I’m writing this review in a post-saki glow. I can still feel its warmth hugging my bones, prompting me to say only the nicest things about Min’s Sushi & BBQ on Tran Cao Van.
But even when that glow fades, I’ll still be left with only the sweetest memories – of a place I’ve never visited before, but certainly will again.
Min’s Sushi & BBQ menu describes the unassuming Hoi An Japanese restaurant as ‘a peaceful, Kyoto-style eatery’. Which seems like an apt summary – having stayed in Kyoto two years ago, I was immediately transported back. The red lanterns hanging outside, the rattan ceiling and walls, the dark furniture and the speakeasy vibe…it had the cool, effortless appeal of a Japanese izakaya. The perfect setting for a romantic date night, or an intimate dinner with friends.
With room for only 10 people inside (six at the counter, right in front of all the slice ‘n’ dice action), this intimacy is a big selling point. However, even though Quyet (the young Hanoian owner) has plans to expand his Japanese restaurant, he’s keen to stay true to its roots. He spoke of a calming garden, a little sake bar out back…and his face lit up when he described this next chapter of his dream.
Quyet met his chef and friend, Tien, in Saigon two years ago. They decided to set up a place in Hoi An and recruited five more members of staff from various parts of Vietnam. Quyet calls them “his family” – and this family operates like a well-oiled machine. During our lunch, each person was constantly moving, busy with an individual task – which they completed diligently, with great care and calmness. Resulting in a background atmosphere of quiet, perfect efficiency. It was all very zen. And even though their 20s-style trilby hats were reminiscent of Japanese yakuza (gangsters), they were of the friendliest variety!
Chef Tien, originally from Saigon, has spent years learning and practising the art of sushi-making. His work was carried out with such precision and dedication it was a delight to watch – and of course, to eat!
Where do I start? I am not normally a fan of sushi. It’s not something I get overly excited about. (Andy, on the other hand, would happily eat it for every meal.) So I ordered the “Min Special Set A” – a mix of skewered meat and veg, plus a california roll, a tuna maki roll and Chef Hien’s appetiser of the day. Andy went full raw and ordered the “Sashimi Special Set” – which looked like a work of art and was almost too pretty to eat. (Almost.)
I found the skewers – beef and green pepper, eggplant, plus chicken and leek, all blow-torched to perfection – to be beautifully flavoured and tender. (Not to mention how much we enjoyed the fireshow that went with them!) The extras, like edamame beans, salmon-flaked miso soup and delightfully crispy gyoza, went down an absolute treat.
But at Min’s Sushi & BBQ I was especially surprised to find just how much I LOVED the sashimi! Meaty red tuna? Delicious. Zingy yellow-fin tuna? Divine. Salmon and barbequed salmon skin salad (the chef’s appetiser)? Delectable. All the positive “D” adjectives you can think of, this meal had it all!
We were also treated to a portion of beautiful nigiri, before finishing off our meal with some cooling watermelon and some hot sake.
I don’t know why I’ve never been to Min’s Sushi & BBQ before. It’s been open for nine months and frankly, I’ve a lot of time to make up for! It’s without a doubt, one of the most special dining experiences I’ve had in Hoi An… and that isn’t just the sake talking!
For one thing, it’s so reasonably priced – you can get the mixed set for 200,000 VND (10 USD), and the special sashimi one for 300,000 VND (15 USD). I can’t imagine having sushi so good, in such a special setting, for so cheap anywhere else – certainly not in the restaurants we visited in Japan, anyway! These were quite filling options, but you can pick and choose between a wide selection of rolls, sashimi and nigiri options for a couple of dollars a pop.
If you’re not into fish, the BBQ skewers are fantastic and if you’re not into meat, you can opt for veggie skewers or rolls instead – just ask them to make you one up.
The staff are great, the food is beautiful and the setting is truly special. Don’t miss it.