Showing posts with label sashimi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sashimi. Show all posts

Minami (Vancouver)


Prior to my meal at Minami, I did realize it was the sister restaurant of Miku. What I discovered that evening was that the restaurants were named after the daughters of the owner – is he the father-of-the-year or what?

While Miku is known for their flame-licking aburi creations, Minami’s inventiveness goes beyond the blowtorch and into how dishes are visually presented. We decided to see the restaurant in action with their Minami Shokai tasting menu ($150) and a premium sake flight ($35), which we hoped would sip well with all the food.

Slices of miso duck arrive laid on a slightly stale and hard puff pastry, which does little to add to the dish other than make it look more substantial. The duck breast, just cooked through, was a lovely balance of meat & fat and the miso just enough to give it flavour. It’s an interesting choice to start with such a strong protein, yet when paired with fruits helps lighten the dish.

Traditions are certainly thrown out the window as sushi comes before sashimi, six eye-catching pieces of it. The lovely creations take time to prepare, so the rice arrives too cold (and could benefit from more vinegar). I guess you don’t go to Minami for the rice, instead the gold leaf that caps the chu toro, a delicious and lovely show piece.

Personally, I prefer the simpler sushi: the bit of yuzu jelly and wasabi used with the kani helped bring out the crab’s natural flavours without too much fuss; and while the kinmedai was a bit chewy the fish was nonetheless refreshing against some of the heavier pieces.

Minami should consider blowtorching the wagyu tableside as it’s not the greatest cold and I’d skip the uni unless it’s a great quality as it added a slight metallic taste to the sushi. While sampling the surf and turf roll, all I could taste was orange and seaweed so sadly neither of the main elements really shone. Luckily, the bite of salmon maki helped end the dish on a higher note.

Their saikyo-miso sakekasu (try saying that three times fast) marinated sablefish was divine and I liked that other than a dollop of caviar they left the fish sauceless. I’d suggest having the fish first and leaving the “sides” until the end - the honey glazed endive goes nicely with the dish, while the way too oily shiso tempura does not.

You must love the presentation of the sashimi as the billowing dry ice flows around all the fish. Luckily, the seafood was fresh as well and the tuna always a lovely treat. Minami ever so briefly chars the cuttlefish before adding the pops of juicy roe and while this goes fine with soy sauce it would excel with a thicker sauce. Finally, I liked the fresh sweet spot prawn and their use of the entire shrimp as the deep-fried head was crispy as heck and the perfect nibble to end.

The A5 Japanese wagyu stole the show! While it could have been seasoned a little less, the wagyu was so buttery and decadent that I didn’t want the bites to end. Luckily, Minami isn’t stingy with the prized beef, you receive a decent quantity of steak and quite a few sides as well - a lovely crispy potato pave (layers of potato baked) and roasted heirloom carrots.

As a palate cleanser we are brought a plum sorbet popsicle with tart sparkling water… I had the sorbet but skipped the much too fizzy water, give me sake any day.

Despite detesting Bounty bars, the coconut mousse with chocolate was a lot better than I expected. Placed into an impossibly thin chocolate shell, the dessert certainly looked like a coconut and the light mouse and dark chocolate went rather nicely together.

Interesting elements like the house-made coconut noodles were delicious and I could see them using them in a dessert ramen, which could tie-in the Japanese tradition of ending tasting menus with a bowl of noodles. Note to chef: feel free to borrow this idea!

Another reason to visit Minami is their awesome location in Yaletown. What an ideal street to be on with the all the bars and patios, a great way to start and/or end the meal. Whatever happens, when you’re going for the shokai experience, go big or go home. 


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Vancouver, Canada
 Address: 1118 Mainland Street


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Shoushin (Toronto) Revisited in 2022

Shoushin has really matured since my last visit - granted this last visit was in 2017, a time frame approaching five years. We had plans to go back in 2019, but we all know why that didn’t happen. It’s a restaurant that is more sure of itself: there’s only two menus to choose from with the omakase at $300 or a more personalized experience, the obsession perfection, priced at $450+ depending on the selection. Their staff are more knowledgeable - about the restaurant, alcohol selection, and the ingredients used – and operates with a synchronized precision that would make Henry Ford happy.

Right after the menus are whisked away, a hot hand towel arrives, followed by cold drinks, and an amuse bouche - a bite of spinach boiled in kelp broth and topped with dried rich tuna flakes. For the winter, the kelp broth seemed to be a cornerstone of their appetizers, a comforting staple like chicken soup.

This is followed by another warming dish, a piece of smoked king fish sitting in a puréed daikon broth. The accompanying cutlery was difficult to use. Although pretty to look at, the wooden spoon combined with a shallow dish made reaching the broth difficult (unless you pick up the vessel and drink from it). From what I manage to get into the spoon, the savoury silky soup went well with the lightly scented meaty fish. The fish was described as quickly deep fried, but there wasn’t a crunchy element, which if they could have managed a bit of crispiness would have made the dish even more interesting.

Sashimi arrives next, served over three dishes to ensure we enjoyed each one as intended:

  • To begin, pieces of aged lean tuna and big reef squid. The tuna was extremely tender… not an ounce of sinew and such a mellow light “sweet” bite. The fish’s texture contrasted by the gummy squid that has a slightly chewy sticky consistency that reminded me of having tendon.  
  • I couldn’t really taste the “marination in kelp” that was used to describe the following tile fish. Frankly, maybe I could have done without the marination if that’s what made it fibrous, not really a blow-your-mind type of bite that needed to be showcased solo.
  • Unlike the firefly squid, which is so special and rarely found on Toronto menus. We’re told that these little creatures are currently in season as they migrate to shallow waters in Toyama Bay and are caught at night when they glow (hence their name). At Shoushin, they are cleaned and blanched with ginger to preserve their natural flavours, a slightly sweet essence and a different experience from the traditional calamari or cuttlefish. Sometimes served alongside drinking in an izakaya in Japan, they certainly have an elevated place on Shoushin’s menu.

My favourite dish of the night was the fatty tuna simmered in plum broth. The rich savouriness of the fish balanced nicely with the slightly sweet tartness of the fruit, sort of like having pork chops with apple sauce. It’s fragrant, flavourful, and warming, something I could have had an entire steak of surely.

And before the sushi, a cup of miso soup made with red and aged miso, which was so light on the salt that I wouldn’t be surprised was not seasoned at all. Nonetheless, it’s surprisingly flavourful with an umami acidic property to it. The finely chopped shallots were an interesting choice, maybe for the slightly crunchy texture, but a bit overpowering given the under seasoned soup.

Not surprisingly, the ingredients showcased in their nigri sushi is seasonal. During this visit, I learnt that in the winter we can expect more fish, while in warmer months is when shellfish are also featured into the menu. With that in mind, we’re started off with the stripe jack, the light fish really helping to highlight the lovely, vinegared rice used at Shoushin. I like that the grains are cooked less so you can feel their smooth texture against the tongue.   

Needlefish and yellowtail marinated in soy followed, both lighter yet different as the ‘meatiness’ of the fish all varied with the needlefish being the heaviest of the bunch.

The obligatory bluefin tuna trio ranging from the lean akami to the fatty otoro was featured next. I’m still marveled by how tender I find the lean tuna, only to then taste the fattiness of the otoro and have your mind warp for a second. Oh, if only bluefin tuna wasn’t endangered.  

Mackerel arrives next – not the aji variety – this one stronger (something I could definitely taste with the slight fishiness) and pickled to help combat the more pungent fish.

While this may sound off putting to some, the trigger fish served with its own liver is genius. It’s such an interesting bite that’s unlike the rest, a creamy juiciness that’s so surprising for what looks like a piece of mild white fish. Of course, trigger fish is not a candy, but if it were it’d be like a Fruit Gusher.  

Only to be followed by the even juicer ikura – so maybe scratch my last comment, this would be the Fruit Gusher of the fish world – that was so lovely and refreshing.

And to wrap up the nigiri, a piece of uni that is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s SO sweet and silky that it could even pass as custard, we’re told that Shoushin uses sea urchin that doesn’t contain preservatives – really all restaurants should go organic if that’s how it will taste.

Their chopped fatty tuna handroll incorporates white leek versus the traditional green onion. It’s a nice change as the leek is mellower and when it’s mixed into the pulverized tuna the hand roll has such a delicate creamy centre.

Lastly, Shoushin’s tamago that’s made with egg and shrimp paste. Truth be told, the taste doesn’t change that much, but the intoxicating aroma is so wonderful. Just hold it to your nose and take a whiff before you enjoy.

For dessert, we opted for both offerings, the crème brûlée incorporated a bit of squash that gave it a lovely earthy finish. It’s way more interesting than the icy matcha with red bean. Although, the ice cream is ideal for those who don’t like sweet desserts or diabetics as syrup arrives on the side so you can customize its sweetness.

This attention to detail is what I notice most about Shoushin’s growth: like how the chef angles the nigiri differently depending on if you’re left or right-handed; or the servers whisking away our tea at regular intervals and replacing it with a steaming hot cup.

What hasn’t changed is their comfortable hospitality - the sushi chefs welcoming conversation, despite busily preparing dinner. They are the first to speak to us, putting me at ease to start asking more about what we’re eating… something they probably regretted later. I love seeing this growth and progression and can’t wait to see what Chef Lin has in store for us next. Hopefully, I don’t have to wait another five years.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 Yonge Street


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Toshi Ryoriten (Richmond Hill)


Do you remember your last meal at a restaurant before being quarantined? Mine was an exquisitely long two-hour omakase affair ($90 a person for the Toshi course) in celebration of my father’s birthday. Over a bottle of chilled light sake, we sampled, drank, and conversed … beside each other. All while we dined in front of a chef who handled the ingredients without a mask or gloves. Wow, how things can change in a blink of an eye.


Toshi Ryoriten isn’t afraid to start boldly: right out of the gate we’re served a sashimi of two tunas and shima aji (?). Usually, there’s a build up of dishes until the tunas are presented - I didn’t mind this procession, having a rich taste of fish within the first bites. They were all a great temperature and thickness, the way you want sashimi to be. I just wish someone described the dish to us, instead of just having the sushi chef drop it down and walk away.


Dinner then switches to hot eats, a cube of tofu incorporating seaweed and slivers of crunchy lotus root. Fresh from the fryer, it’s hot and the tofu’s edges are remarkably crispy against the silken centre and the thickened sauce adds flavours without making it soggy. If they made this into a tofu steak, I could eat this instead of sirloin any day.


Clean and crisp uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon fish roe) generously tops a sphere of warm rice and makes for a big flavourful bite that’s creamy and leaves an oceany umami essence to the tongue.


The grilled yellowtail looked better than it tasted; sadly, the lean fish was overcooked. And after the amazing egg tofu, the crispy rice “biscuit” was surprisingly dull and bland. The best part of the dish was the blanched spinach, at least it’s cold and refreshing. 


After all the starters, the nigiri experience begins – eleven pieces of bite-sized sushi made at a well-scheduled pace. With about 3-5 minutes between each piece, it’s enough time to admire (and photograph) and converse, without feeling like an overdrawn affair. 

The medai (seabream) was a nice start. Meaty but light, the fish reset the palette for the rest of the meal.
Toshi’s ika (squid) was a tad dry from the blowtorch, so it ended up being sticky as I chewed the sushi. While not necessarily terrible, it’s also texture that’s rather unexpected. Perhaps it just needed a stronger glaze on top, the quick brush of soy sauce was not nearly enough. 


The kanpachi (amber jack) was incredibly good. I just couldn’t make out what the black bits were on top – it’s salty but doesn’t have that crunchiness of volcano salt. Once again, a bit more direction and conversation from the chef would be nice.  


I love when raw salmon is warmed. At Toshi, the salmon is seared slightly developing a mild smokiness and the heat melts the fat. The akaebi (sweet shrimp) was a nice follower, but like the ika could use a bit more seasoning.


While the shima aji (skipper jack) looked like a lot of the earlier white fishes, the texture is surprisingly “crispy” for a fish and a nice contrast against the other softer consistencies. 


Hopefully, you’re not a light eater, as Toshi saves the most decadent pieces to end. Of course, there’s the otoro (fatty tuna), the fish world’s equivalent of high fat butter, with its flavourful oil that oozes and coats the tongue. 


After a sip of sake, a liberally toasted hotate (scallop) adds a lovely sweet contrast. This followed by an even sweeter unagi (sea eel), which like some of the torched counterparts was a bit overdone. 


I hate that I really enjoyed the foie gras - it’s not an ingredient I support for ethical reasons. Scoring the fatty duck liver helps create these grooves that holds onto the oils; and for once the long lick from the blowtorch really helps to add a lovely smokiness without overcooking the ingredient. If you think otoro is rich, this piece brings it to a whole other level. 


To end, you’re offered a hand roll or maki. I end traditionally with the hand-held form that incorporates bits of tuna and green onion. The seaweed needs to be toasted more as it was a bit chewy to get through. In hindsight, the maki form may be a better choice. 


The best decision was to add on a chawanmushi ($9.50) and suggest it be served right after the nigri procession. While it doesn’t have that intoxicating aroma that escapes as the lid is lifted, the egg custard is piping hot and a lovely silky consistency. Other ingredients make their way into the steamed egg: mushroom and spinach stems on top and hearty cubes of shrimp and chicken on the bottom. 


As part of the regular Toshi course menu, the small bowl of soba with dashi broth ends the savoury items. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of tempura bits in soup, but these were added at the last minute, so it doesn’t arrive as a soggy mess. And mixed with the green scallions, everything works, down to the last hot drop.


Instead of the typical ice cream, Toshi serves tofu cheesecake for dessert. It’s surprisingly creamy and dense for tofu but lacks any discernable flavour. At least the whipped cream imparted some sweetness.


If you’ll be seated at the sushi bar, make sure to request to be sat on the right-hand side of the bar. Relegated to the left corner, we were essentially ignored by the chef who only speaks to the four people directly in front of him. 


And while it’s nice to see the chefs’ technique, Toshi ruins the experience by leaving a huge platter of fish to be broken down right by the sink on the left. Halfway through the meal, it’s finally put away, but makes for an unpleasant backdrop for those who have it in their eyeline. In terms of the environment and the chefs’ hospitality, this was one of the worst omakase experiences I’ve had.

Still, looking back on the dinner, I’ll only have fond memories. Dinner at Toshi Ryoriten was an unhurried relaxing public affair I can’t wait to eventually enjoy again. As a last pre-COVID meal, this was a great ending.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 1380 Major Mackenzie Drive East

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: