Monday, February 02, 2015

Episode #60: Minami Restaurant

Vancouver (Yaletown), $$$$ (Luxury)

After finishing another daunting week of lectures, I was seeking some Aburi awesomeness when I suddenly remembered that Dine Out was still available. It was 2:30 p.m. and the only sushi restaurants I knew that served a Dine Out Lunch Menu were Miku and Minami. Of course, I ended up choosing Minami just so I could write one more episode. Don't worry, I got my priorities straight.

Both Minami and Miku are operated by the Japanese restaurateur Seigo Nakamura and specialize in modern Japanese fusion cuisine. Minami has a more Pacific Western influence than Miku but many of the best-selling items can be found at both restaurants. Minami, located in the heart of Yaletown, does not have the stunning view that Miku has to offer, but the interior atmosphere is cozier and more comfortable in my opinion. Most importantly, I have never had the problem of  Minami running out of mint chocolates at the door.

Miso Soup - A-

My Dine Out Lunch started off with the Miso Soup, which was garnished with seaweed, tofu and enoki mushrooms. The miso paste was leaning towards the stronger side and it tasted quite standard except for the addition of the mushrooms.

Before I could finish the Miso Soup, the Zen box and Specialty Sushi arrived at the same time and were quickly followed by the Ebi Fritter, which I ordered in addition to the Dine Out Lunch Menu. I'm not quite sure why they thought it was a good idea to bring out everything at virtually the same time, but at least I was seated at a table of 4 so I had enough room on the table for everything.

Aburi Bincho - B+

As the Zen box is designed to be eaten from right to left, I started with the Aburi Bincho (seared white tuna), which was accompanied by red seaweed and ponzu-oroshi sauce. It was similar to a tuna tataki and could use a bit more moisture, but the tuna was quite fresh.

Beet Salad - B

The Beet Salad consisted of roasted and pickled beets, maple-apple cider vinaigrette, and baby greens. The vinaigrette had a citrusy flavour and the beets were roasted for the right amount of time, allowing them to retain a mild amount of juiciness and a mild fruity flavour. The vinaigrette could be better integrated with the baby greens.

Tiger Prawn Cake - A-

The Tiger Prawn Cake was accompanied by an Asian slaw and sweet chili aioli. The coleslaw had an appealing mild level of spice, and the Tiger Prawn Cake had a Chinese fried meatball feel to it.

Fraser Valley Pork Cheek - A

The Fraser Valley Pork Cheek was served with roasted heirloom potatoes, maple-miso sauce, and juniper-blueberry compote. The potatoes were soft, but a bit dry by the time I got to them. However, the pork cheek was perfectly braised, and was delightfully juicy and surprisingly soft. It certainly tasted better than it looked. The blueberry compote added a subtle sweetness to the pork cheek that worked excellently.

Hamachi with Citrus Avocado - A-
Albacore with Miso Glaze - A
Minami Roll - A-
Aburi Salmon Oshi - A+
Aburi Ebi Oshi - A

The Specialty Sushi came with two pieces of dressed nigiri sushi, one piece of maki sushi and two pieces of Aburi (seared) oshizushi. The Hamachi with Citrus Avocado was fresh, but the citrus avocado kind of vanished when consumed with the hamachi. On the other hand, the miso glaze accentuated the flavours successfully in the Albacore with Miso Glaze. The Minami Roll consisted of spicy prawn, cucumber, Aburi short rib and wasabi masatake sauce. The short rib was soft and had a nice, smooth texture, while the cucumber took center stage with regard to the interior.

When I wrote Episode 59, I didn't really think Miku's Aburi Salmon Oshi would be topped, but it was. Whereas Miku's Aburi Salmon Oshi was 95% there, Minami's was 100%. It had the perfect smoky flavour and peppery tinge, and was slightly more aromatic than Miku's. Minami completely nailed this one. The Aburi Ebi Oshi was dressed with a creamy, lemony pesto sauce and the sushi rice that accompanied it was very soft.

Ebi Fritter - A-

The Ebi Fritter came with 5 large, meaty prawns covered in a light, crispy batter. The spices and herbs used in the batter gave it an extra dimension of flavour. The prawns needed slightly more moisture and significantly more balsamic reduction. Minami completely blew me away with this dish during my last visit, so I'm not too sure what happened here. It was still an above average dish of battered tiger prawns though.

Passionfruit Sorbet - A-

The dessert for the Dine Out Lunch Menu came in the form of a Passionfruit Sorbet with a lemon cookie and seasonal fruit. I'm glad that they didn't bring this out before I finished all the dishes above. The sorbet had a bright, citrusy flavour with a sweet tang and went well with the fruits. It was a nice, refreshing finish to a decent set lunch.

The service was attentive, friendly and a notch above your typical Japanese restaurant. Like Miku, they took the time to introduce each item to me. However, I felt that some things could be improved as the timing of the dishes was off and they were conducting an interview in the table next to mine. At the very least, I got the chance to savour some very memorable items, such as the 10/10 Aburi Salmon Oshi (which I want to give an A++) and the surprisingly good Fraser Valley Pork Cheek.

The best part of all was that the chocolate container by the door was completely packed with mint chocolates, so I delightfully grabbed one as I left. Score!

Minami Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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