I want to thank Chef Curtis Di Fede and his fabulous staff for the wonderful meal they provided Steve & I. Though the meal was provided free of charge, the review is my honest opinion of my food and experience!
In May 2016 Miminashi, a Japanese inspired Izakaya restaurant, opened in downtown Napa. I was always intrigued by the gorgeous hand-carved front door and tiny Japanese sign but made up my mind that there wouldn’t be anything on the menu that would entice a vegan to step through that beautiful door! It wasn’t until recently while Steve & I were out walking our dog Violet that my attitude changed. Next to Miminashi’s entrance is their soft serve window. Since I’m always in search of good vegan dessert, I stopped by to see if they offered anything dairy free. And they did. In addition to the many dairy based flavors, they had a delicious soy based fruity sorbet that was delicious and sweet! While chatting with the server, he mentioned that his sister is also vegan and that the restaurant did serve some vegan-friendly cuisine.
While researching their menu, I found what has become the norm here in Napa Valley. Though several of the options looked like they could be vegan or very easily made to be, the menu gave no indication and had nothing labeled. Luck had it that Monty at Fuller & Sander Communications handled all of their media inquiries. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Monty & his partner Tom since they gave me my first press pass ever! As usual Monty was happy to help and before long I was eating my first vegan Izakaya meal!
The elaborately hand carved door opened into a large, minimalist space. The atmosphere and lighting was dim, warm and seductive. Though the busy square bar and openness of the space gave the room an energy that was anything but intimate. There were times the buzz of conversation bordered on loud but it added to the experience instead of detracting from it. I loved the gorgeous tiered, peaked ceiling that mimics the architecture of Japanese Buddhist temples & Shinto Shrines. The wood throughout and the dramatically high-backed booths gave a gorgeous warmth to the space. Izakaya-style cuisine is essentially an informal Japanese gastropub-type experience so the casual paper napkins & chop sticks displayed at each table made sense.
Our server Andrew was very knowledgable of the menu and was able to guide me through all the vegan-friendly cuisine. Being in a Japanese restaurant it only seemed natural to order Sake. I am a complete novice so took Andrew’s advice and ordered the Jozen. A white, very fruit forward drink that tasted of green grapes & pineapple. It was the perfect sipping drink to pair with my dinner. The meal started with a small, delicious peppery arugula & radish salad drenched in flavorful sesame seed oil compliments of the kitchen. Each of the items I ordered reminded me of a small-plate, tapas like experience. Perfect portion sizes that allowed me to taste many different dishes. The Japanese pickle platter included pickled carrots, delicious mushrooms marinated in salty soy sauce and a medium spiced, flavorful Kimchi. Next was a warm bowl of wok-fried edamame made with sunflower oil & a touch of peppermint. I love how they provide warm towels with the finger foods. Next round was the heart shaped Yaki Onigiri – a grilled rice patty that takes an additional 15 minutes. It is well worth the wait! The entree was their Don Buri which was a big bowl of fried rice and vegetables with arugula, radishes, ginger and spicy kimchi with soy sauce. The combination of flavors and spices were incredible. And when we thought we could’t eat any more, Andrew served a herbaceous, refreshing lemongrass sorbet. It was the perfect end to the meal.
In addition to the items Steve & I tried, they also offer Citrus and Little Gem salads. I’m going to be sure to order the Citrus salad with avocado, pea tendrils and pistachios the next time I dine there! They often offer a vegan sweet potato croquette that is not on the menu. Their Maitake mushroom & radish skewers and vegetable fried rice with cauliflower & green garlic can also be veganized. The dairy-free sorbet flavors do rotate so I’m looking forward to what will be on the menu next!
I really enjoyed my experience at Miminashi. The energy in the room was good and the service and food were both excellent. It is the perfect spot to gather when dining out with omnivorous friends. In fact, I am already heading back this week when our friend Robin visits from Switzerland. The only thing that dampened the evening for me was the fact that I was facing the open grill and there were dried fish hanging above it. Before I walked in the dining room I understood what food they offered on their menu & I am thankful they acknowledged my vegan choices but seeing the poor fish is not something I want to experience again. When I made my reservation this week, I asked to be seated away from the grill. I suggest that you do the same!
Miminashi is located at 821 Coombs Street in downtown Napa. They serve dinner Monday – Thursday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday until 11 p.m. and Sunday 5 to 9:30 p.m. Lunch is served Monday – Friday from 11:30 to 2 p.m. Brunch is served every Sunday but there is nothing on the menu for us! The soft serve window is open from Noon to Close Monday through Friday and 4 p.m. to close on Saturday & Sunday. To schedule your reservation, click HERE!
I hope you enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant and your Izakaya dining experience as much as I did. Remember to try their Sake & don’t leave without a scoop of their dairy-free sorbet and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!