En route to Minako, my friend warned me about the service. “The woman who runs the place is really friendly,” he said. “Cool,” I replied blandly.
“No, but almost too friendly. She talks to you the way your mom might. She sorta crosses a line sometimes.” This turned out to be unassailably true; the proprietor has a distinct personality that establishes itself early in conversation and makes its mark on every nook and cranny of the physical space as well. I like distinct personalities, so I dug this place, though it might not be for everyone. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Minako is the extremely polarized love/ hate reviews it gets on Yelp. Differing opinions? Sign me up.
Minako is unique, and so is the woman who runs the front of the house. There’s no doubt about that. But what the restaurant lacks in convention, it makes up for with delicious soup broth, homemade umeboshi, and clearly labeled vegan and vegetarian options. (When something is vegetarian but not vegan at Minako, it’s labeled “Ovo-Lacto.” WIN.) It also has lots of things for your omnivore friends, so you can take them there when they get sick of you suggesting dinner at Cha-Ya… again.
My soup had lots of seaweed and pickled plums; the latter were prepared by the proprietor’s mom 12 years ago, while I was driving around my hometown in a beat-up old Jetta listening to Weezer.
The twice-cooked eggplant had a beautiful texture – crunchy on the outside, mouth-melty on the inside, like a savory M&M – and came with a little pile of minced ginger, which was a perfect foil for the salty, fried dish.
We also got free agar dessert, which my friend thought was white grape and I thought was aloe. It wasn’t great, but it was free, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
Drawback: it’s pricey, so save it for a night when you’re a) flush and b) willing to look past it.