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.
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.
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