When a restaurant is so popular you have to reserve as much as a month in advance, there’s always a concern it may not live up to all the anticipation. But no need to worry at Mimosa, when you (eventually) get to your table there.
Chef Toshiro Minami already had a strong fan base well before he opened Mimosa last July. That’s not surprising, given his pedigree as the man behind the wok for almost seven years at Chef’s, the legendary (and still very much alive) Chinese restaurant in backstreet Shinjuku Gyoenmae.
But the main reason why tables at Minami’s compact second-floor premises are still in such hot demand is because he’s serving some of the most satisfying Shanghai food in Tokyo. Just as at Chef’s, his cooking is authentic in its seasonings and infused with a Japanese lightness of touch. But here at Mimosa he has taken this approach to the next level.
Just try his take on the perennial classic su-buta (sweet and sour pork). Not only does he use a premium grade of pork, he stamps his own identity on the dish by using the tartness of Chinese dried ume plums — a less salty cousin to Japanese umeboshi pickles — instead of just using sweetened black vinegar.
Another recipe that’s become a signature dish is his version of shumai dumplings. Minami stuffs them with lean pork — he favors a premium breed from Iwate Prefecture — and then, once they’re steamed, he tops them each with a small mound of orange flying fish roe. It doesn’t just look pretty: The mouth-filling smoothness of the meat is beautifully complemented by the delicate seafood crunch.
Among the highlights of the current menu is a stir-fried dish of fresh, new-season figs that are deep-fried as fritters and buried under coarsely ground pork that has been stir-fried with delicate shards of pickled red chili. It’s an exquisite combination; the crisp batter holds in the sweet, succulent fruit and the rich, juicy meat, accented both visually and on the palate by the piquant peppers.
Simple but eye-catching and above all deeply delicious, touches like this are what make a meal at Mimosa so pleasurable. The only frustration is the menu. It’s not that extensive, but it is hard to decipher, which means you always see other dishes being served that you wish you had ordered yourself.
Don’t miss the daikon pies, empanada-like pastries filled with shredded white radish mixed with specks of umami-rich Jinhua ham and finely diced negi scallions. And get in your order quickly for the chashu pork: It takes almost half an hour for the thick slab of meat to develop its juices and delectable deep-red exterior.
For a first visit, the best strategy is to order the set menu and let Minami make the choices for you, so you can relax and enjoy Mimosa’s easy-going atmosphere. There’s a brief but well chosen wine list, and the soundtrack is hip and eclectic, but always manages to include some Billie Holiday. What’s not to like? Well, only the fact that it’s so hard to book.
Fiora Aoyama 2F, 3-10-40 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-6804-6885; mimosa-aoyama.com; open 6-11 p.m.; closed Sun. & hols; set dinner at ¥8,500, also a la carte; closest station: Omotesando; smoking not permitted; major credit cards accepted; Japanese menu; little English spoken