First look: Mizu


October 1, 2021

Fire and water

by Cathy Martin •  photographs by Justin Driscoll

It’s a weeknight in Charlotte, and you’re sipping craft cocktails and enjoying succulent oysters, sushi and other gourmet bites while taking in the sunset view from the ninth-floor rooftop terrace. It’s a lively scene, as couples and small groups gather for a fun and relaxing night out.

These days, trendy rooftop bars dot the skyline in uptown Charlotte. But wait … this isn’t uptown. It’s SouthPark, the suburban enclave known for swanky steakhouses, family-friendly neighborhoods and upscale shopping. 

Mizu, the new restaurant atop the Hyatt Centric at Apex Charlotte on Sharon Road, joins other neighborhood hot spots such as RH Rooftop Restaurant, Steak 48 and Dilworth Tasting Room in reenergizing the drinks and dining scene in this busy part of town. Led by Executive Chef Michael Chanthavong, formerly chef at O-Ku Charlotte, Mizu is a seafood-focused restaurant with a menu packed with Asian flavor with a subtle Southern slant, thanks to a prevalence of local and regional ingredients. 

Mizu (Japanese for “water”) is the latest from Charleston, S.C.’s Indigo Road Hospitality Group, which operates more than two dozen restaurants from Jacksonville, Fla., to Washington, D.C., including O-Ku, Indaco and Oak Steakhouse in Charlotte. While O-Ku is more sushi-focused, Mizu’s distinction is the robata grill, an instrument for barbecuing over hot coals that traces its origins to fishermen in northern Japan. 

“It’s fire and ice — instead of a sushi bar, we have a grill,” Chanthavong says. The robata grill at Mizu is compact but mighty, reaching temperatures exceeding 1,100 degrees. “It’s high-intensity, flameless heat,” adds Chanthavong, a Rochester, N.Y., native who grew up working in his family’s restaurants. “We’ve been using white coal — higher heat, less smoke, less flames.” At Mizu, guests can grab a seat at the counter and watch behind a glass partition as the chefs prepare dishes such as robata-grilled oysters topped with yuzu corn butter, panko and spicy aioli.

“Growing up, my parents were in the restaurant business ever since I can remember,” says Mizu Chef Michael Chanthavong. Originally from Rochester, N.Y., Chanthavong moved to North Carolina with his family when he was 7. The chef has lived in Charlotte since 2004, with a resume including stints at McCormick & Schmick’s and others before he joined O-Ku in 2016. “Seafood has always been a lane for me,” the chef says, adding that sourcing fresh seafood has gotten much easier since he started in the business. “We’re always going to have fresh or abundant seafood, whether it comes from the Pacific or our local Atlantic waters.

The chefs at Mizu primarily use the robata grill for small, shareable plates like the oysters, along with panko-crusted lobster tail with truffled chive butter and lemon; smoky mushrooms with mirin and a seasoned soy sauce; and the Thai stick — tender braised octopus with tomato, scallion and Thai chili.

Diners will find plenty of chilled seafood options as well, including the Saki Tataki — a shareable, almost too-pretty-to-eat dish of salmon with ikura (salmon caviar), daikon and a buttery-smooth yuzu truffle aioli. For a light and zesty appetizer, try the King Crab lettuce wraps with preserved lemon aioli, pickled carrots and fried shallots. 

If seafood isn’t your thing, there are enough non-seafood options to please your palate, including Yaki-Toris — chicken cutlets, scallions, lime teriyaki and toasted sesame — or fire-roasted broccoli with sambal honey and crispy shallots

Mains include a beautifully seared miso sea bass with grilled baby bok choy and a mushroom soy; duck breast with five-spice, orange, watercress and grilled scallion; and Wagyu beef with a spicy XO sauce and truffle salt.

And while sushi isn’t the main focus here, the menu still offers a small selection of hand-rolled maki. You’ll want to save room for the Mizu Dragon roll — otoro (tuna) tartare with citrus crab, tempura shishito, and a sweet and sour amazu sauce. 

Cocktails at Mizu run the gamut from floral to fruity to herbaceous. Bar manager Ed Parowski blends Japanese and other spirits with seasonal ingredients, including housemade mixes and garnishes. Pictured: The Queen City Spritz blends orange-flavored Tanqueray Sevilla with Chandon Garden Spritz.  The Tai-Dye is a citrusy, floral concoction made with butterfly pea flower-infused rum and “Ed’s secret tiki mix” and topped with bruleed lime. The Watermelon Spumoni is an easy-drinking refresher made with a deceptively long list of ingredients, including el Jimador silver, Aperol, fresh watermelon, pink peppercorn agave, habanero tincture and grapefruit soda. For something a little more spirit-forward and botanical, the White Tiger (not pictured) is a smooth blend of Ilegal mezcal, Italicus Bergamot and a basil-infused vermouth.

The interior of Mizu is sleek and modern, while the vibe on the rooftop terrace feels a little more casual (outdoor seating was first-come, first-serve at press time). 

While the hospitality business has been slow to recover from the pandemic-related shutdown, SouthPark seems to be thriving with promising additions like Mizu. And we’re here for it.  SP

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