Launching a successful sushi restaurant in a city with more sashimi and speciality rolls than you can shake a chopstick at takes something special. Down in Vancouver’s Yaletown, Minami has hit on a neat solution to keeping things fresh with ‘aburi sushi’ – a method of blowtorch-ing the topping. I went to see what it was all about.
As an Ocean Wise sustainable seafood restaurant, I was already eyeing up Minami favourably, but as I walked in on that cold Vancouver night, I was greeted with a chorus of “Irrashai Mase!” which means ‘welcome’ and I soon felt warmed up - and no - it wasn’t just from the kick-ass Katana cocktail.
It’s mesmerising to watch the chefs prepping at the sushi counter. I sat, goggle-eyed with admiration as they created plate after plate of toasty-topped nigiri, which thanks to a smart little gizmo which you pack with rice and tap, was all perfectly rectangular. While I watched the chefs work their magic, I started off with a single oyster, topped with a lemon sake foam. I usually like my Vancouver Island oysters naked (apart from the smallest squirt of lemon), but the foam was a deft touch – giving a small but intense flavour burst.
I’ll confess I had my doubts about the aburi: flame-finished sushi, really? But it turns out I had nothing to fear; it was gorgeous, the topping had a faint charcoal flavour which worked beautifully with the rice and fish.
I’d been recommended to try the sea urchin; sandy-orange and curled on top of a wedge of rice, it’s maybe not the prettiest sushi on the block and I’d never ordered it in a restaurant before. “When it comes to some seafoods you have to fight preconceptions – forget the looks; if it tastes good, eat it!” advised the manager Patrick as I hesitantly raised my chopsticks. I gingerly bit in and savoured its flavour; creamy and tasting of the ocean. This was fresh from Vancouver Island too, where the icy clean waters make for excellent sea food. I wound up not eating the rice, so delicious was its pure clean flavour.
It’s one of the things that I’m loving most about my time in Canada – so far, every week I’ve managed to try something new to eat or drink that I’ve never tried before. I went for a look around Minami’s funky interior and peeked out to the patio. It was, of course, raining (it basically rains from October till April in Vancouver, I’ve been told!) but I imagined sitting in the summer sun, tossing back more of those delicious oysters and a whole plate of those tasty sea urchins. I can’t wait.
I ate as a guest of Minami but my views are 100% my own.