For this year’s Dine Out Vancouver festival, the girls and I (Victoria, hello!) headed to Minami in Yaletown for their $38 three-course menu. Dine Out Vancouver is held every year, for three weeks, near the middle of January until the beginning of February. It is an opportunity for guests to enjoy a three (or more) course prix-fix meal at $18, $28, or $38 per person. Minami is a fairly new restaurant having only taken over the lease of Goldfish Seafood & Chops in Feburary of 2012. Its sister restaurant Miku though, has already established itself as an innovative and modern Japanese restaurant and a staple in Vancouver’s food scene. Naturally, we were eager to visit Mianami and to see what they had to offer.
Minami’s Dine Out menu consisted of three different courses, with no options, and showcased their most popular and current offerings on their regular menu.
We with began the Minami Zen, it consisted of 4 seasonal items and was beautifully displayed in a simple wooden box. Beginning from the left is the Soy Braised Short Rib AAA sterling, sitting on a bed of yukon potato puree topped with wasabi pickles. Following that is the Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish with kale goma-ae. Next was the Ebi fritter black tiger prawn with spiced couscous, drizzled with a soy balsamic and sweet chili aioli. Lastly, is the Slow Roasted Beet baby frisse with a fuji apple-raisan chutney and creamy yuzu.
The Soy Braised Short Rib was perfectly cooked and while it was soft enough to eat with only chopsticks, it held together beautifully and was well seasoned. The Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish was probably my favourite out of all the appetizers and just melted in your mouth. The miso flavour was not too overwhelming or powerful but instead left a nice, savoury aftertaste. I also really enjoyed the kale goma-ae and thought that it brought a new dimension this traditional Japanese side-dish. The Ebi fritter was also perfectly done, with not too much batter, and steaming hot (I love it when food is actually hot when served to you!) like any fried dish should be. I don’t remember the soy balsamic and sweet chili aioli much but it did seem to give some moisture and a bit of flavour to the ebi. The Slow Roasted Beet baby frisse was not exactly memorable, but was a nice, simple vegetarian dish that brought a bit of freshness and brightness to go with the other more substantial appetizers.
For the main course, we got the chance to try a variety of items from Minami’s sushi and aburi menu. From right to left, we have the: Aburi Salmon Oshi, Aburi Ebi Oshi, Minami Roll, Sunset Roll, Saba Aburi, Zuke Maguro, and Hamachi Aburi.
The term “aburi” refers to the sear-flaming or torching of sushi which brings out a wonderful smokey aroma that not only enhances the taste of the fish, but also gives it depth.
Out of all the sushi items, hands down, and I believe I speak on behalf of the other girls on this, the Aburi Salmon Oshi was probably our favorite. The jalapeno went extremely well with the smokiness from the torching of the piece and the salmon was evenly distributed (in layers) amongst the chewy and sweet, sushi rice. I, personally, also enjoyed the Saba Aburi, which I usually tend to find a tad “fishy”, but this piece of sushi was extremely fresh and did not have a fishy aftertaste whatsoever. All the other pieces of sushi were very enjoyable for me and were all well-seasoned. Minami prides itself on serving its sushi without the need for soy-sauce and sometimes, even wasabi. Although I will note, the nigiri sushi did come with a bit of wasabi, so if you are averse to having wasabi with your sushi, I suggest you mention that to your server.
Now for the best part, dessert! We were all each served a Piemonte Panna Cotta and Bitter Orange Sorbet with a layer of Cassis Coulis.
First off, presentation alone blew me away. From the perfect sugar spiral, to cubed bitter orange sorbet, one thing I will leave Minami with, is their attention to detail. We got a chance to chat with our server, Miki, about Minami’s desserts and this panna cotta was created especially for the Dine Out Festival and in addition to that, the desserts are lovingly and entirely made in-house. If the presentation was not enough, the panna cotta was divine. It was creamy and smooth and melted in your mouth, the bitter orange sorbet balanced out the sweetness and tartness of the cassis coulis and the chocolate wafer bits brought texture and bite.
…and because we are CRAZY for desserts, and just when you thought that was the end, we all ordered another round of desserts.
For our second round of desserts, we chose the (from left to right): Pistachio, Saffron and Rose Ice Cream, Earl Grey Berry Cake, and Lemon Cheesecake. Again with the presentation! The two cakes were arranged with a creative and artistic mindset and each component of the dessert matched together extremely well. The Pistachio, Saffron and Rose ice cream was fragrant and aromatic. The saffron and pistachio brought an earthiness to the ice cream which balanced out the floral-ness of the rose. The Earl Grey Berry Cake was light and simple, but also had an element of intenseness from the Earl Grey tea.
The Lemon Cheesecake was creamy and rich but at the same time, was not heavy or overwhelming (especially since at this point we had had a lot of food!). We noticed that sour cream was probably incorporated for its tanginess but also to give the cheesecake a soft, smooth texture. The tulle was also a nice addition that gave the cheesecake some textural contrast and of course the tart orange-lemon compote gave the dessert a bright and zesty element.
Overall, I can confidently say that although this was our first visit to Minami, it will not be our last. We all enjoyed the casual and laid back but yet, refined dining room and atmosphere, the service was attentive and informative and of course, the food (especially the desserts!) went above and beyond our expectations. I am also confident that Minami, Miku and the Aburi Brand will continue to thrive in Vancouver’s restaurant and food industry and bring new and exciting concepts! I can’t wait!