Whenever asked about what kind of restaurant he runs, Kitchen Minot owner and chef Noriaki Shimbara’s answer is always the same: “Your guess is as good as mine!” [日本語]
Boasting an eclectic menu ranging from the squid fritters (loaded with garlic and parmesan cheese), chicken kebabs (with homemade fiery harissa), and spicy Chinese mapo dōfu (tofu simmered in a spicy sauce, to Japanese favorites like chicken skins simmered in a sweet and savory miso base (torikawa no miso-nikomi), and local delicacies like debera (an Onomichi specialty dried fish served crispy and lightly grilled) and nerimono (rounded and fried cakes made from fish paste) from Shimbara’s hometown of Kusatsu, Kitchen Minot offers a wide range of tastes for any palette, making it nigh impossible to pin down the culinary genre of the place.
Kitchen Minot is cozy: two tables and a long counter that wraps around the kitchen. Bright wood and sandy earthtone tiles decorate the wall behind the massive gas range and oven behind the counter. The menu looms on two chalkboards hung on the wall, where seasonal favorites, like katsuo-no-tataki (seared skipjack), smoked saury, and fried oysters, come and (sadly) go. Along the counter stand bottles of Japanese sake, shōchū, gin, rum, whiskey, and even grenadine syrup and homemade ume plum syrup, among many, many more. And of course, the wine, which Shimbara (or Shin-chan, as he is affectionately known) ensures will pair well with his menu.
Shimbara has spent time working in kitchens around Japan and in Marseille, France, and easily switches from Japanese to English to French, and back again. With an easy charm, he treats every customer like a regular, taking the time to chat in between mixing drinks and making food. At Minot, conversation is almost as important as the food and drinks: it’s a place where instead of instagramming their food, the customers are engaged in lively chats, and Shimbara will most likely be found laughing and joking right along with them. It’s also a hub of information about the music scene in Hiroshima, with fliers for local shows and stickers from local bands to be found.
I am fully aware that this review sounds more like a feature article on Shimbara, but that’s because he is so central to everything that goes on at Minot that it’s impossible to talk about the place without mentioning him. He’s almost the antithesis of the typical stern and stony chef, and yet his culinary skills and dedication put him in a league of his own. The sauces are all made from scratch, from the curry to the dashi stock for the oden and beyond. His homemade harissa is so delicious that it has fans, not to mention the homemade yuzu-koshō (a zesty, peppery blend of local yuzu citrus peels and green chili peppers), which has nearly a cult following. Each dish is given time to simmer; nothing here is rushed, and no one there is rushing. What’s important, as Shimbara would say, is having a good time.
Kitchen Minot is about making connections. Whether it’s with old friends or someone who just happened to be sitting at the counter that night, Shimbara sets the stage with casual conversation, food so good you’ll want to talk about it, and just the right amount of alcohol: the recipe for that old Minot magic.
Don’t miss Minot’s “Sakao Curry Night” (featuring guest chef and curry-enthusiast Papa), or “How do you like pie?” Savory Pie Night (featuring resident pie expert, yours truly), held for one night during alternating months (curry is odd and pies are even)! The next pie event will be held on 2/15 (Sat) featuring a creamy chicken and mushroom pie, and a spicy mince and potato curry pie. For details, swing by Kitchen Minot or look them up on Facebook.
Address: Hatchobori 12-14, Naka-ku, Hiroshima