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Backed by family legacy, the refined MiAn serves enticing modernist cuisine

click to enlarge Bin An: “I wanted to bring an elegance to downtown Tucson. Not just by its look, but with the food as well.”

Bin An: “I wanted to bring an elegance to downtown Tucson. Not just by its look, but with the food as well.”

New York is 2,300+ miles away.

That's quite a drive to get you some good sushi. Not just good sushi, like some of the best in the country.

Here in Tucson, we have a man by the name of Kwang An who opened his first restaurant in 1983. You know him better as Mr. An. You've been to one of his many concept restaurants around town. No really, you have.

But what if I were to say that by combining the refinement of some of the best sushi joints in Manhattan with a local Asian fusion legacy you would have a place called MiAn that recently opened up on Broadway downtown? Well, thankfully, we do.

Bin An is Kwang's son and has been running the An industry for more than 20 years. He first opened a spot in Scottsdale, which later sold, so MiAn is his first restaurant here in Tucson. With a look and vibe of a swank eatery you'd find in a posh metropolitan neighborhood, MiAn is an almost challenge to Tucson diners—the food and feel is uptown chic, yet wholly relatable.

"Everything you see here, the tables, chairs, the bar, even the chopsticks, I had custom made in Asia," Bin says as happy lunch patrons eat away. "I wanted to bring an elegance to downtown Tucson. Not just by its look, but with the food as well."

Somehow, through that old An magic, Bin was able to round up and hire a master sushi chef by the name of Young Choi, who cut his culinary teeth in two famous New York concepts, BarMasa and Nobu, two Zagat-rated restaurants with weeks-long waiting lists, frequented by hipster food snobs. Now we get to sample that honed Big Apple technique in our very own downtown nook.

Slow color wheeling lights gently swirl over an almost all-black interior, and at night the place is alight with dancing fire from piped-in flames. MiAn has the style, no doubt, but it's the food that will stand confident among fashion and flair. It has the touch of a delicate hand but swaths heavy with refined flavor and attention.

On their appetizer menu, I recommend the Peking Duck Tacos ($7), a perfect way to begin a tasty journey of supple ideas and textures through mindful food. Each was just a bite, perhaps two, but light and crispy from the basted skin and the element of thinly cut leek and green onion. After that, you need to treat yourself to one of their small chilled plates, the Umami Oyster ($21), that comes integrated with uni, blue fin tuna and a perfect dollop of caviar. Served in a distressed gold cannikin, this dish was like a kiss from the ocean; a near amuse-bouche that sent every gustative into briny, salty jubilation.

As per tradition, there's a decent list of rolls and sashimi. What stood out was something called The Real Choi Roll ($12), obviously named after its creator. It's a total crowd pleaser, not just in flavor but how it's presented. It goes in raw but comes out cooked: the sizable roll is wrapped in foil while sitting on a plate that's literally on fire. The spicy tuna and salmon is matched by a fennel component with a habanero aioli, and it's a rich and fairly decadent invention by the master chef.

For those who prefer sushi cold, you need to hang out with the Tweety Bird ($13). It's bright in color and in the pipeline of features between perfectly cooked rice and ripe yellow mango. The shrimp tempura gives it a good crunch, the salmon tartare is a silky balance, avocado smooths it out while the tobiko and Aji Amarillo salsa infused with orange creates a dazzling pop and zing. The spice adventurous will find a friend/adversary with Caspar The Friendly Ghost ($14), a haunting tongue sizzler equipped with a Calabrian pepper remoulade, Shishito peppers, smoky aioli, crab and octopus. Thankfully they have ice-cold, locally brewed beer on tap because you're going to need something to cool off with before continuing your Asian expedition.

MiAn also offers free valet parking, has patio service and currently can seat 360 customers. Do not be intimidated by the ornateness of MiAn because you deserve it and Tucson has earned a place such as this. Bin is continuing his family legacy but doing it his way and with chef Choi by his side we can all divulge in this lovely trip together.

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