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Aug 13, 2007 08:19 PM

Best Sushi in Minnesota?

I can't say I have been to all of the sushi joints in Minnesota, but I can say that I have been to a good few. After going to Japan a few years back, I have an insatiable desire for sushi and the like. I have been to Ichiban's all you can eat kaiten-zushi-esque sushi bar, Tiger sushi, Fuji-ya in St. Paul, Sakura, and sadly the "sushi corner" at the world buffet.

But, I am curious about your opinion: What is the best sushi restaurant in Minnesota? The criteria would include...

1. Taste
2. Variety
3. Presentation
4. Service/Atmosphere
5. Price (this probably would be higher in my judgements, but this is for best overall sushi)

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  1. I've found that there are two worlds of sushi in MSP: The world in which you have a relationship with the itamae and order omakase or at least ask for recommendations, and the "guy off the street/order off the menu world". If the itamae recognizes you or knows you understand/have experience in Japanese cuisine, the result is entirely different. I don't know a whole lot about the "guy off the street" world -- I generally reserve my sushi outings for special occasions (thus #5 is out of my criteria). So if you're asking which place in town excels in 1-5 for a California roll or salmon nigiri ordered off the menu at a table, I don't know.

    With that in mind, dining at the sushi bar at Origami (downtown) still consistenly intrigues and excites me more than any other place in town. All of their chefs seem competent and creative, whereas at other places you may hit a good chef at one end of the bar and a not-so-good one at the other end. They also seem the most warmly receptive to adventurous diners -- I imagine if you were at the bar, ordered Omakase and said, "you know, when I was in Osaka (or wherever you were), I couldn't get enough of the jack mackerel (or whatever you love)" they would recognize that you aren't a "beginner" and would treat you to a wonderful omakase meal emphasizing jack mackerel and/or other fish they have that night to compliment your preferences.

    On a side note, in the spring, I finally made my way over to Bagu (I posted about it somewhere on here) with a friend who is more of a novice when it comes to Japanese cuisine (although he's fairly open to trying new things). What impressed me about Bagu is the itamae recognized through our conversation that we were a ways apart on the spectrum and did a great job of organizing a number of dishes that were wonderful takes on some standard items (rolls, etc...I was actually in the mood for rolls) as well as offering up things that would push my friend's envelope a bit (the fried mackerel skeleton). I gathered that, because of its small size, Bagu didn't reserve as many unusual or expensive fishes behind the bar, but did an excellent job of personalizing the sushi. The quality was excellent as well.

    To make a long story a little less long, all of that basically means Origami downtown and Bagu would be my top two places to send you, but only based on 1-4.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MSPD


      I recently posted looking for the best Omakase in town. I thought I would respond to your thoughtful post as it is exactly what I'm looking for in Omakse. I want the unusual...Uni, Monkfish liver, whatever is fresh. I despise exactly what I got at Origami Ridgedale, a bunch of fancy colorfull rolls that didn't express the sea. Stop bombarding me with rice and sauce drizzled to look pretty. Let me taste the sea. Any tips for Origami downtown? Should I ask for a specific chef?

      1. re: dave43's been a little while but Emi-san (I may be spelling it wrong...I know him by face more than name) at the downtown location was good. I also think Paul at Bagu is very creative when you go off the menu and express the interest in something unique.

        Since I much prefer sashimi to rolls, I make sure to articulate that regardless of the chef. I would be ticked too if I went the omakase route and got a bunch of rolls and sauces.

        My omakase days are much fewer and farther between recently. Kids' activities and other demands have put the ki-bosh on my time.

      2. re: MSPD

        Really enjoyed Bagu when passing through MPLS recently. They have real crab in the california rolls, and bargain happy hour specials on rolls etc.

        I live in NYC, and was looking for a good place to introduce sushi to some curious in-laws. It was a great success. All the white wines on the menu are painfully (and in the midwest, unapologetically) sweeeeet.

      3. I think there are probably five answers, one for each category. Selection usually drives up price. Koyi has a great selection of rolls, but keeps the nigiri choices simple, and they achieve near-perfection in selecting fresh, buttery fish. Nami has some interesting options, but the fish is sometimes dry or skunky. Koyi is a more intimate ambience, Nami is hip and happening. Origami has great omakase, but the space is a little cluttered and cold and the prices are high.

        Which is best? Depends on reasons for going at the time.

        As for me, I end up at Koyi most of the time, because sushi is something of a comfort food (?!?) and Koyi has the intimate ambience and the fabulously fresh fish.

        1. a recent thread you might be interested in, David Minh:

          it is mainly minneapolis/st paul sushi, but places out in the 'burbs are mentioned too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: soupkitten

            Thanks! I pretty much read that whole topic, and I never knew that Martini Blu and Sushi of Tokyo had AYCE sushi! Does anyone know if those are any good in comparison to Ichiban's AYCE?

          2. Just to stir things up - How about Tiger sushi in the MOA just for a change? It's not Origami (my fav) but far better than you might expect - the fish seems quite fresh - I catch it when I have a long layover at the MSP airport as you can take the light rail system down to it.

            Now for Japanese food not just sushi - I do really enjoy Tanpopo in St. Paul - the noodle and tempura are quite good (the tempura for me is a real test of a serious Japanese kitchen, that's why Wasabi gets a thumbs down from me) The tesuko (sic) changes around and they try and use local produce. Yum.

            4 Replies
            1. re: toshio

              i love tanpopo too-- great noodles, great specials, usually a sushi special (just one type). the noodles are the big draw though, and we love the ginger chicken wings as well.

              for great tempura and robata (they have awesome bento boxes and good sushi too) you might really like obento-ya in northeast-- it's new. thread:


              1. re: toshio

                I tried Tiger a few months ago - I asked the waiter for sushi menu items (not tuna or cucumber rolls) that didn't contain mayonnaise or cream cheese, and even he was stumped. I thought that the $7-8 that I paid for about 5 bites of food was excessive. For that price, I'd rather eat a (maa-maa) sushi tray from Whole Foods.

                I ate at Kami (Apple Valley) shortly after they opened - I tried the chirashi-zushi (the standard by which I judge the sushi when I first visit a Japanese restaurant) and was impressed by the freshness. Haven't gone back since, though, so I don't know if that was typical.

                The c-z at Fuji-ya (Mpls) was presented as weirdly large slabs. I remember the tuna had hard gristle lines in it, and when I tried to bite through a piece, I couldn't.

                1. re: joshi

                  I agree about Tiger. They don't seem to know sushi, service always seems painfully slow, prices staggeringly high, and you have to suffer through MOA to experience it. If I'm stuck in MOA, I prefer Wok'n'Roll in the food court, sadly enough.

                2. re: toshio

                  I love Tanpopo for its bukkake soba dish, and for its hiya-yakko appetizer. Although, the last time I went there I asked if there hiya-yakko was more hiya-yakko in the teishoku and they said yes, and that was a lie.

                  But, they made up for it by giving me very good mochi with extra adzuki beans on the side. mmmm.

                3. I have to ask, what's the sushi corner at the World Buffet?

                  We've been slacking a little lately on our quest to eat sushi everywhere in Minnesota. We still have to try the new place on Hennepin downtown and Obento-ya. Now that Midori's is out of our repertoire and it will be soon be too chilly for the patio at Bagu, we should be more motivated to get out to new places.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: katebauer

                    I go to the world buffet, and the sushi there is very, very, very bad. It is pretty much the worst quality sushi anyone can find ever. The avocado rolls are hard as a rock, and they only have a few different choices (including the "vegetable" roll that comprises of canned veggies). So do not go there if u want decent sushi.

                    P.S. Why isn't Midori's on your reportoire?

                    1. re: David_Minh

                      David, It think katebauer's Midori saga is nicely documented in the recent posts in this thread: (to tide you over until she can reply...



                      1. re: David_Minh

                        Thanks for the redirect TDQ. Is the World Buffet Lee's World Buffet in St. Paul? I've just never heard of it.

                        1. re: katebauer

                          Nope. It is just the "world buffet" in Apple Valley. It has a mongolian barbeque and... yeah.