i happened to be walking past maki in japantown at opening time tonight and snagged a seat at the counter. i was going to order the mini-wappa dinner, but i asked about the specials, and i am so glad i did. i had a dish of super tender braised pork belly with spinach in a deep, sweet, soy broth. it came with a dipping bowl of hot chinese mustard. this was piggy deliciousness, and the spinach absorbed all the flavor of the sauce and the pork, but wasn't overcooked.
then i had an eggplant special. the eggplant was halved, and the flesh had been scored, sort of how you would a mango before inverting the skin and cutting the flesh into cubes. it was topped with a thick, sweet miso sauce mixed with ground chicken, and broiled until browned on top. the flesh was so tender but that chicken-miso topping was incredible. it would have been perfect just with rice. i took half of this to bring to lunch tomorrow. throw in a bowl of miso (with perfectly cooked slices of carrot, potato, and abura-age instead of the usual wakame and tofu), and a couple pieces of hamachi nigiri (fresh fish, overly vinegared rice. i don't even usually notice the nuances in sushi rice, but this was a bit much), and i had a quite an unexpected but wonderful meal.
so remember to ask for the specials! forget the expensive udon.