Dine out Vancouver: Minami

God, I just keep blogging about this place, don’t I? This will probably be the last time, so worry not.

Although, I’ve been to Minami for Taste of Yaletown, for an apology dinner, and now Dine Out. All I need is to go for a completely normal meal, and I could make a bonafide guidebook, right? Ish. Sure.

Anyway, we ordered the Dine Out set menu, which is as follows:

Appetizer: Aburi Sushi Appetizer (salmon oshi, sushi ebi oshi, sushi hotate temari with ume-cream sauce, spicy bincho roll, saba oshi bite with sundried tomato, and proscuitto)
Entree: Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish & Braised Fraser Valley Pork Cheek cauliflower parsnip purée, broccolini, spicy pickled bok choy mui, wasabi-fennel-caper relish, maple-miso glaze, roasted baby potatoes, green peas, ginger glazed carrot
Dessert: sweet Tofu Crème Brûlée maple sugar, berry compote, maple crumble
(x)

The place got busier as the night progressed. We were seated near the bar in the dining area, with a clear view of all the chefs working hard to pump out aburi sampler after aburi sampler after aburi sampler. A lot came out of that kitchen, but it was hard to notice anything other than the dark, slate grey platters filled with aburi style sushi.

This was the boy’s first time at Minami (he’s never been to Miku, either), and I think he had high-ish expectations. For the record, I did not build it up for him. I downplayed it, reminding him that it was good, but not whatever he might be thinking.

He knew it wouldn’t be like Tojo’s, but he also didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately he’s a spoiled brat (ARE YOU READING THIS??? I MEAN EVERY WORD) who will now only dine on the best Japanese food in town. Which means–spoiler alert–not Minami. I’m sure my Minami die-hard sister would slap him across the face for his opinion if she heard him admit so.

Of course, the boy actually has no problem with cheap, crappy Japanese food. “Of course.” Apparently this is because the food is expected to be less than good. He’ll eat it “just to put food in [his] stomach.” I wouldn’t make his life decisions, but I suppose it makes relative sense.

Anyway, he was at first a little unimpressed they didn’t have a small tray to take the tea bag/whatever out of the hot water pot. Something about over-steeping the tea, which he discussed at length at Tojo’s. Read the Tojo’s review here, if you care to. I personally think that he should lower his expectations, but whatever. (ARE YOU READING THIS, LOVE??? LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS.)

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Our aburi appetizer dish soon arrived.

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My favourite course. I love aburi style oshi/sushi/etc., and the sauces are so flavourful at Minami (& Miku). The two of us agreed, however, that putting prosciutto on a ball of rice was a rather odd, salty, and not particularly exciting combo. My favourites were the salmon oshi and the sushi hotate temari with ume cream sauce. Mmmm. I was left wanting more, for sure.

We finished the small assortment quickly. Next was an extra dish the boy ordered–not part of the Dine Out menu. The minami roll. Appropriate, according to him, to eat their signature roll. He asked me if it was any good, since I had ordered it. I didn’t tell him I disliked it. He’s far less picky than me, so I assumed he’d be okay with it… probably maybe.

He didn’t mind it. He liked the beef, but found the wasabi on top a bit overpowering and the cucumber, which was slotted in large chunks into the rolls, bland.

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The entree portion of our Dine Out experience arrived, and we dug in.

I have to say that aside from the sable fish, which was tasty and fatty, and the hard-to-mess-up pork cheek and potatoes, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Compared to my Taste of Yaletown experience, the dishes were significantly fewer. In fact, my entree for ToY was twice as big, for lunch instead of dinner, all at a less expensive price (price variation: $38 for Dine Out dinner, $35 for ToY lunch). This is also because I don’t count the chunk of ginger glazed carrot as its own sampler meal… I mean, it’s a chunk of carrot and broccolini.

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As I said in my ToY review, I don’t think that these kinds of special events define a dining experience at restaurants. Kitchens may be busier, chefs are constantly pumping out the same dishes over and over with less variation, staff might be a bit more stressed out… so as always, keep that in mind as I review.

But back to the food. Some of the flavour choices for the sable fish dish were markedly odd. The cauliflower puree had barely any flavour at all. It seemed like the bok choi might have been trying to make up for that blandness by being heavily spiced and pickled, but it was a bit extreme in taste while looking and feeling shrivelled and lifeless.

I feel like I’m being a bit brutal here, but hopefully you all understand that I’m trying to give you the most honest review possible. The portions were small given that Dine Out is supposed to be not only a sample of sorts that displays the best a restaurant has to offer, but also a good deal. The food itself didn’t do anything to justify the $38 either. The only conclusion I can come to after these experiences at Minami is that it’s financially worth it to order the lunch at Taste of Yaletown because of the size of your meal, but ultimately, if you’ve got money to burn: just eat there during the regular dining season.

Finally, dessert.

Tofu crème brûlée. The maple crumble was interesting, and I enjoyed the sweet-sour berry compote at the bottom. It complemented the crème brûlée well. Tofu was an odd flavour choice, though. It’s not particularly exciting or dessert-ish, as a food or flavour.

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We managed to finish our meal in just under an hour, which surprised us.

A note on the service: helpful, and constantly present. We did have a number of different staff, most of whom were not our waiter, stop by and ask how we were doing, as well as asking if our waiter had told us details about x or y dish. He had, so it was a bit repetitive, but nonetheless there are no complaints from me.

Anyway, as I’ve offered most of my most important thoughts already, I’ll sign off here. Every year I get excited about which restaurants to try, and every year is a new, at the very least memorable experience. Next up is Joe Forte’s which I’m thinking is going to be an excellent deal if any. We’ve also been dying to try Chambar, but they’re packed beyond belief. Maybe once Dine Out is over, and then again next year when the festival starts up again. Can you tell I’m excited?

Blame K, who showed me pictures of her family’s Dine Out experience there. I died!

Happy Dine Out, everyone. Eat well.

Best,

Miriam

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