Monday, April 2, 2007

Minami Restaurant

I think I've found my newest love in the Richmond district of SF - Minami Restaurant! As an avid fan of Japanese food, I've become pretty picky about my sushi. I figure if you're going to have fish - whether raw or cooked - you need to have it fresh. I get pretty disappointed if I have a limp or rubbery piece of sashimi. My friend Helen is a long-time customer of Minami, and I give her food judgments great deference, so I trotted over with her this weekend to see what all the fuss was about.

And it was totally worth the fuss.

The restaurant itself is pretty nondescript - it'd be easy to pass by and not even notice it. The interior is shockingly small - only five tables and the sushi bar area, with the kitchen tucked away in a corner. Despite the size, the restaurant is very clean and has a nice, homey feel. A colorful assortment of Japanese art and paper decorations adorn the walls. Soothing music from Keiko Matsui, a Japanese contemporary jazz pianist, was playing throughout the restaurant (and I got very excited because I don't hear her music in establishments often).

We started our meal with bowls of hot miso soup and this delicious complimentary potato appetizer with some sort of sweet brown sauce. Unfortunately I forgot to ask our server what the potato dish was called, but it sure tasted great.

Miso soup

Sweet potato

I was in the mood for something cripsy, so I ordered the soft shell crab as an appetizer. It was well-prepared with the right amount of light batter. I've had better soft shell crab at Citizen Thai and the Monkey in North Beach, but I wasn't complaining about this one at Minami either.

Soft shell crab ($5.75)

The nigiri rolls really won me over. The unagi nirigi was one of the best I've tried. The length of the unagi slabs was about twice that of the underlying rice, and there was just the right amount of kabayaki sauce so that it didn't overpower the natural flavors of the eel. I also tried the uni (sea urchin) nigiri, and it was amazing! Although the presentation was just average, the uni itself was so sweet and fresh, with a great texture. I guess it's a good thing I ordered this as an afterthought in the middle of the meal, or else I would've spent more of my weekend budget on this delicacy.

Unagi nigiri ($3.50 for 2 pieces)

Uni nigiri ($4.95 for two pieces) - a GREAT price!

Finally, onto our main entrees. Helen ordered her usual chicken teriyaki dinner. It was a very generous serving of chicken and teriyaki sauce over rice, with a salad on one side of the plate. The chicken was soft and tender, saturated with slightly sweet teriyaki and topped off with a sprinkling of seasame seeds.

Chicken teriyaki dinner ($9.75)

Close-up shot of the chicken

Being the fish fan that I am, I ordered the sashimi combination dinner, which featured a variety of raw fish (including tuna, salmon, hamachi, ocotopus, and shrimp) arranged beautifully on a fan-shaped serving board. I was impressed with the presentation - as you can see below, they made good use of lemon slices to add other color to the board. The fish was super fresh and each slab was a good size, although they could've been thicker.

Sashimi combination dinner ($13.50)

One fish, two fish...

Overall, I loved my meal at Minami and would definitely go back for the food and the service (traditional, home-style Japanese hospitality). However, there were a few drawbacks:

1. Space: It'd be great if the restaurant could serve more people. There's this huge tree right in the middle of the restaurant that could create space for more tables if removed, but my friend mentioned that it might be for feng shui purposes. Helen said it doesn't ever get too busy though, so maybe it's not too much of a problem.

2. Speed of service: There are only two people preparing the food, and they are so meticulous about presentation that the dishes come out pretty slowly. You shouldn't go here if you are absolutely starving.

3. Lack of variety: Since the restaurant is pretty traditional, they don't get very creative with their sushi rolls or other items on their menu. But that's not so bad if you want some authentic Japanese food.

4. Beer: They only serve Sapporo. Why is it so hard to find restaurants that serve Kirin?

Anyway, I hope you all give Minami a try sometime. You might even see me there!

Minami Restaurant
1900 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 387-5913


Unknown said...

I have to say that your review of Minami is very thorough and spot-on. You have a flair for writing! And I'm glad you give my food judgments great deference. =) Hopefully, I'll continue not to disappoint. Meow!

Erica said...

Yuuummy. See, I still don't get how Helen can pass up all that fish for chicken teriyaki and unagi! We should have an "Operation Rawfish" for Helen's palate.