Mission Vegan: Adventures at Minako

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.

8 Responses to “Mission Vegan: Adventures at Minako”

  1. danielle says:

    other fun fact: minako can do almost everything on the menu gluten-free, including tempura (they use potato starch)

  2. D. Jon Moutarde says:

    Actually sounds kind of good to me… and I never eat vegan except as a kitchen science experiment.

    My standard for the line between friendly and obnoxious is neatly straddled by the nice lady at Young’s Korean Barbecue, on 17th near Valencia. How does the hostess at Minako rate next to her?

  3. KC says:

    I love Minako so much. Never had anything there that was anything less than delicious. The woman who works FOH is named Judy, by the way. The only thing better than the food is hanging out with her and shooting the shit after a meal when you’re the last table out the door.

  4. yabut says:

    Its good if you dont mind waiting forever and a day to eat.

  5. danfinger says:

    Agar?!? We used to culture mold with that stuff in 9th grade biology. What are you, some kinda Stachybotrys?

  6. Heather says:

    I love this place, but haven’t been for years. I bonded with Judy my first time going, because she was rocking out El Vez in the dining room. Thanks for the reminder! I need to find the money to go again.

  7. wrybread says:

    So odd that you focused so much on Judy’s friendliness, as if it was a bad thing. There’s a million places in the city where you can go to be treated rudely. Judy’s awesome, as is this restaurant.

    And you forgot to mention that you might want to make reservations, as its usually packed through the night.