After much hype and passionate implorations from the Stefs in my life to give Minamishima a try, I was lucky to secure a reservation at the sushi bar on a Saturday night for Steve and I within 3 weeks of calling up.
It's a simply decorated dining room but quality and finesse speaks out clearly from every corner.
I had expected a zen like calmness but actually it wasn't quite like that. There was definitely some energy in the room but not manic and the front of house was ran smoothly by Randolph Cheung and a team of Japanese waitresses impeccably turned out in their crisp white shirts, black ties and uniform hair styles.
I've started off with some action shots of Chef Koichi Minamishima and his sous chef which were taken during the course of the night. It was such a thrill and a privilege to watch such skill at work and to enjoy the fruits of the love and labour.
The bar seats 14 and is the best place for this experience which means that Minamishima is best suited to small dining groups. I think a party of 4 could just about manage at the bar probably at either end as sitting in a row isn't conducive to conversation for any more than that really. Having said that it's about eyes forward and it's a place to go for the food and other things like chatter and catching up are really secondary. There are better suited restaurants for that activity!
Having said that there are probably about another 10 or so places available for table service and whilst the food is remarkable, part of the thrill and the joy is the theatre and the act of watching so I'd recommend bar seats for sure.
And on this note we also choose the wine pairing at $70. It works out about one small drink every two courses or so. The opener is a sparkling from Adelaide Hills and over the course of the evening we enjoy a Georgian white, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner, a Muscadet from the Loire Valley, a rose and an umeshu with dessert. They are quality tipples and I think the $70 is worth it. Randolph Cheung, much lauded sommelier and all round expert has an intense but calm passion about what we're imbibing and I enjoy his introductions to our beverages. He is also a true master of hospitality and his watchful eye and leadership is evident.
Green tea is offered as an alternative to water and I enjoyed the refreshing sencha style tea.
It says a lot when the food is created by a master and the restaurant is managed by another.
- Asparagus tempura with shitake salt
- Fried pufferfish with yuzu salt
It's hard to recall each piece and the flavours of the individual course except that they were really delicious but I'll try and write a few words next to what we had...
- King Dory - sesame, lime, flavours and clean, light piece of fish
- Blue Eye - spicy shichimi togarashi with a warming sensation that stuck around in the mouth and tummy afterwards. Fish was meatier than the King Dory
- Scampi - pretty and pink, sweet in flavour but both Steve and I aren't huge fans of the texture of raw prawn as it's a little slimy but not off puttingly so; just not a favourite
- Scallop (eaten before I could take a picture!) - soft and sweet slightly seared
- Flounder fin - ah ha! This was the one we'd read about and were intrigued by. There's a certain chewiness to it but the flavour of buttery soy is just delicious
- Blue fin tuna - clean and spankingly fresh with a lingering delicious flavour that doesn't always come with tuna
- Toro - fresh and seared. The toro just melts in the mouth and oozes into the grains of rice leaving behind a lingering slipperiness that is satisfyingly rich
- Salmon roe - fun bursts of blistery saltiness
- Mackerel - tangy pickled flavour proving a taste sensation we hadn't had as yet
- Eel - I do like unagi and the chargrilled sweetness of it
- Tamagoyaki - delicious sweet egg cake
- Chopped toro hand roll - we were asked if we wanted an additional course of this and we decided to indulge in more toro. This was towards the end of service and we'd watched Chef Minamishima take off cuts and make a big hand roll which he told us was for staff supper! Lucky staff!
- NZ diamand clam broth with chrysanthemum leaves was our palatte cleanser and a clean tasting broth to end things
- Red bean jelly with cherry blossom ice cream - the red bean jelly was a bit sugary for me
- Rice milk pudding with black sesame ice cream - creamy milkiness with hits of matcha and an amazingly good ice cream that was toasty and intense
Steve and I had an excellent evening. It's a great date place for Japanese cuisine lovers and having never been to Japan, can easily claim this was our best sushi experience. Our bill came to $565 so not quite the price of a ticket to Japan and is up there with the pricier dining experiences but it's worth it.
Before going, I did wonder if there would be enough food and my conclusion is that it's not about feeling stuffed. Much like the flavours, there is restraint, balance and satisfaction so rather than being full it's about feeling sated and comfortable.