Welcome to Minami, bienvenido a Minami! Head Chef Jay Pugong has headed the Minami kitchen for 2 years, is self taught, having eschewed an engineering degree at SFU, and, I'm sure you'll agree once you try the food, he made the right choice! Our server, Krystle, named for a popular character on the soap opera Dynasty, was our first official welcome. She was very pleasant, knew her stuff and was quick to offer fantastic recommendations!
We started out with a few cocktails while awaiting the first course of Minami's set Dine Out menu. I had an Ono No Chi made with jalapeño tequila! Now I brush my teeth with Sriracha and beg waiters to make my Butter Chicken "Indian spicy" at my favourite Indian restaurants so this was right up my alley. Jenn tried it and said a curse word so you know it's good spice/ tequila fans of which I know there are many! She asked Krystle for a recommendation for a fruitier drink and came back with a Miyasaki #2 - a beautiful mango drink with meringue-y foam on the top; delicious!
Out came out first course. A lovely beet salad with goat cheese. I thoroughly enjoyed it! The beets were fresh and slightly crispy and the dressing was light and the goat cheese was pungent, but not overpoweringly so.
The next course was the quintessence of Minami! A sushi platter featuring their best Oishi, or block sushi. Each gets a charcoal sear with a blowtorch before your eyes in the open kitchen and the aromas fill the air. The first sushi, the name of which alludes me, but please check the gorgeous photograph as we'll go in order, and you can comment below, if you know it, was very good. The second was an amazing scallop offering which melted in your mouth. Toro means belly in Japanese and when you see Toro anywhere on anything purchase it to eat! The tuna toro is worth a one hour forty five minute drive to visit this restaurant. My people in Hope I'm looking at you!
The Dine Out Vancouver Festival is Canada's largest food festival and runs 17 days starting January 20th. 279 restaurants in the Lower Mainland put together a set menu for either $20, $30 or $40. Go check it out: dineoutvancouver.com. Which brings me to sushi #4, a Dine Out exclusive, Spicy tuna with a delicious strip of ultra lean roast beef wrapped around it. Jenn thought it was a "flavour party" while I was more drawn to the pepperiness brought out by the beef. The must sell 1,000,000 Ebi Oishi a year! So lemony and soft. I'm willing to bet the prawn was caught within the week; gorgeous! If they sell a million Ebi Oishi they must sell a billion Salmon Oishi. It's a good thing they plate two or else... riots... beheadings... Who knows?
In between the appetizers and main course and, yes, this gorgeous sushi platter was an appetizer, we partook in a Kochi 5, which lavished with lavender and lemon, not just clever alliteration, they GO TOGETHER marvellously! I had a Vespa because James Bond is an idol of mine and if you're expecting a 40 proof face punch you'll find the Vespa to be lighter than most of her martini cousins. This might be as good a time as any to highlight the sake pairings: Aburi ginjo for her first salad and sushi latter with its light vanilla tones.
The Nightingale accompanied the soon to be drooled over main course and is a bit more grassy than the first. "I've never had grass so it's hard for me to say" was Jenn's contribution to my sense of it. She tries. The Indigo is their dessert sake and it is absolutely delicious, light and fruity.
Entrée is a fun word to say. As a bilingual French and English speaker I revel in French words we adopt and don't butcher. Did you know cul-de-sac means bottom of a bag in French? Knowledge is power people! There is a choice of two entrées on their 2017 Dine Out menu: a 2-hour braised beef ankle with a coconut and garlic lobster tail or a decadent Miso Sablefish again with the lobster tail and each with a mixture of market vegetables. The ankle of a cow, an all too infrequently enjoyed delicacy, is a dense yet tender cut of meat and is braised until it melts in your mouth. Sablefish used to go by many different names. The most , or least, popular of which was Black Cod. In those days it was a 'junk fish' and was sold cheaply. Once palates became accustomed to the taste, and a masterful rebranding was undertaken, Sablefish is common amongst the world's best restaurants in whose company I would include Minami and her sister restaurant Miku! The sablefish was buttery and fresh and the lobster tail was a playful combination between the sweet of the coconut and the tang of the garlic. The garlic wins the flavour war and the freshness of the seafood is evident, the folks at their supplier 7Seas Fish Market know their stuff!
Reeling from the wholly satisfying meal we sat back and relaxed as our Hojicha Mousse came to our table and we turned to our Indigo sake to accompany it. The flavours blended so well together as we took a nibble of mousse and washed it down with the sweet sake. What an exhilaration! Minami could be visited for any of the courses alone or just the beautifully crafted cocktails or sakes while you sit at the bar in front of an incredible 40 foot by 10 foot single slab of fantastically lovely marble; breathtaking!