Downtown Napa’s Miminashi is a Feast for the Senses

Interior 5Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan

From it’s engagingly tactile front entry, to bold and exciting menu items, Downtown Napa’s newest eatery is a feast for the senses. In a town where fine restaurants have proliferated in the past few years, making the area a dining destination rather than merely a wine country stop over, Miminashi is creating a buzz and earning accolades for its dramatic design and authentic dishes. Situated in a historic building on Coombs Street, across from the Napa Courthouse, Miminashi brings something very different to Napa’s Italian and American cuisine-driven dining scene.

With Miminashi, chef Curtis Di Fede introduces the town’s first izakaya-style eatery–essentially a Japanese gastro pub in the fashion of Irish pubs or American taverns–casual spots to gather with good food, good drinks, and good friends. Miminashi guarantees the good food and good drinks, and a spot at the welcoming bar next to other guests will likely result in a few new good friends.

Miminashi is Di Fede’s personal creation – the product of a transformative trip to Japan where he was enchanted by both the culture and food. The name is an homage to Mimi-nashi Hoichi, a well-known character from Japanese mythology. Every design element, from the spectacular front door to the interior ceiling, is dramatic and evocative of Japanese elements. The bounteous wooden protrusions on the angled entryway represent Mount Fuji. The interior’s ceiling with dual peaks represents Shinto and Buddhist temples. One side of the dining room features private booths dramatically separated by wooden partitions–evocative of Tatami rooms. The other side offers a clear view to the open grill; five seats at the chef’s counter are reserved for Di Fede’s omakase experience. In the middle is a large and very welcoming three-sided bar.

Paitan RamenPhoto Credit: Bob McClenahan

Miminashi’s varied menu offerings satiate both the gastronomic thrill-seeker and the less adventuresome. The yakitori menu features threaded skewers with  nearly every part of a chicken—from crispy skin, to gizzard, to heart, and neck. But you can also find more mundane breast and thigh. Beef tongue—either the base or the tip – is also a choice. (Don’t be afraid—the tongue base is as good as any filet mignon.) Salads and vegetable dishes are made with the freshest and ripest ingredients and the menu changes with the seasons.

A roasted Tokyo turnip salad featured daikon, lettuce, and red noodle beans on a bed of avocado puree. Delicate gyoza might be made of shrimp, beef, or pork. An incredibly delicious blood sausage fried rice was chock full of egg, cherry tomato, gypsy peppers and pole beans. Two ramen choices include poached chicken or pork with a variety of fresh vegetables. The true enjoyment of a Miminashi meal is in the variety of flavors and ingredients, or maybe it’s in the dessert offering—a selection of ‘soft cream’ flavors such as espresso, apple cider, vanilla bean, or matcha green tea. Top your choice with cookie crumble, candied ginger, sesame honeycomb candy, whiskey butterscotch sauce, or hot fudge. This soft cream is so popular, Di Fede has installed a street side window for service to passers-by.

Miminashi’s wine and cocktail offerings stand-up to the excellent quality of the menu items. More than 90 international wines are offered as well as nearly 25 varied sakes, and a selection of beers. Cocktails are creative and refreshing, and your waiter can guide you on what you might like best. Touch the entryway, view the beautiful wood elements throughout, listen to the happy guests surrounding you, smell the aromas from the yakitori grill, and enjoy the eclectic flavors of Chef Di Fede’s authentic cuisine. Your senses will thank you.