Minami (Japanese Restaurant – Shokai VS Omakase)

Restaurant: Minami
Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi/Fusion/Euro-Asian
Last visited: November 6, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Yaletown)
Address: 1118 Mainland Street
Transit: Yaletown-Roundhouse Stn Northbound
Price Range: $30-50+ ($25-29 mains)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 5 (based on Shokai Menu)
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Value: 3
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Japanese chefs
  • Part of the Tora Corporation
  • Upscale Japanese dining
  • Japanese techniques
  • Euro-Asian twists
  • Specializes in aburi (lightly seared) & sushi
  • Upscale/posh/trendy
  • Best spot: At the bar
  • Daily specials, fresh sheets
  • Seasonal menu
  • Shokai Menu from $80+/person
  • Omakase available – (Chef’s Choice menu) from $100+/person
  • In house pastry chef
  • Good sake list
  • Wine/Cocktails/Specialty sakes
  • Oceanwise options
  • Patio available
  • Dinner:
    • 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sunday to Thursday / 10:00pm-10:30pm, Bar Bites Menu
    • 5:00pm-10:30pm, Friday to Saturday / 10:30pm-11:00pm, Bar Bites Menu
  • Lunch:

**Recommendations: Minami Shokai or Minami Omakase (requires 72 hours notice). If ordering a la carte: Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi, Premium Aburi, Minami Roll, Yaletown Roll, Sunset Roll, Miku Roll, Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish, Chicken Nanban, Earl Grey Berry Cake, Green Tea Opera

Sushi Chef Hideto Moriki at Minami

Look at that face! Now look at your man. Now back to me! Now look at that face! Now back to me! Don’t you just want to pinch those cheeks?! At the very least he made you smile. With a contagious smile like that I had to sit at the bar, or in front of the open kitchen to be precise. Actually he could have been a grump and I still would have chose to sit at “chef’s table”. It is where all the action is and part of me had already decided on omakase, which is best experienced in front of the chef.

Omakase is a Japanese phrase which means “I’ll leave it up to you”. It’s basically the equivalent of a Chef’s Tasting Menu. It is trusting that the chef will give you the best sushi and highest quality sashimi of the day. The dishes will start off light and progress to heavier courses ending with sushi followed by dessert. It is an open platform for the chef to show his creativity, skills and technique. Sometimes it will include some culinary performances or tricks for entertainment, but this is rare to find in Vancouver. The omakase menu at Minami is not that advertised, but it is available upon request.

Sushi Chef Masayuki Fujiwara at Minami

Minami is the sister restaurant of Miku, which is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the city. It’s where I choose to bring visitors and celebrate special occasions and I’m passionate about their food. While the menus at both restaurants have their similarities the concepts are different. Miku offers traditional Japanese cuisine specializing in aburi sushi (flame seared sushi), and Minami offers Euro-Asian Japanese cuisine with Pacific Northwest style and flavours. Personally I prefer the traditional Miku, but their popular dishes overlap at both restaurants, so you can’t really go wrong at either. On that note it would be nice if Minami didn’t have to borrow clothes from her older sister.

80 Minami Shokai
an introduction to the Minami experience through an assortment of our trademark dishes from the kitchen, sushi and pastry chefs.
100+ Minami Omakase (requires 72 hours notice)
a unique experience produced by our chefs, exploring fusion flavours and aburi cuisine beyond Minami’s signature item

I really wish I had saw this option. If I had known I would have booked for the Minami Omakase, but instead I got the Minami Shokai. I didn’t even realize there were 2 omakase style options until I came home and saw it online. It all makes sense now.

I’m a fan of omakase and I have tried it at Octopus Garden, Kimura, Hapa Izakaya , and Dan, but there are still many more restaurants that offer it in Metro Vancouver. So far Octopus Garden has been a solid benchmark for excellent omakase, but if you have the bigger dollars to spend than Tojo’s omakase is the highest end it gets in Vancouver. Omakase is generally a pricier way to dine (just like any Chef’s Tasting Menu), but if you are looking for an authentic, unique and memorable Japanese experience then I would highly recommend it. It’s a very special and intimate experience and I love it.

So when I ordered the omakase at Minami I was expecting the only “omakase” experience I knew (described above). I was hoping for things that were off the menu, so I was a bit confused when course after course was more or less signature items from their regular menu. Mind you those signature items were still excellent and made with high quality ingredients and fine presentation, but it wasn’t the omakase experience I was expecting or thought I had ordered.

The “omakase” I was given ended up being the “Minami Shokai”, and the one I wanted was the “Minami Omakase” which requires pre-booking. If I had known I would have prepared for that. It was likely a miscommunication, but I really wish I knew or that there was only one option. Being a popular restaurant under a restaurant group I understand needing more “corporate structure” as to why they likely request pre-booking, but it kind of took away from that pure passion and personal experience one gets when dining omakase.

The point of omakase is to showcase natural creativity using whatever ingredients are in the kitchen. It’s an open stage for the chef to explore and create with whatever he happens to have at that moment; and that use of time, freedom of expression, and raw experience is what I wanted. So while I was not disappointed by the Minami Shokai experience I had, it just wasn’t what I had ordered. I did end dinner thinking was that really omakase, or just a “best of” tasting menu that could be ‘easily’ replicated again?

Regardless I did have a good time and an epic meal and it delivered as it usually does, but I didn’t get that authentic omakase experience. Actually I didn’t get omakase at all. The Minami Shokai is what I ended up getting and it was good for first-timers who want a highlight of their menu (little did I know that is what “Shokai” means in Japanese too – “first time“). If you’re a regular, chances are you already know what to order though and I’m not sure you would see value or benefit in the Minami Shokai. It was still good, but I’m not sure if these styles of dining are their specialty. It is a great restaurant, but if you know their dishes well then the Minami Omakase sounds more appropriate (which I have yet to try).

Note: The Minami Shokai menu featured can change and may not be what you see in the following. I have met the chefs before, but this was fully paid for and on my own time. There are no expectations for the outcome of this post.

On the table:

Green Tea

  • $3.50
  • They charge for their green tea, but it is good quality.
  • The quality of tea is one of the signs I look for when dining Asian cuisine.
  • It can say as much as the bread and butter at a Western restaurant.
  • They have a very good sake list and Japanese inspired cocktails here, but I prefer tea for the eating part.

The Minami Shokai started with a trio sampler of three appetizers from their regular menu.

Tuna and Crumbled Miso Tofu Tartare3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Avocado, red onion, celery, cucumber, shiso leaf, micro shiso, lotus root chips, spicy sesame soy dressing, wasabi aioli ($13 a la carte, bigger portion)
  • The tuna tartare and tofu was puréed together until creamy so I lost the texture of the tuna.
  • I prefer it hand chopped, but it was still good although the tofu seemed a bit filler.
  • There was texture from crunchy red onions, celery and a layer of diced avocado underneath.
  • I wish the veggies were minced instead of diced because they were a bit big for a tartare.
  • It was seasoned a bit sweet and savoury from the miso, tangy from perhaps yuzu and spicy from the sesame soy dressing and it was balanced with good flavour.
  • I liked the lotus chip as crostini and I’m glad the wasabi aioli was on top instead of mixed in.
  • It was a refreshing yogurt based aioli and the wasabi was fresh and acting as “horseradish”.
  • It was an enjoyable and rather simple dish, but perhaps not as creative as it could be for Vancouver standards in this type of cuisine.
  • If you like this I would also recommend the Spicy Salmon Tartare at Shuraku Sake Bar & Bistro or the Tuna Avo Salsa Dip with plantain chips at Hapa Izakaya.

Slow Roasted Beets & Watercress Salad3/6 (Good)

  • Yuzu crème fraîche, fig, candied sesame cashew, fig chutney, yuzu chardonnay vinaigrette ($12 a la carte, bigger portion)
  • This was fresh and good, but it’s just not something I would have to order a la carte or at this type of restaurant.
  • It was what it was with a couple Japanese twists, but it was a beet salad and nothing particularly different.
  • I could taste the citrus yuzu and grapefruit like flavours in the vinaigrette and there were good textures and a sweet, salty and tangy balance.
  • There was also some standard goat cheese and it was a simple salad that was more Western than Japanese in thought and execution.

Wagyu Beef wrapped Pan Seared Scallops with Sous-Vide Wild Mushrooms – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Balsamic marinated grilled radicchio, preserved meyer lemon, wasabi salsa verde, flavivs vinegar ($12 a la carte, bigger portion)
  • I think this could be better a la carte than sample sized because there was a lot going on in one bite, although still good.
  • So it wasn’t a typical “bacon wrapped scallop” which we’ve likely had before, but a wagyu beef wrapped scallop.
  • It was quite a meaty bite and I’m not sure how I felt about the combo because both are beautiful ingredients on their own.
  • It was however almost like a surf and turf which is typical.
  • The scallop was well seasoned and very tender, but seemed only seared on one side.
  • The wagyu beef didn’t give much texture like bacon would, but the quality was good and it did melt in my mouth.
  • It wasn’t a thin shaving of wagyu, but a rather thick slice and it was fully cooked, but still very tender.
  • It was a savoury bite and it was marinated in a brown butter soy like sauce.
  • There was also some tangy sweetness from preserved lemon and the salsa verde was strong with fresh parsley and a slight “horseradish” kick from the fresh wasabi.
  • The mushrooms were infused with herbs and very tender and perhaps lightly sautéed with butter and soy, but one was still a bit sandy.
  • There was also a sherry vinegar reduction on top so the three sauces were perhaps excessive, but appropriate for a regular sized portion.
  • The caramelized ridicchio was sweet and naturally a bit bitter so it made the dish a little less rich.
  • Other than it being “wagyu beef” and having wasabi and soy sauce, I’m not sure if I got much Japanese influence in this one.
  • It was a good dish, but I wouldn’t have to necessarily enjoy it here. I find their strengths in the more Japanese influenced dishes.

Premium Sashimi Platter4/6 (Very good)

  • A selection of premium sashimi (12 pieces – not on the menu).
  • This was beautiful and I wasn’t expecting it.
  • The variety of sashimi is considered quite standard (not many exotic species), but the quality was good and knife skills great.
  • To be honest, if I was craving sashimi, Miku or Minami are not the places I would go for it because they are not known for sashimi.
  • It is not even an a la carte option on their menus and for understandable reasons too.
  • Miku and Minami are known for aburi which is flame seared sushi (half raw, half cooked).
  • Aburi tends to be about the creativity of sauces, but the blow-torched searing method is also intended to enhance the fishes’ natural flavours.
  • Typically for aburi one wouldn’t use the highest quality sashimi because it is going to be seared anyway which would be considered a waste.
  • The best quality and highest grade fish is always served as sashimi or used for nigiri. It would not be typically shoved into a roll or cooked.
  • Think of it as the highest quality and cut of beef, you wouldn’t grind it for a hamburger.
  • Having said that, Miku and Minami still use pretty high quality fish for their aburi.
  • It is not the highest quality of sashimi or premium, but it is very good and fresh. I have no problems with it especially for aburi.
  • If you are looking for excellent quality sashimi I like Ajisai, Koko, Octopus Garden, Tokachi, and Ichiro.
  • This sashimi platter included (left to right):
    • Yellowtail (Hamachi) with avocado puree4/6 (Very good)
      • You can order this a la carte as aburi and I would recommend doing that.
      • The hamachi was pretty okay quality with a sweet, savoury and tangy avocado purée and a hint of cracked black pepper.
      • This is the perfect example of how aburi (flame seared) can enhance the fish’s flavour because it tastes better aburi and served nigiri than sashimi.
    • Atlantic salmon with chopped onion5.5/6 (Excellent!)
      • Farmed Atlantic salmon is one of the most non-sustainable fish, but it was really good.
      • It was very oily, fatty and buttery and super rich and the chopped onion cut the fattiness.
      • I hate to say it, but it was surprisingly my favourite on the platter.
      • You can order one piece of this aburi style as well.
    • Red Tuna – 4/6 (Very good)
      • It was very good, but it can get even higher in quality.
      • It was a nice cut though and fresh. Sushi Hachi has a nice one too.
    • Hirame (Flounder)4/6 (Very good)
      • This is a very mild tasting fish.
      • It was clean, fresh and cut thin as it usually is.
      • It’s a flat white fish and this is the season to enjoy it.
    • Wild Sockeye Salmon – 4/6 (Very good)
      • Again it was very good quality, but it can get even higher in quality.
      • It was a nice cut and fresh with good colour and flavour.
      • I still really like the one at Tokachi or Ichiro though.
    • Albacore Tuna Toro (Tuna Belly) – 4/6 (Very good)
      • The tuna belly is one of my favourite cuts. It’s very fatty and creamy.
      • The quality was very good for an Albacore Tuna, but it wouldn’t be considered a desired tuna for Japanese standards.
      • It was naturally oily, cut nice and thick and very fresh.
      • The flavour is less intense than other Japanese tuna, but the fattiness is noticeable.
      • I still prefer toro from a regular tuna than an albacore tuna.
      • Albacore Tuna isn’t traditionally used for sushi, but more commonly used for tataki (seared).
  • They offer the sashimi with soy sauce, but please use it sparingly or not at all.
  • The fish is fresh enough and the quality high enough that you don’t need to mask it with sauce. If anything, just a small touch.
  • I find wasabi enhances it and opens the palate, but some would argue it masks it as well.
  • The wasabi here is freshly grated wasabi which is fantastic and very hard to come by anywhere in Metro Vancouver.

The hirame was sliced very thin and almost translucent. It was very nice knife skills.

Again, the sushi chef made an effort to showcase his knife skills and technique. The paper thin shavings of cucumbers were even and consistent and fanned out perfectly without a tare in sight. The platter had artistic presentation with purpose and these are the details that don’t go unnoticed.

Shabu Shabu – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Thinly sliced beef, kombu dashi broth, market vegetables, ponzu and yuzu kosho ($23 a la carte)
  • This was excellent and you can order it a la carte.
  • It is not something I would normally order, but I did enjoy it here and thought they did a great job with it.
  • Shabu Shabu (or “Swish Swish” in Japanese) is a very traditional way of eating Japanese food.
  • The origin is initially Chinese, but it is simply hot pot.
  • Although it is enjoyed casually and throughout the year, it is popular during colder months.
  • The meal consists of thinly sliced raw ingredients which you “swish” in the hot broth until it cooks to your desired doneness.
  • You dip the ingredients into sauce and enjoy it with rice. Later the soup is enjoyed with rice or noodles or sipped alone.
  • It is normally a meal in itself, but in this case it was featured as a course to the Shokai menu, so it did not include the rice.

An excellent Shabu Shabu will have a good dashi broth and clean high quality meats, seafood and fresh vegetables. This Shabu Shabu had very high quality ingredients with thinly sliced wagyu beef, sable fish (black cod), oyster mushrooms, BC spot prawns, enoki mushrooms, wild sockeye salmon, white fish, haricots, bok choy, baby radish and other veggies.

The dashi broth was also very good and made from scratch and not instant powders. It tasted MSG-free and was made from aromatics like daikon, kelp, and sweet Shiitake mushrooms (dried). The combination of these ingredients create a soup that have umami (savoury flavour). There was some tofu in it too and not too sweet. Sukiyaki tends to be sweet and Shabu-Shaby savoury. The broth was not too salty either and very natural in flavour and it was likely made early in the day or even better a day before (flavours merry).

  • I have my issues with anything labeled “wagyu beef” after reading this article, but whatever this beef was, I loved it. It was fantastic.
  • It was very fatty and you can just see the marbelization and intensity of fat.
  • I swished it in the hot broth for under 5 seconds and it just melted in my mouth like sashimi. It was incredibly tender and I barely had to chew it.
  • It was not shaved thin like carpaccio and I was impressed with the thickness and how it still melted.
  • There is higher quality wagyu than this and in Japan it is almost all white and extremely expensive, but I would not complain about this one especially at the price.

  • Sablefish is also one of my favourite fish even though it is “idiot-proof” to cook.
  • It is a very fatty fish and best enjoyed at medium well or fully cooked.
  • The fish doesn’t taste good as sashimi or seared because it’s so fatty that it needs to be cooked before you can appreciate its flaky and ultra moist qualities.
  • Minami uses the sablefish for their miso sablefish course which is also very good.

I can eat BC Spot Prawn heads raw, but I do prefer them deep fried. They happily deep fry them upon request.

Premium Specialty Sushi & Rolls Sampler – 6/6 (FMF Must try!)

  • Minami Roll, Yaletown Roll, Sunset Roll, Crunchy Scallop Roll, Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi, Yellowtail Belly Nigiri with Avocado puree, Ebi Nigiri with Pesto Sauce
  • This course was a very nice and special surprise and very unexpected, but much appreciated!
  • I wish this was available a la carte, but it’s not. I can’t imagine how long in took for them to get one piece of each recommended and signature roll.
  • It was probably my ideal sushi sampler and all of them were enjoyable. It was a matter of which do I like and which do I love.
  • Do not ask for soy sauce or wasabi.
  • The rolls come already seasoned with their own chef made sauces (the rice is also well seasoned), and asking for soy sauce is almost like asking the Western chef for salt.
  • They will give it to you if you ask and they will likely be nice about it here, but it is not how it is meant to be eaten.

**Minami Roll – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Aburi short rib, spicy prawn, cucumber, wasabi masatake ($16 a la carte for 8 pieces)
  • This was delicious! It was sweet from the caramelized onions on top and savoury from the buttery thin slice of seared short rib.
  • The short rib was tender and there was a nice crunch from cucumber and mild spice from the prawn.
  • It was a solid “surf and turf” bite and I could justify ordering a full order of it.
**Yaletown Roll  4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Sous-vide salmon, golden tobiko, cucumber, kanpachi, ikura, lemon zest, wasabi aioli ($16 a la carte for 8 pieces)
  • The salmon was creamy and guaranteed moist since it was sous vide.
  • It obviously has a seafood flavour, but it’s not fishy and I liked the fresh lemon zest and hint of fresh wasabi.
  • The wasabi aioli was made with kewpie (Japanese mayo) so it had a sweetness.
  • The kanpachi wasn’t dominant, but it just adds to the seafood flavour and the aioli and salmon was almost reminiscent of salmon salad.
  • This is another roll I could order a la carte.

**Sunset Roll – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Spicy tuna, cucumber, smoked salmon, golden tobiko, kaiware, mustard sauce ($16 a la carte for 8 pieces)
  • This was also excellent and one of chef’s favourite as well.
  • It was a “spicy tuna roll” 2.0.
  • I could taste dill in the sauce and I could taste the salmon more than the tuna.
  • I could taste the smokiness and there was a nice spiciness from the tuna and gradual heat.
  • It had good texture and a light mustard sauce that didn’t overpower the flavours of the fish.
Crunchy Scallop Roll – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Scallop, flying fish roe, aonori tempura bits ($13 a la carte for 8 pieces)
  • This was the only roll that I wouldn’t feel like I needed to order a la carte, but it was still good.
  • It was a gourmet crunchy scallop roll with flakey tempura bits and it was seaweed and seafood forward in flavour.
  • I could taste the sweet scallops and it was well stuffed, but the other rolls were more exciting.
  • This was a roll that you might not see the value in since variations of crunchy scallop rolls can be found at many restaurants.

These could be the 2 most delectable pieces of sushi you can have in Vancouver.

**Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Pressed local salmon, jalapeño, miku sauce ($14 for 6 pieces)
  • This is the must try and very possibly the best tasting nigiri you could have in the city. I hate saying anything is “the best” too.
  • It’s a creamy, savoury, rich, buttery and moist salmon with 2 levels of spice from the freshly cracked black pepper and slight crunch of heaty jalapeño.
  • I could smell the smoky charcoal flavour lifting off the seared salmon and it was very aromatic. I could taste it in the nose.
  • The salmon on top was brushed with Chef’s own savoury and sweet soy sauce before topping it with Miku sauce.
  • The Miku sauce is the secret ingredient and it was very rich, buttery, indulgent and intense with umami (savoury flavour).
  • The famous sauce is almost like a very rich and slightly fishy tasting aioli (in a good way).
  • It is ultra creamy with a sweet Japanese mayo base (Kewpie) mixed with miso paste and I feel like there is some eel oil/fat in it.
  • There could be some dashi stock in it (traditional Japanese seafood stock) giving it that “je ne sais quoi”.
  • When the sauce is seared or baked it becomes smoky, aromatic and almost nutty and sweet. Imagine baked mayo.
  • I could taste every layer of ingredient including every crumb of black pepper.
  • Each bite was a perfect balance and harmony of flavours.
  • It’s a creamy buttery texture and the rice is chewy, flavourful and moist and the whole thing just melts in your mouth.
  • The rice is very well seasoned and good quality sushi rice.

**Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • House cured saba, pressed & dressed with MIKU miso sauce ($14 for 6 pieces)
  • It used to be $10 and now it’s $14. I would still pay for it though and it is amazing.
  • I remember having it at Miku Restaurant and I remember it being good, but not a “FMF Must Try“!
  • I used to like the Aburi Salmon Oshi sushi even more, but the tables have turned and I like this one even better now!
  • I’m not sure if my tastes have changed or if it was a consistency issue, but this was one of my favourite bites of the whole night.
  • This was even richer than the Aburi Salmon Oshi.
  • Being that it was Saba (Mackerel) it was a fishy and strong flavoured sushi.
  • Again, it was the perfect ratio of rice, fish and sauce.
  • The rice is very well seasoned, moist, and good quality sushi rice.
  • The sauce was the creamy baked savoury Miku miso sauce I described above (see Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi). It has incredible umami.
  • It was incredibly smoky from the aburi (searing) which just melted the buttery sauce and released the oils from the mackerel and enhanced its flavour.
  • The sauce was very indulgent and just melted right into the oils of the mackerel.

**Hamachi (Tuna) with Avocado Puree (Left) – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • This piece is perhaps my favourite nigiri here and I would order it a la carte.
  • This was the same as the one served in the sashimi platter above, but I liked it aburi style even more.
  • I could smell and taste the charcoaly smoky aburi sear on in again. It was lovely and it brought out the fish’s flavour.
  • It was super creamy and rich with the buttery hamachi and almost melted avocado puree seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper.
  • The rice was well seasoned, moist and excellent quality sushi rice.

Ebi with Basil Miku Sauce – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • This was quite smoky in flavour with the creamy and savory rich Miku-miso sauce again that I described above (see Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi).
  • The Miku sauce is mixed with a basil pesto-like sauce and it was very buttery, savoury and a bit sweet.
  • It tasted like a seafood alfredo or bechamel sauce mixed with a hint of pesto, but it wasn’t nutty like a basil and pine nut pesto.
  • There was a bit of wasabi underneath and a hint of freshly cracked black pepper on top.
  • I could also taste shiso (minty Japanese basil) and I’m not sure if they used that in the pesto.
  • The prawn was also very good, but not the focus.
  • The rice was again well seasoned, moist and excellent quality sushi rice.

**Green Tea Opera 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Green tea sponge infused with espresso and Frangelico liqueur, green tea butter cream, dark chocolate ganache, azuki bean cream, green tea ice cream, green tea sauce $10
  • This was just a half portion of the regular size.
  • At the end of the Shokai Menu you can choose a dessert.
  • Usually it is a full sized dessert per person, but I didn’t know so I ended up ordering one and they split it.
  • At most Japanese places in Metro Vancouver you’re left with green tea, mango or vanilla ice cream, but here the desserts are professional and made in house.
  • They actually invest in a pastry chef at Miku and Minami and they have a dedicated pastry department so the desserts are worth taking a look at.
  • I think I used to like this cake more than I do now and I found it a bit too sweet now.
  • I don’t think the recipe has changed, but maybe just my tolerance for sweetness.
  • The cake has excellent texture though with a crispy feuilletine layer which I think makes any layered cake like this usually 10x’s better.
  • It tastes like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate in green tea cake form.
  • I could taste more chocolate and hazelnut than green tea and if you like Nutella you could adapt to this well.
  • It had a good balance in creamy, cakey and crispy texture and it was moist and well layered.
  • Azuki bean is red bean and it had an azuki bean cream, but I couldn’t even tell it was red bean and I’m not keen on red bean.
  • I loved that it was served with green tea ice cream too which was smooth, rich and custard based with good matcha flavour (powder form not tea leaves).
  • The berries were not seasonal so another garnish would be great.
  • This is still the favourite and most popular dessert on the menu.
The following desserts are from Minami, but on another occasion separate from the Shokai Menu above.

Apple Strudel 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Phyllo, apple-raisin-maple-walnut compote, vanilla & seasonal sauces, ginger-wasabi ice cream $10
  • This is for the Fall/Winter menu and while I liked the presentation and flavours, it wasn’t one I would have to order again.
  • It was a very well made streudel with a crispy caramelized phyllo dough that wasn’t too thick.
  • It was very traditional Eastern European and served warm.
  • It was well filled with apples, raisins and crunchy walnuts and it wasn’t too sweet and had spices like cinnamon and cloves.
  • The ginger-wasabi ice cream was good, but I probably would have liked it better with just a classic vanilla or ginger ice cream.
  • The sugar crystal garnish was pretty, but it would be nice to have it serve a purpose and add flavour to the dessert rather than just adding a visual.
  • There was also some berries and being out of season I was hoping for maybe pears and a pear sauce.

**Earl Grey Berry Cake  5/6 (Excellent)

  • Earl grey cream, walnut sponge, earl grey cookie crust, blueberry & blackberry compote, japanese puffed rice, hazelnuts, chantilly cream, cassis-vanilla ice cream $10
  • This was another dessert for the Fall/Winter menu.
  • Again I was hoping it would be a seasonal compote instead of berries, but it still tasted good and the berries weren’t tart.
  • This was delicious though and I liked it more than I expected.
  • It was a light, fluffy and yet creamy.
  • It was a mousse like cake and I could taste the fragrant Earl Grey without it being bitter or overpowering.
  • I loved the hazelnuts and crispy puffed rice for texture and the cassis-vanilla ice cream was a great compliment (behind the cake).
  • I probably would have liked candied nuts over the puffed rice, but the puffed rice was still good and I guess part of the Japanese flare.
  • It wasn’t too sweet and it was nice and nutty and I could eat more of this than the Green Tea Opera cake, although the Green Tea dessert might be more interesting.
  • Again I liked how pretty and delicate the sugar crystals were, but I wish they had a purpose in terms of adding flavour to the dessert and not just added sugar.
  • I would re-order this dessert and recommend it if you don’t like heavy desserts or ones that are very sweet.

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  • Bow says:

    This omakase does seem like a set menu rather a chef’s inspiration. Not inspired by the lack of seafood(for me)…would have like grilled Shioyaki Hamachi cheek; some sable fish with chicken in a teapot with a dashi broth and slivered shitake and enoki; mebbe some raw prawns tossed in mirin, chilis and chopped Shiso; how about soba tossed with cod roe and butter ?…I would have chosen a la carte because the Shabu Shabu isn’t what I want. However the food looks good(not a fan of rolls) and you liked it(and yer a tuff critic)!

  • Linda says:

    Wow for $80 I would definitely try this menu out, all your choices look so fresh and delicious! the dishes are so beautifully presented and it really how’s the care and passion they have for their food… I’m really blown away 🙂

  • Shmoo says:

    I can relate to your feeling that the “shokai” experience, while well-executed, was not the personal “omakase” experience you were hoping for. We once took out-of-town visitors to try the omakase at the infamous Tojo’s. During our meal, we came to realize that the series of dishes that were being presented to us were almost entirely from the regular menu. We were deeply disappointed (and a little bit embarrassed). It was not at all what we had been expecting from an omakase dinner, even if most of the dishes were respectably executed. At least it seems like Minami makes some effort to communicate that the shokai dinner will consist of menu staples. (Although you mention not realizing until reading their website later… so perhaps not clear enough?)

  • Mijune says:

    @Shmoo – Ouch. Yes, I would not be too happy if I ordered omakase at a high end place and got a la carte dishes. It’s really not the authentic experience or test of the chef. I hear if you sit at the bar at Tojo’s it might be a different experience… ? Yes I think they needed to be clearer here because it wasn’t on the menu and I did only notice when I got home and looked at the website. Thanks for your comment!

  • ab says:

    You can go sit at the bar, and tell one of the sushi chefs that you want “omakase” for $xx.xx (preferably more than $90 since shokai is $80), and they will take care of you just like omakase at other Jap restaurant. You don’t need to be stuck between Shokai and $100 Omakase. Moreover, I have seen some people ordering shokai without dessert. Tell them if you don’t like shabu shabu, and they will accomodate. Lastly, the reason for 72hr notices for omakase is to bring-in special ingredients such as wagyu steak, caviar, truffle…. etc… if you have special requests or your budget is higher. PS. if you are at a high-end sushi bar and order omakase or ala-carte from the menu or website, your strategy is wrong. Talk to the chef, and let him know of your budget, your likes, and dislikes.

  • Mijune says:

    @ab – hi there! Yes, I did sit at the bar and order “omakase”. I made no requests and let the chef do whatever he wanted. I had no budget, likes or dislikes and they knew that. I left it in his hands. I was happy to try the shabu shabu because normally I wouldn’t have ordered it, but I do like it. I see your point about the 72 hours notice and it makes sense, but this also isn’t a standard custom at all Japanese restaurants. Minami already carries a lot of the special/high end ingredients so it wasn’t necessarily the ingredients I was wanting, but just the creative “off the menu” aspect I was missing. They could have done a lot with the ingredients they already had that day that were not from the menu. Basically there was a communication barrier which can cause a lot of problems, but I appreciate your tips and comment.

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