Minami Restaurant Yaletown Grand Opening Event

On June 21st, Eating in Vancouver & the World was invited to Yaletown to help celebrate the grand opening of Minami Restaurant, the younger sibling of the respected Miku Restaurant and newest addition to the Aburi Restaurants family. Now, the Aburi PR team did such a phenomenal job inviting media, restaurant writers, food bloggers etc. that there is already a couple dozen write ups about the event online. Instead of simply recounting what happened at the event, I would like to briefly highlight what impressed me most about the Minami event.
Amidst the seemingly endless trays of phenomenal food and tasty drinks was a pretty clear message from the owner of Minami, Mr. Seigo Nakamura. To him, opening restaurants was not just about business or making money. Naming Miku and now Minami after his daughters, it is plain to see how invested Mr. Nakamura is in his restaurants. Starting from the very top, it is refreshing to see how his enthusiasm and passion resounds through his entire organization. During his brief speech on the podium, Mr. Nakamura told the assembled media that it was his vision that his restaurants would set a new standard of service for our city. It was his dream to realize the fundamental precepts of respect, kindness, sincerity etc. that form the foundation of Japanese society here in Vancouver.
When I first arrived at the grand opening, I walked up to two Minami staff signing people in from a large ledger. When it was my turn, I walked up to say my name and was sincerely surprised when both staff members already knew it! Truthfully, I cannot remember meeting either of them on previous visits but they both remembered and thanked me for returning. Walking into the restaurant a little baffled, I was handed a beautiful drink in a fluted glass and then ran into Aburi’s executive chef Matsu. He eagerly shook my hand and bowed, thanking me by name and wishing me well. After running into my waitress Miki and restaurant manager Pat (both of whom excitedly greeted me by name) I began to think I was on a hidden camera show. How is that so many staff remembered one customer from 2+ weeks ago?
When Mr. Nakamura talks about bringing Japan’s venerable level of service to Vancouver, I genuinely believe he means it. As a food photographer/writer, I go to A LOT of restaurants every month. To be fair, almost all have very good levels of service but from what I have seen at Minami in my three visits so far, the Aburi Group is definitely striving for a completely different level altogether. This impresses me for many reasons, chief amongst them being maintaining such an extraordinarily high level of service is very difficult which is why you almost never see it. For an entire restaurant, from the hostess to the wait staff to the chef, to remember one customer’s name and go out of their way to chat with them at a busy dinner service is remarkable. I cannot properly articulate how blown away I was by the reception I received, just one individual amongst probably hundreds.
Something else that really impressed me at Minami was the level of food and drink knowledge amongst the staff. I learned that the waitress that helped me pick my sake selection on opening night was actually the restaurant’s resident sake expert, Miki. While waiting for more food to arrive, I decided to be a cheeky bloke and casually converse with some of the other waitresses about sushi and sake just to see where they were knowledge wise. After chatting with 3-4 other staff, I concluded that the training program at Minami must be pretty good as each staff member seemed quite comfortable with my sushi and sake questions. They were able to confidently answer even quite challenging questions and sincerely speak about their personal favorites which was pretty commendable.
By combining a team of truly talented chefs with a spectacular menu and team of friendly, knowledge staff, it is not difficult to see why the early reviews on Minami have been so positive. Similar in many ways to its older sister Miku, Minami embodies everything I have come to love about Japan and its culture. Even in a city like Vancouver so hyper saturated with good Japanese restaurants, Minami strives to attain the highest echelon of quality and service reserved only for Vancouver’s very best. As I wrote in my first review of Minami, if Mr. Nakamura and his team are successful in maintaining the remarkably high level of standards they have set, I do not believe their future success to have any limits. In my own way, I will be quietly cheering them on as they seek not only to survive but thrive in the fiercely competitive dining ecosystem that is downtown Vancouver. Through their success with this ambitious new service model, Vancouver stands only to benefit as our local expectations soar and other restaurants have no choice but to keep up.

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About Alvin

Alvin Lee is a professional photographer, culinary arts enthusiast, and contributing author of Eating in Vancouver & the World. Visit Alvin’s website and connect with him on Twitter @alvinkclee and Instagram @foodimagery.

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