Review: Minato Sushi, Halifax
1520 Queen St. Halifax, NS – (902) 420-0331 – Website
Date of Visit: July 4, 2014
On my recent trip to Halifax, I arrived to discover that I had a few hours to wait until my hotel room was ready and so I took a stroll around the nearby streets and came across this little place. It looked a promising place for lunch but, unfortunately, aside from the service, which was impeccable, the experience was not terribly impressive…
Ambience and Service
The restaurant is housed in a small residence that is clearly quite dated. There are seats for no more than 25 patrons on the ground floor (which includes a modest sushi bar) and the place is quite comfortable if in need of a lick of paint or two. There are stairs leading to a second floor apparent but whether there is seating up there as well I didn’t inquire.
I arrived at about 11:30 am. There were only two other patrons there when I was seated but others arrived during the lunch hour. There was never a big crowd but a tropical storm was approaching and I was told that a lot of people were leaving the down town core early that day. There was only one young lady serving tables that morning but she was very friendly, if a little shy, and the service was excellent during my whole stay.
The place serves both Japanese and Korean cuisine but the menu is a little heavier on the Japanese dishes. Each table was provided with just soy sauce as a condiment and I noted that it was an unfamiliar product brewed in the United States called ‘Yamasa’. It wasn’t bad, having a nice sweet caramel taste, but it was somewhat marred by a metallic note at the end.
Ohitashi – This dish was described as steamed spinach with sesame and bonito flakes. The spinach was barely wilted, let alone properly steamed and was thus still quite tough and also a little bitter. It was served in a broth that seemed to be typical of the sort served with noodles, and there were indeed a few sparse flakes of bonito scattered on top. However, these flakes did nothing to add any flavor (which suggests they were stale) and there was no hint of any sesame, except possible for the tiniest dash of oil in the broth. This was not a very good beginning. Rating 2 out of 5.
Nigiri Sushi of Tako (Octopus) and Saba (Mackeral) – This selection was really quite poor. The molded rice was executed no better than my own efforts at home (I am not a very accomplished sushi maker) and there was insufficient rice for each piece. The Tako not at all well cut (being way too thin and roughly surfaced) and it was disappointingly bland. The Saba had an unfortunate grey color, was very stale, and was topped with a huge heap of chopped scallion and pickled ginger that did not work well. The chopped ginger, and the slices supplied as a garnish, also had a very unusual taste that was not especially pleasant. Rating: 1 out of 5.
Hotate-Butter – This consisted of scallops (hotate) sauteed with mushrooms in a butter sauce and, at first bite, came off badly. I don’t think the butter was actually rancid but it was certainly a quality and brand I didn’t care for. With a little soy sauce added, however, that particular taste diminished and the overall effect wasn’t too bad. The scallops were the perfect size for this sort of dish and, though not at peak freshness, had a nice juicy texture and a pleasantly sweet flavor. They managed to raise the dish from abysmal to merely mediocre. Rating: 2 out of 5.
Tori Kara-age – This dish of deep-fried chicken morsels, plain though it was, turned out to be the star of the show. The pieces were nicely battered and cooked and the sauce, which was a bit like a slightly tangy oyster sauce, worked well. In some way, the overall effect reminded me of my mother’s home-made sweet and sour pork and, with a bit of white vinegar in the sauce, the effect would have been complete. I liked this selection. Rating: 4 out of 5.
Gyoza – Oh dear… what can I say but that these were the worst gyoza I have ever had. The dumplings were like overcooked pierogi where the typical blandness has been replaced by the flavors of burned toast and overused deep-fry oil. The filling, which was very sparse, was virtually unidentifiable other than for the presence of mushy cabbage. They looked okay on the plate but beyond this were horrible. Rating 1 out of 5.
This was probably the worst Japanese meal I have had and, while this is the first Japanese cuisine I have sampled in the Maritimes, I don’t think regional variation can account for my disappointment. The food was not well prepared for the most part and, though the service was great, this is not enough to make one wish to return. Rating 1 out of 5.