My friend Julie has been in town, and yesterday we had dinner at Minako on the Mission sliding in just before 9pm. I'd had a couple bites there three months ago and have been wanting to return for more.
We enjoyed leafing through the plastic slip-covered menu pages with original kids' art interspersed with the food offerings. As others have mentioned, many of the items do not list a price and the specials board does not specify prices for dishes either.
The first dish was a warm plate of gobo cut into fine slivers with a bit of carrot for color. The seasoning was quite subtle, and I felt that I got a sense of what burdock root actually tastes like when the flavor isn't covered up by sugar or salt.
Then a thick slab of grilled gindara (black cod) marinated with sake lees. One of Julie's favorites, she described the seasoning as yeasty, fermented and slightly sweet. This had some fine, long bones in the rich and oily flesh that were easy to remove.
The grilled tako (octopus) with aji amarillo sauce was mostly grilled slices of sweet red pepper. The sauce didn't appeal to either of us. Also, the octopus didn't seem any different than poached to us.
Our friend Eric had recommended the age tofu. I was expecting a few small cubes of fried tofu. We were surprised and delighted to be presented with tofu box and lid. The hollowed out well of the box was filled with seasoned soy sauce and chopped scallions. The fresh grated ginger was mixed in, then we had to figure out how to approach this structure with chopsticks.
Image of age tofu box and lid -
Trained as a mechanical engineer, Julie suggested that we consume the top first, then start with the upper rim of the box and work our way down. However, our first poke at it breached the well and the sauce all spilled onto the plate. So, we just divided it into two symmetric halves. For me, the best bites were the ones that had some of the crunchy battered top and some of the soft, almost gooey bottom where the sauce had soaked into the batter. Firm toothsome tofu, potent saucing, and all delicious but very salty, it was a bit much for two people. I'd get this again to share with more diners at the table.
The top dish for both of us was one of the specials, house-cured sake (salmon) sashimi with housemade honey ume-boshi (pickled plum). The nuanced curing here gives excellent quality salmon just a little more textural firmness and flavor support to take it over-the-top. This was even more special with the mild, delicately sweet and tart pickled plums. We liked the ume-boshi so much we tried to order a ume unigiri, but sadly the kitchen was already closed. The daughter of the team suggested that we return to try the 1982 vintage ume-boshi some time.
Image of cured sake sashimi and honey ume-boshi -
Our last taste was a complimentary single square of yuzu-flavored agar for each of us. This had more fruity intensity than the other agars I've had here and had the bitter, floral elements I like so much in yuzu.
With a pot of gen mai cha and the sake sampler, our bill with tax and tip was $90 for the two of us. The salmon sashimi special was $14.75, which is pretty dear. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to return to this perennial favorite.
Minako Organic Japanese Restaurant [Mission]
2154 Mission St
San Francisco 94110
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