Minfi Shines Brighly in Japane’s Culinary World

minfi-appetizerOne thing I was most looking forward to on this trip to Japan was to finally visit the Chinese restaurant my uncle owns in Tokyo called, “Minfi (明輝).” The name of the restaurant loosely translates to “shines brightly” which, I found out, is also the name of the uncle’s younger brother.

My uncle, Meisei Sou (曽明星) (well, he’s actually my father’s cousin so he’s not really my “uncle” but I just refer to him as such because I can’t figure out what our official relationship is) is quite known in Japan’s culinary scene, most famous for beating Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba in 1995 in the original Iron Chef series with his now famous avocado shark fin soup.

But what’s more delicious than the artistic and exquisite Chinese dishes he serve (if it were possible) is the chef himself, who, despite his fame, is one of the most humble and charming individuals one would ever come across. There is no question as to why and how he earned the success he enjoys today.

Please enjoy the pictures of the beautiful French-inspired but authentically Chinese dishes I had the privilege of devouring. I’m not even going to bother explaining the flavor because no words will do the justice! (And please forgive for my lack of knowlege in Chinese cuisine … I don’t really know the real name of many of the dishes!)

minfi-tofu

Tofu appetizer

minfi-avocado-soup

Perhaps the most famous dish here, the avocado shark fin soup

minfi-crab-au-gratin

Crab au gratin

minfi-scallop

Scallop with tarako sauce, with tomato and potato at the bottom

minfi-soft-shell-crab

Soft shell crab

minfi-shrimp-chili-sauce

Shrimp with chili sauce

minfi-beef-stir-fry

Beef filet stif fry

minfi-hot-pot-rice

Hot pot rice with vegetable

minfi-ankake

Fluffy eggs with ankake

minfi-dessert

Dessert

明星(Minfi/ミンフィ)
東京都港区芝浦4-12-39 (田町駅東口より徒歩7分)
★★★★★

me-and-uncle

(By the way, do you think it’s okay to develop a total crush on your uncle without having to move to Alabama?!?)

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Just Fry Up Everything, I’m in Japan!

japan-tempura1I spent the last two weeks in Japan with my mother (the best travel partner ever, by the way), eating great food and having a blast. It was intended as a “satogaeri” trip (which translates to “returning home”) but it felt more like a full-blown vacation for me, with opportunities to visit all the touristy places one would see in travel guides.

I was afraid at first that I have become a foreigner in my own country and stick out like a sore thumb (although Japanese by birth, I moved to the states when I was nine, so I appear more as “American” to the Japanese eyes) but was surprised to find that I camouflaged into the backdrop of the cities seamlessly. I’m convinced that it was the camera I was carrying everywhere. They knew that I was one of them.

The first stop in our Japan tour was Ichikawa in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, where I lived for several years before moving to Southern California. We stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house for two days, walking down the memory lanes and being amazed at how much this little town has changed since my last visit 10 years ago.

japan-tempura-2They were very kind and fed us very well during our stay, taking us to great places, like this stylish tempura restaurant in Matusdo. (By the way, what you see in the above picture is not a sushi bar but a tempura counter where a chef deep-fries all great things imaginable in front of the hungry patrons!)

The warm aroma of fresh oil welcomed us when we walked into the restaurant (it wasn’t at all greasy). They ordered the “omakase” course for us (leaving the menu up to the chef), and tempura kept pouring in all night! Unlike the mushy tempura often served in the not-so-good Japanese restaurants in the states, the tempura here were all fried incredibly crisp and light.

japan-tempura-3We enjoyed tempura shrimps, crabs, assorted seasonal vegetables, fugu (puffy fish!) accompanied by dashi-based dipping sauce or just lemon and salt (my boyfriend only eats tempura this way), finishing up the meal with tempura anago bowl (saltwater eel) with a side of delicious miso soup.

The ladies split a bottle of red wine from the Nagano region (my uncle was a designated driver .. a good man), which was light and refreshing — a perfect accompaniment to the satisfying tempura. Oh, and I even tasted the delicious tempura green tea ice cream!

japan-tempura-43And speaking of being well fed, they even took us to a noodle shop for lunch and I ate soba that was cooked to perfection. I ordered the cold buckwheat noodle bowl with tororo imo (grated mountain potato), raw egg and crab meat.

And this was only our second day in Japan!