The entrance to Miminashi is forbidding, barely see the door in the middle of a huge carved wood face, like entering a Samurai redoubt. Inside, after adjusting to the dim lighting, it’s clearly a bar, an Izakaya or Japanese-style pub. As you enter, an elongated U shaped bar is in front of the kitchen, booths to the right, simple schoolroom tables and chairs in the area to the left, and a small grill-counter at the back of the room. A few wood-paneled receding pagoda-like cones as the ceiling convince diners that they are in an Asian eatery.
I visited in the early evening of two successive Saturdays. The menu offers a large variety of cooking styles—BBQ, Sashimi, Teppanyaki, Noodles and Rice—and a 5 course Omakase or Chef’s Choice menu.
As starters, the two skewers of sliced Maitake, “dancing” mushrooms ($5) that are reputed to boost the immune system, had woodsy look and flavor, and the server’s advice to add a tangy sauce in a small jar at the table enhanced the taste; the roasted Japanese sweet potato ($8) served like a piece of Quiche had some pickled vegetables and scallions in it, but the taste that lingered came from the spicy bean paste mixed with the crème fraiche laced over it.
I was not adventurous with the main dishes because I liked one enough to order it twice with the difference that the rice bowl (Ryoshidon) ($20) had cubes of tuna tartare the first time, and (Sakedon) strips of Salmon tartare the second time. It looked like a mountain of rice with an egg yolk on top, like the sun sitting atop Mt. Fuji, and flecks of raw fish, avocado, pickled vegetables and bits of deep fried flour batter. At the base of the mountain was a dollop of Japanese mayonnaise that the server advised to mix in thoroughly with the wooden spoon on the bowl. The result was delicious and filling–mouthfuls creamy rice with raw fish and or avocado with an occasional hint of egg yolk.
I had an Asahi draft beer ($7) on my first visit, which was refreshing, but didn’t do much for the food. The second time, I had a glass of Gunma Izumi Sake ($9), which added a nutty and earthy tasted to the main course. The menu of beer, sake, wine, and cocktails was extensive.
On the first Saturday evening, the pub was less than half full and I was placed at a small table for two. The service staff was informative, quick and attentive. On the second visit, I sat at the bar. Although there were more diners, the restaurant was not full. Yet, disappointingly, the service was slow and not attentive. Nevertheless, Miminashi offers good, unusual food in modern Asian surroundings and an informal atmosphere.
Miminashi is at 821 Coombs Street in Napa. Tel: 707-254-9464. Street parking is readily available within easy walking distance.
Ashok Khanna is a writer, gourmand, and art lover. His biography of the first Buddhist ruler will be published by Bloomsbury this summer. He was formerly an international economist with the World Bank. He lives in Marin County. Website:www.ashokkhanna.net