Every part of the British empire, it seems, has its own meat pie. The recipe may not vary as much as the locals would have you believe, but the names do: Cornish pasties, Bedfordshire clangers and the Australian pies that chef Peter Boyle has dubbed "miyi." It's pronounced "my why" and comes from the Australian Aboriginal word for food. I'm hoping that if the restaurant ever makes a TV spot, it will feature an Australian-accented voiceover saying, "Miyi: Australian for pie."
Boyle's bright and clean storefront, also called Miyi, opened last year in the heart of Ballard. It's geared toward takeout, and all orders are taken at the counter. But there are several tables, and you can people-watch along Market Street, assuming Ballard hasn't already gone to bed by the time you sit down.
Since this is an Australian restaurant, it's only expected that the menu will feature items such as the Walkabout (a veggie-burger meal, $7.25) and the Jackaroo (meatloaf-sandwich meal, $7.25).
But pies are the star. Finished in the oven when you order, the pies ($3.50, or $3 each for four or more to go) are enveloped in a rich pastry crust topped with a kangaroo made of pie dough. If you take a miyi to go, it includes instructions for crisping it up in the oven at home (the microwave won't work here, but if you first bake it according to the instructions, it'll heat fine in the microwave later).
There are four regular pies and a monthly special — chicken curry in December.
Miyi has a family feel that is reflected in its lack of a liquor license, but nothing would wash these pies down better than beer. Instead, Miyi offers flavored iced tea and apple cider ($1.50 each). The pies are, however, small enough to slip into a purse and smuggle into the Tractor or the Sunset, not that I would ever suggest such a thing.
If pie is not your bag (nor in your handbag), Miyi offers those Aussie-monikered sandwiches and salads. I would have tried them, but every time I considered it, I heard those little pastry kangaroos calling me back.
Australian Miyi: This vegetarian pie was packed with root vegetables: parsnips, potatoes, carrots and turnips, as well as tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, barley and peas. The filling was a moist and satisfying mix of flavors, the pastry crust crisp and rich (it would never be described as "greaseless," however).
Chicken & Vegetable miyi tucker box: This pie features many of the same vegetables as the Australian, but with chunks of roasted chicken instead of the root veggies. The white-meat chicken was a bit dry in parts, but the filling helped keep it moist. Served with excellent scallion and Parmesan-topped mashed potatoes and some dull, undercooked mixed vegetables.
Shepherd's Pie Miyi: Another variation on the theme, this one adds ground beef and mashed potatoes to the tomatoes and vegetables, and it does taste like shepherd's pie. Also a bit like sloppy joes.
Peter's Pav: This Australian national dessert sounds ridiculous; you just have to try it. A huge slab of meringue with a thin and crunchy bottom crust is topped with a thick smear of passion-fruit custard and slices of tropical fruit (kiwi, pomegranate seeds, orange). It's saved from being insipid by the grownup frosting, its mouth-puckering tartness soothed by the meringue. My Australian friend David claims this is not an "authentic" pavlova, but this is surely one of those great debates like the authentic Bolognese sauce or martini. I will stay out of it and just say that Miyi's pav rocks.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Australian Miyi $3.50
Chicken & Vegetable Miyi Tucker Box $5.75
Shepherd's Pie Miyi $3.50
Peter's Pav $2.75
Matthew Amster-Burton: email@example.com.