Sherman's Food Adventures: Minami Holiday Aburi Shokai

Minami Holiday Aburi Shokai

Let's get this disclaimer out-of-the-way first - I was recently invited to try the newly released Holiday Aburi Shokai tasting menu at Minami.  They didn't have to do much convincing since Minami and Miku are 2 of my favourite restaurants in town.  Yah, I'm completely biased, but trust me, I am not the only one.  Their take on aburi sushi and other unique creations are often some of the best eats Vancity has to offer.  Coming in at $100.00, adding an extra $35.00 for either wine or sake pairings, the Holiday Aburi Shokai menu features 4 courses representing what the restaurant is all about.

In what can be described as one of the prettiest presentations in town, the Sashimi and Minami Trio was almost too striking to eat.  Yes, I took some photos, but alas, I devoured it!  From left to right, we had the Aburi Beef Carpaccio with creme fraiche, caper crisps, organic baby greens, wasabi chimichurri and ponzu.  This little bite went down so easily as the beef melted in our mouths.  Loved the combo of salty, tang and slight spice.  Next, the Tri-Beet Salad featured firmly crunchy beets that were sweet and acidic.  Once again, there was some background spice which was cooled by the little nuggets of goats cheese.  With 2 wonton crisps, the Albacore Tuna & Kaiso Seaweed Tartare was another delicious bite.  Buttery soft and sweet, the tuna was contrasted by the crunchy seaweed (as well as the red onion, celery and cucumber).  Topped with creme fraiche and avocado, this added cooing creaminess to the spicy ponzu vinaigrette.  Last but certainly not least, the kanpachi, red tuna and ebi were buttery and sweet.  In particular, the kanpachi featured a fresh bite and taste of the sea.  Of course we weren't going to waste the Shrimp Heads as we asked for them to be fried.

If there is a plate that defines Minami (and Miku), the Sushi course did just that.  From left-to-right, there was Aburi Hamachi Nigiri with olive tapenade & edible flower, Aburi Japanese Wagyu Nigiri with smoked shoyu & wasabi pickles, Aburi O-Toro Nigiri with tobiko, daikon oroshi & chives, Red Wave Roll (spicy prawn, avocado & masatake sauce), Ebi Oshi Sushi with lime zest and ume sauce and the classic Salmon Oshi Sushi with wild sockeye salmon, jalapeno and Miku sauce.  It was so good that I have to go through every piece.  The hamachi was buttery and sweet where it probably didn't need the salty olive tapenade.  Cooked enough to activate the fats, the the Wagyu beef was super tender and luxurious.  Loved the tangy spice from the pickles.  We thought the O-Toro was was a real treat as it was super soft and fatty.  The fresh "by-the-sea" sweetness really came through.  Aromatic from the sesame oil and the crunch from the sweet onions, this helped elevate the red wave roll.  Creamy and with the tang from the lime zest, the ebi oshi was delicately flavoured so that its natural brininess came through.  Often copied, but never exactly duplicated, the salmon oshi was smoky, creamy and texturally pleasing.  This dish never gets old.  It's like that Jif commercial where I go, "What!" every time I eat this.  This course was paired with, Aburi x Yoshi no Gawa Aburi Ginjo, an exclusive sake produced just for Minami and Miku.  A great combination where the lightness and floral notes really went well with the delicate seafood.

Onto our 3rd course, we had the Surf & Turf featuring Saikyo Miso Sakekasu Sablefish Roulade and Welsh Onion Ash Crusted Beef Tenderloin.  Pretty to look at and perfectly-prepared, the sablefish was buttery and soft.  Since it was encased in nori, that was the predominant flavour.  It was accompanied by spinach sesame puree, miso reduction, wasabi negi relish, farro sansai salad, smoked umami soy vinaigrette and Asian microgreens.  All of these Asian flavours went well with the delicate fish without being overwhelming.  The sous-vide AAA Sterling Sliver beef tenderloin wasn't as tender as I would've expected.  Rather it was robust and meaty in a top sirloin type-of-way.  The natural meat flavours came through as well as a touch of the ash.  This was paired with roasted veggies, Yukon Gold puree and truffle duxelle sauce (which was subtle, buttery and woodsy).  Extremely dry and but smooth, the Gold Omachi Junmai Daiginjo didn't take away from the ingredients on the plate.

Beautifully plated, the Almond Chocolate Cake was so good, I finished it despite trying to hold back.  The cake itself was moist and light while still maintaining a certain richness.  It wasn't overly sweet where the ginger syrup really came through creating a truly festive flavour.   On top, the vanilla tonka bean cream was light and aromatic.  I'm not a huge fan of eggnog, but the ice cream was creamy and a good compliment.  Rounding things out, there was a honey orange curd which added a small amount of tang.  I guess the cranberry orange shortbread could've been another tangy ingredient on the plate, but in all honesty, I ate that first and it was a nice little treat.  Our final sake pairing was the Hakkaisan Kijoshu which was lightly sweet acting as a stand in for dessert wine.  Well, what can I say?  Any meal at Minami or Miku is a real treat to begin with (especially with aburi sushi).  Add in a complete 4-course tasting menu (which is really more that 4 courses given the way they plated it) and sake pairings, we have a meal that we can really celebrate about.

*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Carefully prepared food
- Aburi!
- Lively upscale atmosphere

The Bad:
- Tenderloin could've been more tender


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