at Misoya is perfect for sharing, with two pieces each of three types of nigiri along with a California roll.