Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Minami – Yaletown

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For Beep Beep’s birthday, I picked Minami.  She invited her friends Doris, Emma, Tien, Vanessa and my friend Naomi. Naomi, Beep Beep and I arrived early at 6:55 p.m for our seven o’clock reservation. Doris arrived at 7:35 p.m. Emma came at about 7:40 p.m. because she went to the wrong restaurant. Vanessa was only 25 minutes late. Tien pushed convention and arrived at 9:10 p.m. For this post, let’s listen to Carole King It’s too late.

Naomi ordered Miyazaki #2 cocktail ($15). I ordered Beep Beep a bottle of sparkling nigiri – Yauemon Shu Awa ($56/500 ml). I wasn’t feeling well so I refrained from drinking alcohol. I did take a sip of the sparkling nigiri – it tasted like all the other ones I’ve tried. Slightly sweet, cloudy with a pleasant dry finish. I thought the sake was well priced compared to Calgary. The liquor stores in Vancouver also charge less for sake than the liquor stores in Calgary. I’m guessing this has do to with taxation and the liquor markup in Alberta.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Salmon Oshi ($17), Ebi Oshi ($17), and Saba Oshi ($17). Beep Beep liked the salmon version the best. The flavour of the BC wild sockeye salmon and miku sauce was enhanced by Minami’s flame-seared technique. We both took the jalapeño off because you never know when you get a really hot one. I liked how the salmon oshi had two layers of salmon, unlike the ebi and saba oshi.

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Initially, I thought I wouldn’t like the ebi oshi because the flavour profile would be more delicate than the salmon. I was pleasantly surprised that the ume sauce was deliciously smokey. The pressed shrimp had a nice bite, the lime zest added a refreshing zing to it.

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The house cured mackerel was our least favourite. The fish was fishy and the texture was a bit mushy. I also thought the miso sauce didn’t do much to jazz it up. The sushi rice was the perfect balance of sugar and vinegar, so that I couldn’t taste one over the other. The rice was served at below room temperature.

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Beep Beep and I shared the the Premium Trio Aburi Oshi Sushi ($25). My favourite bite was the hokkaido hotate and botan ebi, topped with mentaiko aioli and amaranth. The raw shrimp was cool and creamy. The scallop was sweet.

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I liked the combination in the albacore tuna and otoro oshi. The garnish of tobiko oroshi ponzu and yuzu zest made this bite pop. The quality of the Japanese wagyu and hickory smoked bacon was excellent. The garnish of wasabi negi relish on the meat reminded me of the combination of horseradish and prime rib.

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The deep-fried shrimp head was cold and flavourless. I think it would have been better if the shrimp was fresh out of the fryer, squirted with  lemon, with a little more salt.

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Next time I visit I want to try the shittake mushroom nigiri ($2) and eggplant ($2). Naomi thought the nigiri was plain and needed soy or tempura sauce, as neither were provided. You can order vegetarian nigiri either tempura style or regular style.

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Naomi ordered the Nutigreen Farms Crumbled Tofu Salad ($14). It’s a delicious and flavourful salad, filling too. Chock-full of goodies like avocado, crispy tempeh, organic baby greens, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and shaved apple. It’s the type of salad that taste so good you know it’s high in calories.

I like Minami. The food is quite good and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I do prefer Miku over Minami for service, view and overall ambience. Hitting the Sauce gives Minami one fat thumb up.

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

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Japanese · Special Occasion

Shokunin – Guest appearance with BottleNick and J-Thug

The older I get, the harder it is to find a venue that plays music from my era. I know Modern Steak does a hip hop night on Fridays after 9:00 p.m., but that’s an hour before my bedtime. I recently found a restaurant that’s exactly what the late 90s/2000’s doctor ordered. Whenever I’m craving a night out with my favourite foods and tunes, I head over to Shokunin.

My husband L just came back from a week long conference, which meant I could guilt trip him into taking me out for a late night dinner. Moments after we sat down, two of L’s colleagues stepped inside. Imagine this song came on when we first saw J-Thug and BottleNick, two ballers entering the restaurant.

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J-Thug and BottleNick invited us to sit at their table. As they have never been to Shokunin, I suggested all the food.  I ordered J-Thug and myself a glass of sake, Kaiun “New Fortune” Iwaizake Junmai Daiginjo ($20/3 oz), while BottleNick and L stuck to bottles of Asahi. Unfortunately, the restaurant was again out of the Shokunin/Big Rock collaboration, Okami Kasu ($8/16oz), which is made with Canadian grown rice from the Fraser Valley in B.C. and sake lees from Vancouver. Poo! If you want some, you’ll to wait until June.

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BottleNick is a pescetarian, so I ordered him shiisito ($3) and mushroom ($3) yakitori, Japanese style potato salad ($8), rice ($3), the daily maki roll (scallop $16) and an octopus appetizer. The rice in the maki was a little hard. Looking back, I should have ordered him the scallop isoyaki (market price), which is a large sweet, still sashimi-like scallop roasted over charcoal, butter and soy. Next time.

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I ordered J-Thug the most expensive cocktail on the menu, this cool glass sphere filled with fog ($20). I think the main ingredient was a costly Japanese whiskey, and as the fog lifted, it would change the taste of the drink. According to J-Thug, it was worth the price tag. I tried a sip and yes, it’s out of this world.

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I also drank a lovely cocktail, the Remonado ($12), which is comprised of Beshi sake, Oolong tea and Yuzu lemon sake. Then I drank another sake, the Mikotsuru “Majestic Crane” Junmai Pink ($11).

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For food, J-Thug tried the chicken karrage ($11), which he thought was amazing. He also ordered thigh ($3) and skin yakitori ($2.50). The restaurant was sold out of gizzard, which J-Thug wanted to try.

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All of us except for Pescetarian BottleNick tried a piece of a handmade crispy braised beef tongue gyoza. Our favourite guy at Shokunin, Moto, highly recommended this dish. While I enjoyed the gyoza, it’s not one of my favourite dishes here. Rather, it was a complimentary dish presented by Darren MacLean, the owner and chef of Shokunin, that wowed us.

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Darren brought over a plate of four fresh Japanese Kabura turnips with the greens still attached. The turnip was sweet, crunchy and unbelievably fresh, while the rich saltiness of the red grainy miso and garlic dressing was just incredible.  J-Thug didn’t finish the greens and I really wanted to eat it but since we just met, I held back.

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L and I ordered our usual yakitori picks and Shokunin’s perfect steamed rice. We enjoyed dipping the chicken into the soy cured egg dip, which I’ve never seen before at any other izakaya. I tried chicken neck ($3.50) which was the softest meat ever. I also ate chicken skin ($2.50) which tasted like delicate crunchy fried chicken skin. To date, my favourite skewers rank in this order: chicken neck, chicken skin, chicken thigh (best value/flavour), chicken ass and chicken heart.

J-Thug said he couldn’t understand why this restaurant was getting such poor reviews on Zomato and Yelp. I can’t speak for when Shokunin first opened. However, I will say this place is not for those looking to get stuffed for cheap. It’s not possible with the top quality ingredients and the techniques employed here.

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After our feast, we decided to head over to Milk Tiger Lounge, J-Thug’s favourite bar. While service was very good and the crowd was fun, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear our conversation. All I could see were pictures of tang. I would have preferred to stay at Shokunin for drinks, as the prices are the same (if you avoid the crème de la crème sake and the more extravagant cocktails). Milk Tiger does have a larger and more varied beer list than Shokunin.  

This was my second time in Shokunin in two weeks. I might be in later this week for late night ramen if I can manage to stay up past 10:00 pm. I’m actually not a big ramen fan, but I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Shokunin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato