Minami Restaurant: A Searing Culinary Passion

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Minami's plate outside the restaurant (Harry Duan)

On January 26th, Ms. Sandra Gin and the members of The Creed tried some Japanese cuisine for lunch at Minami Restaurant in Yaletown. We ordered a $28 Dine Out Lunch Set. The Dine Out Festival is held every January to get Vancouverites and tourists to experience the food culture of the city. Note that because of the outstanding deals of Dine Out, the quality of the food during this period may not be the best that a restaurant can achieve. The following is my honest review of various aspects of Minami.

FOOD ★★★★☆ (4/5)

ZEN PLATTER

Aburi Bincho Tuna ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

The strong-flavoured broiled tuna matched perfectly with the sourness from a relish comprising caramelised and chopped onions and wasabi pickles. However, the ideal acidity was diluted by the moisture from the radish strips underneath. Considering the radish was not the main focus, this dish still deserved applause.

King Crab & Citrus Salad ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

The appearance of this salad was certainly better than the final taste bud encounter. The blood orange slice was fine, but the regular orange slice tasted bitter. If it wasn’t for the orange reduction and the tiny amount of king crab meat on top, this dish would be a tarnish of the whole dining experience.

 

Braised Pork Cheek ★★★★★ (5/5)

Probably contributed by braising, the pork was unbelievably tender, yet its natural flavour was all retained. The sweet, creamy mashed potato underneath was an amazing enhancement of the pork when it blended with the pork fat and instantly melted in the mouth, giving much satisfaction.

Braised Short Rib ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Compared with the pork cheek, the beef was naturally less tender and fatty. But thanks to the braising method, it still retained a strong flavour just like the pork. With the relish and the red wine reduction, the beef was at its best. The carrots looked delicious, but turned out to be nothing more than ordinary.

ABURI SUSHI

Hamachi (Amberjack) ★★★★☆ (4/5)

The amberjack fish was decent, but the sauce on top was really subject to different perceptions; I personally found its taste too heavy, slightly prevailing over the fish. A layer of wasabi was smeared onto the rice; this did not seem to be a usual practice. People who do not like wasabi might not stand for this.

Ebi (Shrimp) ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

The shrimp itself came as no great surprise. However, the truffled sauce on top was delicious, a great combination with the crumbled black olive. The rice was praiseworthy, as it did not get pressed too hard; you could still taste the rice bits, not a mash.

 

Minami Roll ★★★½☆ (3.5/5)

This multi-ingredient sushi roll was not distasteful, but there were too many things going on in one single piece, as if all the constituents were having a clash, and you could not react promptly to it.

Salmon Oshi ★★★★★ (5/5)

Here came what I considered the best part of the meal. It was similar to a sandwich, with salmon within the rice and on top of it. The salmon was seared with a special sauce that perfectly boosted its taste. The chef was apparently experienced as the salmon was not overcooked; its softness was maintained to the greatest degree. Together with the rice, this could be deemed a masterpiece.

DESSERT

Passionfruit Sorbet ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

I was astonished to learn that the sorbet was housemade, since the lovely flavour of passionfruit spoke volumes of its high quality. One trivial thing to point out was that there was a small amount of ice underneath the sorbet, slightly affecting the taste of the remarkable dessert. But it was still the sweetest ending of the meal.

Dine Out Lunch Menu
Dine Out Lunch Menu

PRICE ★★★½☆ (3.5/5)

When the food arrived, I was shocked by the meagreness of the amount of food, even though it was obvious that Minami provided some of the best Japanese food in the city. $28 may not be the most sensible value when there is keen competition in the industry. Whether it is reasonable to charge $28 and 18% tip is highly dependent on personal judgment and financial status.

CONCEPT ★★★★★ (5/5)

According to the manager, this restaurant, operating since 2012, is named after the youngest daughter of owner Seigo Nakamura. Nakamura already owns nine restaurants in Japan and four in Canada (including Minami’s sister-restaurant, Miku). Naming the restaurant after his daughter may be a sign of treating customers like family members, providing them with the best food. Adopting searing in food preparation, the owner believes that food will have a different taste and look after being seared, symbolizing “change”. Both new and old elements are combined by making innovative food using an ancient cooking technique. The owner’s passion about food is evident. A noteworthy point is that most seafood at Minami is ocean-wise. Providing good food while protecting the environment is a responsible gesture from the restaurant.

AMBIENCE AND SERVICE ★★★★★ (5/5)

Once an agglomeration of warehouses not developed until 1986, Yaletown is now transfigured from shabbiness into one of the trendiest districts in Vancouver, and further adorned with a great variety of modern restaurants. Minami undoubtedly belongs to and fits in this area. On the day of our visit we were given a private room with four hanging lamps, murals of lotuses and dragonflies, and a ceiling mounted with interwoven wooden bars and mirrors, an interesting greenhouse impression. The staff members were sincere and willing to answer questions concerning the background of the restaurant and the food. The most impressive part was that before we left, all staff members bowed and thanked us in Japanese.

OVERALL RATING: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Link to Minami Restaurant’s website