MINCE Japan: Delectable fusion dishes all around

A MINCE dinner with satisfying, unique Japanese-infused dishes.



Japanese-fusion, $0 

410 Massachusetts Ave

Cambridge, MA 02139


If you’ve paid attention to dormspam, chances are that you’ve gotten an email from MINCE, the affordable fine dining organization on campus, to enter their coveted lottery. It is broadly agreed that MINCE pop-ups are always a phenomenal bang for their buck, and their website details all of their previous mouth-watering events. Since the MINCE Japan pop-up was sponsored by MISTI, it was a no-brainer to check it out.

As soon as I entered the Porter Room, I noticed the rejuvenating ambiance. The tables were set with tasteful florals, origami swans, chopsticks, and crystal glassware—all aligned with the advertised spring theme. Simple, but fitting. Guests had to wait a bit before the meal began, but this didn’t detract too much from the experience.

The sides were served first, and the infinite refills throughout the meal were certainly appealing. While my table and I were not necessarily the biggest fans of some of the sides (such as the takuan, the pickled radish), we obtained multiple refills of the hiyayakko and kyūri no tsukemono (silken tofu and pickled cucumber, respectively). I found that the smooth, creamy texture of the tofu against the muted acidity of the pickles served as great palate cleansers in between courses.

Next, we were served Kanto-style ozōni soup. The warm, hearty soup was a nice contrast to the sides, with a variety of vegetables. Other parts of the soup were flower-shaped, clearly formed with a cutter. The best part, in my opinion, was the two warm, fresh mochi croutons served on the side. Most savory mochi snacks on the market are hard, crunchy snacks, so biting into a toasty, chewy bit of mochi alongside bits of soup was a unique and cool experience.

I was then served my favorite savory course, the goma tako ceviche. The pickled octopus was concentrically arranged, with translucent radish, chives, and a bit of avocado that looked suspiciously like wasabi. The chewiness of the octopus was delightful and contrasted with the surprisingly salty fried rice paper. Both the presentation and taste of this dish were the best of all the courses, in my opinion.

Afterwards, the staff served the chazuke with miso-cured salmon. The rice was nice and glutinous, soaked in a flavorful oil. The bits of salmon were phenomenal, though I wish the ratio of rice to non-rice was more balanced. 

Finally, we were served dessert: a non-alcoholic amazake alongside a complex sakura ice cream. The pink tinge of the amazake added an extra dimension, and the drink itself was smooth, not chunky or unpleasantly starchy. The sakura ice cream was delightfully colorful, layered with kiwi, mandarin oranges, red bean paste, and so much more. The ice cream was presented much more playfully than in previous courses, providing a nice contrast.

In between each course, the MINCE chefs briefly explained what each dish consisted of, providing some insight to the diners. In the end, diners collectively thanked MINCE staff, who both curated this amazing menu and facilitated the serving process. I would highly recommend that everyone enter all of the MINCE lotteries—even when pop-ups cost money, it is typically well below market price.