Minami, Vancouver.

April 2018.

This is the lite version of Miku, a classy waterfront spot at the North foot of Granville Street. We haven’t been there, but our experience of Minami suggests we should go. It’s a creative delicious Japanese food experience.

We went for lunch on a weekday and found the location in Yaletown quite a big room or combination of rooms. It’s a neutral space, well-lit and hard-edged. We waited a little to be looked after but eventually our server was conversational and Japanese-deferential but not too much. Very nice.

We went fusion, accompanying our Japanese food with a Blue Mountain pinot gris which was just fine and not overpriced. Once I got my hearing aids out I could hear Robin speaking over the absolutely ubiquitous shrieking and clatter that now seems to be a behavioural meme. You go out to eat so you can he yell your head off I guess…

Never mind. The food was beautifully soothing and the tables full of office staff left quickly. We started with ebi fritters, the name familiar to us from the Olive and Anchor in Horseshoe Bay. But lovely though that familiar dish is, here it’s even better. The succulent prawns were packed with flavour, and somehow they sported a replaced exoskeleton of paper-thin crisp… tempura I guess, it was just-so salty and flavorful and crunchy enough for a tidy texture contrast with the sweet shrimp. There was much less sauce than in Horseshoe Bay, but it was opulent and carried a nice little kick of heat. Underneath was my horror: kale, which if you ate it by itself tasted like the serrated green plastic they put between the pieces in supermarket sushi. But there was also a crisp quinoi with dressing that if you gathered it up almost made the kale palatable.

We shared two mains, the traditional nigiri and maki lunch and an aburi chirashi tart. The straightforward sushi was perfectly lovely, fresh, with the rice nicely done. That tart was a flat cylinder packed with seven or eight delights (I won’t repeat the – to me – incomprehensible descriptions in the menu). Suffice to say with wasabi, ginger, and a “traditional” light soy it was a festival of Japanese delicacies.

What a nice place, once the noisy screamers went back to the office. To try to make my inability to distinguish among fairly ordinary and very high-class sushi seem okay that there has to be an unappreciated amount of the Japanese eating experience that’s focused on ritual. Not that the food isn’t good: God knows it’s delicious and the emphasis on lightness and freshness, and sharpness and contrast of flavor makes it like nothing else on earth. But when I was in an elite sushi bar in Tokyo, fumbling my way through unbelievable delicacies with chopsticks, an elderly lady (probably ten years younger than me) beside me kindly but firmly instructed me on the management of chopsticks, and how to address the dishes as they were presented. It’s a bit like Victorians with their table manners. A tradition observed and shared that enhances the delight of chowing spectacular food.

We were out the door for about $136 for two of us with a good tip and a $70 bottle of wine. I want to try the big fancy one down on the waterfront.

Food 9.1, service 9.2, ambience 7.9, value 8.2, peace and quiet 6.2.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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