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Hey CH,

I wanted to let you know that a new restaurant called Obento-Ya will be opening off SE Como Avenue. I believe that it will be opening in August and will feature a sushi bar.

When I know more or when I see an "open" sign, I'll let you know. My bus goes by it every day and I'm waiting to see if this will be a small gem or a dud.

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  1. Hey, that's a great scoop. Do you know what (if any) restaurant it is replacing?

    I noticed recently that the Village Bistro on Ford Parkway (in that little strip mall that has Von Hanson's and the wild bird store, etc.) has closed and is apparently being replaced by a cafe. I hope it, and Obento-Ya, will both be gems!


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      TDQ -- Nope - it's not replacing any restaurant. It's in the same strip as Muddsucker's Coffee - it's going to be fairly small - I'd say smaller than the average caribou? at least that is the way that it appears. I hope it'll be good.

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I'm adding Obento-Ya's "Places" link. Their website looks intriguing!

        Also, here's a link to the thread about the new place on Ford Parkway (Highland Cafe and Bakery) that replaced Village Bistro (since I mentioned it.) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/417443


        Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
        1510 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

      2. For those who are wondering, SE Como Avenue refers to a street in Minneapolis.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jordan

          CHer's, here is the link to the new restaurant - http://iplogic.stores.yahoo.net/bistr...

          Also, note that it said that it will be open July 2007. I'm not sure about that unless they can scramble for the next few weeks -still looks pretty rough - but who knows. May the end of July.

          If you have trouble find it through the link - check out obento.ya.com and in the bottom corner, you'll see Japanese bistro. Doesn't look bad, prices look reasonable - and not that i cannot enjoy a good meal without a good beer or wine - as the menu stands, it appears as though a liquor license has not yet been obtained; either that or the alcohol list just wasn't available for our viewing pleasure.

        2. hey i know a very small piece of info about these people-- they've done catering and sushi platters out of a commercial kitchen for years and are probably chafing at grocery-store sushi trays by now. they finally get their own little restaurant where they can flex their skills & creativity! their menu looks great btw and i hope the venture is a big success.

          1. these guys are open. super cute buildout. anybody been yet?

            1. Does anyone know anything about the Japanese restaurant to open in the old Olive Garden space on Hennepin and 6th st?
              I think it's called Musashi or something like that.

              1 Reply
              1. re: martaru

                It was brought up in a separate thread last week (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/422073) but no answers to the OP's question. Driving by it late last week, it looked like they were still working on the interior.

              2. okay i couldn't wait!!! we went to obento-ya today.

                interior: very cute (i am going to have to restrain myself from annoyingly using diminuatives during this post, i can tell). 30-some seats--tops, between tables and small sushi bar. when anyone enters or exits the small space, the chefs (1 male, 2-3 female) holler out greetings in japanese, which seemed to merely confuse some people. a lot of college-aged folks stopped in to ask if there was a sushi bar--(right in front of you, dude) or if there was a takeout menu (no, not yet).

                we pored over the extensive (for the size of the place) menu. we were just going to try a couple of items but ended up ordering a lot because we were hungry and everything we got was so good! ordered sushi/sashimi: unagi (2 pc), spicy trio (6 pc), flying caterpillar. All fish was very fresh and the rolls were beautifully presented/plated with lavish garnishes including tiny flying fish roe. great value imo. i wanted to try more fish but limited myself to what my dc could share (shellfish allergy).

                also had gyoza (6 pc): these were great small savory bites! i loved that you could order robata-- single skewers of meat, fish, seafood, or vegetables, at small to medium prices, as sides or to supplement a meal. tried a small skewer of japanese pumpkin (kabocha, i think). lightly battered and fried (edible skin on), with ponzu sauce. tender and delicious! loved it.

                we also split a bento box meal, because it seemed to be the specialty of the house. although we left the restaurant stuffed, i am so glad we ordered this! we chose the kushi-katsu combo bento. first came the good miso soup, then a gorgeous, large square bento box, black laquered outside, red inside: in one compartment: mixed greens salad with good fresh-made dressing similar to that served on the green salads at tanpopo (tanpopo's dressing is yummier imo, but just slightly). nestled into the greens was a sorbet-scoop sized dollop of japanese potato salad-- bland and nearly the texture of cold mashed potatoes, but with a subtle, creamy deliciousness, with tiny chunks of potato which practically melted in one's mouth. liked it very much. the next compartment had a wee portion of burdock root salad. tangy, just a tiny bit spicy, great texture. quite special and delightful. a built-in sauce cup held sauce for the hand-breaded skewers of pork and vegetables, which filled the largest compartment. crunchy, savory, delicious. the perfect, just sticky-enough rice was mounded in the last compartment, prettily garnished with black sesame seeds on top, and a few shreds of a red pickled cabbage leaf, which colored a few grains of rice a blushing pink as we ate. the whole bento box was drop-dead gorgeous to look at and at $10 a bargain. it could feed a very hungry person amazingly well. other bento boxes went for around $8. everything tasted fresh and just looked great. service was enthusiastic and a little green but attentive. good tea. no beer/wine license, unfortunately.

                there was a problem with the hvac system while we were there, it dripped onto the floor and the servers had to walk the short length of the dining room with a small mop to catch the drips every couple of minutes.

                grand total before tip: $38. less than half of what the same meal, with smaller portions and less attention to detail, would have been at other japanese places in town i could mention. i will definitely, definitely be going back to obento-ya very soon. a gem!

                4 Replies
                1. re: soupkitten

                  I can't wait to go to Obento-ya! I've been pining for a bento-box restaurant for years. And they have robata, too! Oh, still my beating heart. Thanks for posting this review.


                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    I believe the Obento-ya folks are the ones who supply your local Lunds / Byerly's/ Macy's Market Cafe sushi to-go packages. Their production kitchen is on East Hennepin near Stinson. Most of it is quite good considering the medium.

                    I'm having mapping trouble...what's the cross-street of the restaurant?

                    1. re: g rote

                      como & 15th-- 1/2 a block from vancleeve park, a few doors down from muddsuckers coffee, which is on the corner.

                  2. re: soupkitten

                    The Chowhound search is difficult to use - I think it's spell, punctuation AND capitalization-specific. I entered obento-ya, and a lot of other variations and addresses etc, but nothing pulls this thread up...sigh.

                    Anyway, my daughter and I tried out Obento-Ya tonight about 7pm. They close at 8pm, and there were two parties that came in about 7:50pm, keeping the tables full. The rest of the time, the tables were turning over without a waiting line, but the place was pretty hopping for only being open 10 days, and having a smaller area.

                    My daughter LOVES sushi! I on the other hand love other Japanese food more. So this place complimented both of us well! We started out ordering one robata of Japanese pumpkin - tempura style, and one robata of Japanese eggplant kashi-katsu style - both VERY GOOD, and one order of Gyoza - pork dumplings - ALSO very good. We both ordered bentos - my daughter the sushi deluxe bento and I the beef bento - the menu is accessible from the following link:

                    The miso soup was excellent! My daughter has a texture issue with some foods (yogurt is a major one, so tofu isn't far behind) so she gave me her tofu from her soup, but we both loved the flavor of the soup in general, and I liked the additional chunks of tofu I got from her. It was a really nice, almost smokey flavor with a nice aftertaste.

                    Like soupkitten said, the japanese pumpkin Robata was REALLY good (we had the tempura style on the advice of the waitress), and so was the japanese eggplant, which we had kashi-katsu (panko-breaded) style! The eggplant came with a bbq-type sauce that was really good. The pumpkin came with a sauce that was more soy-based. However, being new to the restaurant and the foods as well, we didn't focus or use the sauces much when talking about the flavor and food because we wanted to get the base flavors down first.

                    We also had the gyoza (pork dumplings), and my daughter really liked them and doesn't usually like dumplings at all (and I thought they were great!) The sauce for the gyoza was really nice - had enough tang to it to blend and compliment the dumplings, and we both commented on that at the same time.

                    I loved my meal - the beef bento - the rice was really nice and "just" sticky enough, the beef nicely marinated and very flavourful, the Japanese potato salad like soupkitten described, yet with distinct, very thin slices of cukes embedded in it that I think that may have passed on some of the nuanced flavour....very NICE!

                    Also note!! The miso soup comes with some wooden spoons to eat the soup with, but otherwise, the only eating utensils are chopsticks. I didn't see anyone NOT using chopsticks, but I'd guess they'd have a fork available upon request - yet no promise!

                    My daughter loved her meal also!! - YET, she wasn't used to such moist, sticky rice used for California Rolls, nor was she used to "crispy" veggies embedded in her sushi, so she suspended judgement for now because she really, really liked the flavor and ingredients used, and she really like how fresh the fish was also and said she'd go back in a heartbeat for more, but she said "It's not what I'm used to." She loved the inclusion of avocado in her California Rolls!

                    The grand total for the two of us was just under $30 with tax, but before tip, and we both walked out with enough for a lfull unch for both of us tomorrow. The food is GREAT! There's just too much on the menu to be able to try it out in 2 or 3 visits...it'll take about 6 or 8 visits, and it's worth going back to try it all, and then the faves over and over!!! When they get a take-out set up, it'll be really nice!!

                  3. We went to Obento-ya tonight. My verdict: This place is a gem!

                    We tried skewers of eggplant (if you get it plain, you gotta love eggplant, which I do), peppers, asparagus, and pumpkin (panko-breaded and delicious). For the main dish, I had the mackerel bento, and Mr. Tastebud had the robata combo bento - yakitori chicken and veggie skewers with 4-5 other things. Both bento meals were fabulous. I especially loved the spicy burdock root salad.

                    The place is cozy and tiny - 5 tables, 2 booths, and 8 seats around the grill/sushi bar. Service is very warm and friendly. Our bill was $23 plus tip - what a value!

                    Who was looking for healthy and yummy meals a while back? This place would be perfect. You can order skewers of grilled veggies, fish, and chicken, either a la carte or as part of a bento meal. You can feel virtuous and still get the best things on the menu.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      I was one of the people looking for yummy and healthy a few months ago. We were actually going to try Obento-ya tonight but got stuck in Bloomington running errands and went to Da Afghan instead. Hopefully we'll get up there soon.

                    2. Add me to the list of those recommending Obento-Ya. My husband and I went tonight, and both had bentos; me the sushi deluxe bento and he the tempura combo (shrimp and tempura vegetables). Everything was excellent, as previously reported here, as was the hot green tea I've not heard mentioned yet, a more flowery tea than the green at Midori's and Tanpopo. Service relaxed, friendly, but efficient. I asked our waitress to choose a selection of robatas for us, and we feasted on zucchini, pumpkin, mushroom, shrimp and my favorite: tsukune, two tiny, grilled chicken meatballs. We ended up with leftovers and a bill of just $36. The only thing I would have changed was the constant and somewhat annoying throb of techno beat from the tanning salon next door, although I doubt that anyone not sitting exactly where we were (east wall, towards the back) could have heard it.

                      1. My husband and I went to Obento-Ya last night for his birthday. The food was excellent! The place will be really impressive once it gets its opening kinks out.

                        We arrived around 7:15 and the place was very busy. There were two large parties there. Our poor waitress was crazed much of the time we were there, because the party of about 10 people decided after the fact that they each wanted separate checks.

                        Since it was only 45 minutes before the restaurant closed and it was much busier than the owners had expected (they told me it was their busiest night yet), they were running out of dishes. We didn't get individual plates for our Robata and they ran out of water cups, so our water was served in tea cups.

                        But apart from those problems, which I think will work themselves out with time, the restaurant was wonderful. The people were very friendly. We spoke with the owners for awhile after we finished eating dinner and were pleased with them. My husband is fluent in Japanese, so enjoyed speaking with one of the owners who is from Hiroshima.

                        Onto the food...

                        We ordered four Robata skewers: these are barbecued skewers - they come either simply barbecued or tempura. We had one barbecue Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) and one with tempura. We had also had barbecue and then tempura Japanese eggplant. All were excellent, although the tempura ones were probably tastier. The sauce that they came with was very tasty. My husband had never heard of Robata (he lived in Japan for several years). The concept was familiar to him, but in his area of Japan, the people just called in "Barbecue"

                        Our other apetizer was agedashi tofu. My husband was surprised to see that this was a big block of tofu, rather than small cubes. It had been lightly breaded and fried and was served with a dipping sauce. It was delicious. Extremely creamy and flavorful with the breading and dipping sauce.

                        The miso soup that came with the bento boxes was excellent. It had large chunks of tofu and a lot of miso. Our only complaint was that they served us a fairly small amount of it. I wondered whether they were running out at the end of the evening.

                        My entree was the sake-salmon bento box. For $7.95, I received a small yet decent sized piece of salmon. It was excellent. I especially liked the miso-vinegar paste-like dipping sauce. The box also came with a yummy potato salad, with thinly sliced cucumbers. It was fairly bland, but comforting nonetheless. The salad with its dressing was good also. The rice was served with black sesame seeds on top - it was nice and sticky.

                        My husband had the shoya-pork dish. It was sauteed or grilled pork chunks served with a ginger dipping sauce. Very tasty as well. The other items in the bento box were the same.

                        All in all, an excellent place that I will enjoy coming back to!

                        1. Not that any further evidence is really needed to secure obento-ya's spot as a legitimate japanese choice, but i wanted to post something after (finally) making it there for dinner tonight.

                          The Saba (mackerel) robata is AWESOME. like, as in it came to the table, we ate it, and i had to ask my girlfriend if we felt we needed another one (she said not, in favor of desert, a decision i would not have made alone, but such are the sacrifices of love). seriously though, go to obento ya now and order one.

                          the saba lived up to its reputation as a fishier fish, but with a beutifully bubbly crispy skin and perfectly salted exterior, and gorgeously soft interior texture, im going to say this was the single best piece of fish i've eaten all summer, perfectly offset by the lovely little dish of ponzu it came with.

                          overall, we were charmed by the menu and quality of everything we ordered, but i was pretty much enchanted by that piece of saba.

                          1. We finally made it to Obento-Ya tonight and it was great. The space is very fun and seemed family friendly. We ordered the sushi deluxe bento, the bistro bento (yakitori chicken and a rice ball), and tofu, asparagus, and saba robata. They were all very good and fun to eat. They don't have a liquor license yet but we overheard they're working on it. There were 2 waitresses working and they were definitely overwhelmed but friendly. We noticed the waitstaff ran into a snag when several parties of 4 came in at once and they only had open 2-tops and this seemed to upset the people waiting.

                            In the future I think we'll only head out there on weeknights or for lunch, just to avoid the service problems which will hopefully be worked out soon. Our dinner was $15 each and we were quite full and happy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: katebauer

                              I've been there twice. First time (group of 6 friends) was good enough so I brought my family (7 people) for a second visit.

                              The food's merely okay, nothing fantastic. The prices, lower than some other Japanese restaurants in town, are commensurate with the quality and the smaller portions.

                              Some of our order was not prepared as listed in the menu. I spoke with the waitress, who was great and went to bat for us, but the owner/manager refused any accommodation (re-do correctly, substitution for something else, or break on the price). She also refused to talk with me directly--she was working in the kitchen that night but I can't excuse that rudeness. We spent quite a bit and were treated to inferior service that left a bad taste in our mouths, which won't be eating that place's preparations again. For roughly the same outlay I can eat much more authentic and tasty Japanese food in the Twin Cities (I lived in Japan for a number of years), and be treated to reasonably competent service.

                            2. wanted to bump this thread with a couple of updates. obento-ya has gotten a beer/wine license and gained some date-worthiness points. very small list with only one sake, a sparkling one. also has opened a cute patio in back of the restaurant, providing more seating in nice weather.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Ooooooooooo - sparkling sake is a major passion of mine. It goes with everything, especially sushi and teriyaki chicken and grilled vegetables and edamame and miso soup.

                                And a patio, too? I'm so there! Thanks for the bump.