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Oct 16, 2009 10:31 AM

Oishi - and sushi questions (MSP)

I will admit, I am not a fan of sushi. I have tried nigiri and your standard california roll. Personally, I think it's the nori that throws me off. However, I am not ready to give up! So today - I'm going to Oishi in Brooklyn Center to try and forge a bond with sushi/ rolls one last time. Has anyone ever been to Oishi? Regardless of that - can anyone just recommend a sushi to a non-sushi person? I have heard good things about caterpillar rolls, etc....

Oishi - with menu.

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  1. I've been by Oishi. I wonder if it isn't more of a "fast food" sushi place. Interested to hear your report, since the website is less than informative.

    Eel is very user friendly, because of the sauce. Salmon or tuna sashimi style might be worth a try, since you are unfond of nori. You can fill out with a bit of tamago (egg). I think California rolls suck, so you're not alone in rejecting them.

    8 Replies
    1. re: kevin47

      Sushi can be one of those things that you either love or hate. That being said if you had sushi at a good sushi place (say..Origami) then you are bound to like it. I've never been to Oishi but if it's really fast foodish sushi I would stay away and go to a place where you know the quality is good. I think the fish quality and chef has to do a lot with sushi than anything else.

      1. re: rjayasuriya

        I went, and reviewed. Keep in mind that I am NOT well versed in sushi things.

        Sushi always looks so tasty. Unfortunately, the sushi I have tried (high end grocery stores, Kabuki's, Floyd's) I don't like. Too fishy for my tastes, but I think I have an issue with the nori more than the actual fish. I liken sushi to eating a mouthful of sea - good for some, not so good for others! I'm usually up for a food challenge, especially one with so much variety. So my sushi quest continues, and landed me this day at Oishi.

        Oishi is a small place inside a strip mall in Brooklyn Center (what whaaaat??) Next to it is a really bad asian takeout place, and a Subway. It is fashioned as japanese cuisine, without all the hardcore fish stuff. The menu includes teriyaki dishes, katsu (japanese fried chicken), noodle dishes (yakisoba, udon), miso soups and bento boxes (totally want to eat bento box style sometime!) It's actually Korean run, but the only sign of this is the offering of kimchee as a side.

        So off I went for a sushi adventure. Oishi is really just a small takeout place, so no frills inside. I reviewed the menu heavily before going in, since sushi is somewhat new to me. I have been referred to "rolls" rather than the nigiri sushi (particularly the Caterpillar roll.) I wasn't quite sure how much to get, because I don't know sushi quantity. So i opted for the Gyoza (a dumpling basically-5 pc for $1.75) Philly roll (Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon, Avocadoes and Cucumbers $4.75) and a Crunchy Roll (Shrimp tempura, Cucumbers, and Avocados covered in Tempura Crunch $7.25.)

        Gyoza is familiar territory. So when it came out, I immediately ate it. It was good - not great - not bad. The wrapping itself was actually quite light for something fried. And the edges were delightfully crunchy, giving good contrast to the soft interior. Without the dipping sauce (which i can never recognize, but is a common asian dipping sauce for dumplings) it was a little bland, but otherwise they were happy little nibblers. And 5 of these for 1.75 is a downright steal.
        The sushi took about 10 minutes to make, and you can watch the guy at the counter making it. It came out at the perfect time. May I introduce:

        Philly Roll
        I am always astounded by the beauty of sushi. What I am not amused by is the strategy of eating it. I am a 2-bite-per-sushi-piece person. I ignored that about myself though, and ate the first one in whole. I felt like a pig. It almost over-filled my mouth. I chewed through, and immediately had mixed reactions. The rice was nice and sticky. The avocado was velvety and smooth, the cream cheese wasn't too rich due to the competing salmon flavor, but it served as a great lubricant and buffer for the fish and nori. The smoked taste of the salmon came through very well. Salmon however, is a fishy tasting fish. And while these were decidely fishy, it was delicate. But it's not something I want to eat every day. My biggest complaint is they were awkward to eat. It's not eay to bite through the nori, so I found myself "pulling" at it a lot, and then some of the rice would fall apart. Maybe sushi was meant to be eaten in one bite - but I find it a tad too much for my mouth.

        The sushi was served simply, with a little ball of wasabi (funny how much it looks like play-doh!) and a gorgeous mound of pickled ginger. Wasabi is challenging for me, so I mix it a small amount with the soy sauce. I know that in some areas, this is considered to be an insult to the sushi chef. But I also know that in the US, many people do it this way. I find soy sauce alone too salty for sushi. So I also used my Gyoza sauce for dipping, which was more mild and a bit sweet. I love ginger, and this is my first time eating it pickled. It is said to aid in clearing your palette, which makes sense because sushi can be very flavorful and complex. I LOVED the ginger. The heat of the ginger and the slight acidity of the pickling - wonderful. It was not over-pickled or vinegary. Delightful!

        After eating about 3 of my Philly Rolls, I moved onto the Crunchy Rolls. These were truly a sight to behold.

        With these, I found chopsticks to be a deterrent to the eating. These sushi pieces are more narrow and taller than the Philly pieces. So I just used my hands. The first bite I took was really complex, and I struggle to identify all the flavors. The first thing that hit me was the tempura. It tasted so savory and toasty. I didn't get a fish taste from this, gladly, and the pieces were slightly warm compared to the cold Philly pieces. The shrimp flavor didn't come through significantly, but it is layered in there. I found the soy sauce and wasabi ill-paired with this, but a little Sriracha gave that sweet and savory the spicy I was looking for. I don't know what sauce was on top, but it was sweet and salty. I again struggled with the 2-bites/nori predicament, and found myself holding one piece with two hands like it was a tiny round sandwich. I was suprised by how much of it there was. I was confident I would be able to eat all the sushi served to me. After eating 4 Philly pieces, and 4 Crunchy pieces, I was stuffed!

        Overall, I look forward to eating sushi not because I fell in love with it (I didn't) but to understand it more. To explore the variety and depth, and learn what it offers. This is definitely an intellectual food for me, and I look forward to a meeting of the minds again soon! (caterpillar roll!) I feel like Oishi does good sushi, but realize I'm still a sushi novice.

        1. re: greenidentity

          i really like your reviews because you seem so thoughtful and honest about forming opinions about foods, especially foods that are new to you. thanks for the review of oishi.

          you might really like obento-ya, not far out of the northeast neighborhood, on como. they are not terribly expensive, their fish is very fresh and the higher quality= less "fishy" taste ime. they have a lot of sushi rolls you can choose from, and a good happy hour. they also have great bento boxes, for when you want to try that out! back to sushi--Kevin's advice to try eel (unagi) with its sweet sauce is a good idea. the vegan rolls at obento-ya are good too-- i was really surprised at liking them so much.

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

          1. re: soupkitten

            Oh wow, thank you so much! That is the very first feedback I have received about my reviews!!

            I will be sure to go to Obento soon - I am so surprised at the places Chowhound has pointed out to me that are so close, yet I never knew.

            Also - why eel? Is it mild? And would I just get an eel nigiri..or just any suhi with eel in it?

            1. re: greenidentity

              My roommate really likes eel. She says it's mild and a little sweet. I've seen it just as eel rolls with a bit of sauce on top.

              1. re: greenidentity

                It is smoked, and smothered in eel sauce, which is like a more savory teriyaki. A caterpillar roll will usually feature eel wrapped in avocado, and it's usually a favorite for sushi newbies (and non-newbies like it too).

              2. re: soupkitten

                Obento-ya is great though I stuck with the izakaya dishes when I had gone - I suggest giving those a shot as well as the sushi!

                I was surprised by their takoyaki since I usually prefer it to have a lot of toppings, and theirs had a lot of depth and the batter held itself together real well. Okonomiyaki is properly prepared too, crunchy outside and moist inside, very good textures!

              3. re: greenidentity

                If you taste what's typically described as a "fishy" taste in sushi, it might not be fresh or you're eating Saba (Mackerel or something like it). Saba's the only one that I've had that tastes "fishy" when it is fresh.

                Most fresh sushi I've had, is more about texture than flavor or aroma.

                Also, it's usually considered perfectly polite to pick up sushi pieces with your fingers and pop them in your mouth. You don't need to fiddle around with chopsticks as long as you wash your hands before eating.

                Other decent sushi places: Origami downtown, Fuji-Ya in uptown, Sakura in St. Paul and Saji-Ya on Grand in St. Paul.

          2. I stopped by Oishi last night and was pleasantly surprised. I ordered the Steak Teriyaki with steamed vegatables and white rice and thought it was really good. I agree it's more of a fast food/take out place, but I thought the food was really good and a great value. I was only able to finish about a third of my meal and my bill around $8.50 including a 20 oz bottle of Diet Coke. I'll go back and try some of the other items as well. The appetizers sounded good too.

            I was there late, around 8:30 and it was pretty quiet so I hope they get more business and make it. We really need a good take out place in this area.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bobannon

              I again had sushi from Oishi today, and I am sold. I had thier 2nd lunch special - it is a choice of 2 rolls from list A or B (they have list A, B or C, in order of more elaborate preps and ingredients) and a miso soup. I got the Unagi roll , and the fried Philly Roll (i know i know - thats pretty Americanized - but i had to try it!) They were both delightful. Not too fishy, and the crust/breading on the outside of the philly roll was lovely, along with the warm melty cream cheese and velvet salmon. I think that Oishi may be quite a "hidden gem."

            2. Had lunch from Oishi today. I really wish I could say it was good.

              Ordered the 'D' lunch, which included a brooklyn roll and 4 pcs. of nigiri, accompanied by miso.

              The Brooklyn featured Tuna and Tai, wrapped with Unagi. How often do you see Tai in a roll? Alas, the whole thing was without flavor. Dry, poorly prepared. The unagi sauce wasn't right.

              The miso was bland and meaningless. The nigiri selections couldn't stand alone. I found myself immersing them in soy and wasabi.

              This just isn't good sushi, which is a shame since the NW side of the city is finally starting to emerge with solid options, including takeout. If you are looking to decide if you like sushi, please find other bellwethers.

              1. Just had lunch at Oishi, and while I didn't have the sushi, I'm thrilled beyond belief because of the teriyaki. This is the kind of place that is pretty common in the Pacific NW (Seattle/Portland - and also usually located in a strip mall) where you can find a delicious teriyaki lunch/dinner for <$10 consisting of marinated grilled meat (chicken, beef, salmon, or even tofu) with steamed veg and rice. By the standard for teriyaki meals, which I think MSP has been lacking, it was great. Can't speak for the sushi, but it's worth going to just for the teriyaki. Had the chicken/beef combo and both were delicious and freshly made.

                6 Replies
                1. re: latte4me

                  Can anyone compare any of these places, or any other places with Calif sushi ? I just moved here and am really missing sushi. I am 3 hrs from mpls so when I can, I will try for sushi there or in st paul. Tried a place in Fargo, eh... not good....
                  I am in a wasteland for fine dining or good restaurants, so will have to look forward to the 3 hr drives to msp/st paul. I am 70 min east of Fargo .....thanks !

                  1. re: danita53

                    I'm a big Twin Cities booster, though I'm not originally from here, but I have to say, your question to compare Twin Cities sushi with "Calif" sushi is going to be hard for most to answer, because, first of all, "Calif" is a big place--do you mean San Diego or LA or SF or Sacramento or Bakersfied or Yuba City or...?

                    Second, there may only be a handful of posters who feel qualified to speak knowledgeably about BOTH the Twin Cities and Calif sushi scenes. Jordan recently re-located to (I think) LA from the Twin Cities, maybe he'll see your post and answer. tex.s.toast, who no longer lives in the Twin Cities, moved to the Midwest from San Francisco and might see your post and answer.

                    But, in general, if you're asking if sushi at any given Twin Cities place is going to rival the sushi at your favorite Calif place, I'm going to say, probably not. But I suspect that if you look at some of the links KTFoley provided in response to your query in the other thread, you'll be able to sort out the merits of the very best Twin Cities sushi spots from people who have eaten sushi all over the Twin Cities and in other major metro areas and zero in on what are probably the top spots. While they may not remind you of home, they will likely satisfy your sushi craving.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Dairy Queen, thank you....I have read your posts and they are very informative. I am taking notes when we travel to the Twin Cities....And I relocated from So Cal...I am not sure the difference thru out the state, but so cal did have some good sushi. Trader Joes and Byerleys was even mentioned, to help my craving...

                      thanks again !

                      1. re: danita53

                        Danita, when you are ready for your visit to the Twin Cities, I hope you come back and either do some searching on some old threads or post a query for some fresh recs. I noticed you say you miss Mexican and Asian cuisine. The Twin Cities doesn't have the breadth and depth of SoCal as it just doesn't have the population mass to support it, but what we've got here would hopefully satisfy your cravings. Again, it won't be the same as home (what ever is, right?), but we've got some solid Asian spots and a couple of good Mexican places, too. One thing you're going to discover is that Mexican cuisine is itself, regional. And the Mexicans who immigrated to SoCal might not be from the same region as those who immigrated here. The food can be authentic, yet still different.

                        We've also got some great chow that showcases the "local" food scene that might become new favorites for you, too. :).

                        In the meantime, I also hope you post about your finds in Fargo and elsewhere in Western MN. It sounds like the gems are hard to find and it would definitely be a service to others if you would let us all know about them as you discover them.


                    2. re: danita53

                      Sorry, I meant to make another point about the Twin Cities sushi scene. The Twin Cities, compared some smaller cities in the mid-West, has the advantage of being a major airport hub, so, there is good opportunity here for access to high-quality ingredients flown in from whereever.


                      1. re: danita53

                        Because CA is close to the ocean, and because there are more sushi eaters there, the odds of finding a cheap spot with reasonably good sushi are much better. There is no inexpensive sushi here outside of grocery stores.

                        Similarly, there are no high end sushi places, for a couple of reasons. First, chefs have little incentive to take the risks necessary to justify a higher price point, or to risk the higher price points that facilitate risk taking. Second, sushi represents the high end of pricing in the Twin Cities. Some CA sushi restaurants would qualify as the most expensive place to eat in the state.

                        Most of our sushi restaurants are on par with your casual sushi restaurant in a city like LA or SF, and are slightly more expensive. Each has its supporters, but they really aren't that different from each other. They get their fish from the same suppliers, and do the same stuff with it.