By Denise Ortuno Neil

Tucked away on the grounds of the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Desert, sits one of the Coachella Valley’s most culinary and visually stunning gems, Mikado. It doesn’t shout or scream to get attention, but rather waits in its serene and unparalleled existence proudly yet subtly inviting those who are ready for a dining experience that they will not soon forget.

If you’re not familiar with Mikado Japanese restaurant, you are truly missing out. And because of its almost clandestine location, some people do. But like most things, the ones that are not so easy to find are usually the ones worth finding. Mikado sits on the sprawling 450 acre property of the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert. The stellar hotel opened in 1987, including one of its anchor restaurants, Mikado Japanese Steakhouse. Many of the hotels restaurants have changed over the years, but Mikado has stayed the course, and once you experience it, you will understand why.

There are different ways to enter Mikado. You can enter via down the long meandering pathway that will lead you to a charming wooden bridge before crossing the restaurants threshold, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can cruise the properties waterways and dock only steps away from the restaurants enchanting courtyard. The latter of the arrivals is obviously the more romantic of the two. Boats are available Monday through Friday from 5pm to 9pm and 3pm to 10pm on the weekends. Rides are free, with only gratuity for the driver suggested and appreciated.


Upon entering Mikado, friendly hostesses are there to greet you. The restaurants lounge and sushi bar are intimate and inviting and offer a full bar and expansive sushi menu. Their signature cocktails include smoking concoctions smoldering from dry ice such as the Forbidden Kiss and the Zenntini which is a tangy yet sweet mix of Absolut Peach Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Pineapple and Pomegranate. The bar also offers an impressive wine, sake (cold and hot) and beer list including the best in Japanese beers.

Mikado tempts the palate with flavorful appetizers. Try their Mikado Sampler, a combination of Shrimp, Scallop and Vegetable Tempura with skewers of charbroiled Ebi (shrimp) and Beef Teriyaki. Their appetizers also expand to amazing hand cut rolls such as their special Love Me Long Time roll, a rich fusion of rice wrapped Shrimp Tempura, topped with Spicy Tuna drizzled with house spicy mayo and eel sauce, the perfect balance of the subtleness of the tuna with a surprise crunch from the Shrimp Tempura….a perfect intro to the Mikado experience.

The walk to the main dining area is a visual delight, with beautiful artwork that lines the grand hallway lit with large scale red lanterns. Main dining at Mikado is Teppanyaki, a Japanese style of cooking which involves preparing food on a hot griddle. There are 14 Teppanyaki tables at Mikado which seat up to 10 guests comfortably. They also offer a private dining room for special parties. Since the tables are so large, the probability of dining with other guests is high, unless you have a party that fills the table. It makes for a different evening of dining, and a great way to meet new people.

Once seated, a server like Martin Gradilla, who has been working at Mikado for 10 years, will efficiently take your order starting with drinks, appetizers and then the entrée. The service is attentive, even providing a stand for the female guests to put their purse’s on, to insure the utmost in dining comfort. A small accommodation such as that leaves an indelible impression. The entrée menu offers different selections that include single items or combinations such as the Kaisen Special with Shrimp, Scallops and Lobster or the Mikado Special with Lobster, Filet Mignon and Shrimp. All entrées come with miso soup or salad with ginger dressing, shrimp flambé, vegetable’s, steamed rice (or you can upgrade to fried rice which is highly recommended…yum!), ice cream for dessert and green tea on request.

The food is prepared with precision by highly skilled chefs. The chefs are talented beyond their ability in Teppanyaki cuisine, but also in entertaining restaurant guests as they rhythmically tap away with their spatulas while the dishes are being created. There is even a point where guests interact with the chefs, as they try to catch a sautéed shrimp in their mouth flung in the air via spatula, adding to the enjoyment of the night.

Mikado Manager Sean C. Nixon and Food & Beverage Supervisor Marius Olbrych are excited to offer a special Valentine’s Day Menu for all of the sweetheart couples out there. The menu options vary with a starter of Japanese Miso soup or salad with ginger dressing, main course choice of two combinations of Maine Lobster Tail with Lobster sauce, Filet Mignon, or Teriyaki Chicken and Raspberry Chocolate Heart Raspberry Mousse, all for $70 per person. Other options go up from there with the Ultimate Sumo for $85 per person and the Sumo for 2 at $165 per couple.

Mikado also offers up Early Bird specials Sunday through Thursday with 5:30 & 6pm seating’s with savings that equal up to almost 40%.

No matter if you’re looking to celebrate a special night out, a bachelor or bachelorette party, or a romantic evening with your sweetheart, Mikado is ready to accommodate. It has lasted over the decades stunning guests with their above par cuisine and attention to detail, making Mikado one of the longest standing dining gems in the desert.

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