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Curiocity: A Twin Cities Sushi Sampler

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When I was in college I worked at this great sushi restaurant in Eau Claire called Shanghai Bistro. Before I started working there, I would guess I had at least one meal per week at the Bistro, so I figured I might as well get paid to be there.

It was at this time that I truly fell in love with sushi. While I admit, I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to the delicious raw cuisine, I’ll try just about any place that serves it. Within reason, of course.

It was only a matter of time until I introduced — ahem, see: force fed — all that is makimono and nigiri to my boyfriend Tom. And to my surprise, he actually liked it. (Well, the non-raw sushi, which some argue isn’t technically sushi, but I’ll let it slide.) His liking soon became a love and that love soon developed into obsession.

And since sushi unfortunately doesn’t grace many menus in Green Bay, this became his meal of choice just about every time he came to visit me in the Twin Cities. Luckily, we’ve gone for sushi just about every weekend he’s been here and we still have plenty of places we’ve yet to try.

So in case anyone else out there is in the same position as we are, here’s a rundown of the sushi spots we’ve hit so far. I’m no food critic, but after tasting the good and the bad of sushi, I think I can safely say what works and what doesn’t.

Tiger Sushi, at Mall of America or 2841 S. Lyndale Ave.

I’ve been to both Tiger Sushi at the mall and Tiger Sushi II on Lyndale and can safely say, you can’t go wrong here. Especially if sushi rolls — the ones made with seaweed wraps and rice — are your thing, this place serves some of the best. Typically I’m a sushi and soy sauce kind of person but here, the flavors are so bold that you don’t even need the soy. Try their Crunchy Maki Roll, with shrimp tempura, spicy garlic chile mayo, cucumber and avocado with crispy tempura flakes on the outside plus unagi and mango sauce. It’s not only one of my favorite rolls at Tiger, but I’d even say it’s one of my favorite rolls, period. If you’re splitting sushi for two, beware — the portions are a bit bigger at Tiger, which is also a bonus.

Origami, at Ridgedale Mall or 30 N. First St., Mpls.

From the outside, I’ll admit, Origami doesn’t really look like much. But once you step inside this cozy sushi bar, it’s surprisingly quaint and romantic. If you’re a fan of sake, this little place has quite the extensive selection. The restaurant features a number of sushi specials, which typically change on any given night and helps to keep things fresh and new. The simple tempura roll was surprisingly tasty and the spider roll was classic. We also tried a roll off the specialty menu that had some of the freshest salmon I’ve had. I’d definitely recommend taking a closer look at the specials, since those seem to be the most innovative. And innovation definitely pays off at Origami.

Nami, 251 N. First Ave.

I heard great things about Nami and after seeing it was “Editor recommended” in Minnesota Monthly, I figured this had to be a place to take Tom. Turns out, I was right. We headed out a little late and opted for a couple of chairs at the sushi bar — after relocating from an extremely loud, chatty table. The ambiance is really interesting in Nami. I’m guessing it used to be some kind of lobby that was transformed into a restaurant. Or that’s how it felt anyway. The style and décor of the place is pretty cool and modern inside yet, with areas to keep cozy available as well. We started off with some gyoza — a personal fave of mine — and then ordered some of our “usual” maki rolls. I also convinced Tom to try unagi here (which, I can’t even write without quoting the “Friends” episode) and his reaction? Not bad. The texture definitely freaked him out a bit but I think he was able to get past it enough to enjoy a little of the flavor. Still, as much as I enjoyed our evening, I thought the sushi was probably more middle of the road for me. Not bad by any means, but nothing that stood out in my mind.

Sushi Tango, 3001 Hennepin Ave.

Sushi Tango felt surprisingly corporate to me, which is kind of a weird feeling for enjoying sushi. I don’t know if it was the semi-racist cartoon Japanese guy or the fact that the atmosphere felt very chain restaurant, but whatever the case, it just didn’t quite fit the mold that I was expecting. That said, the sushi was quite good. They had a long, long menu for both nigiri and maki sushi, which resulted in a lot of tough decisions but all in all, I was pleasantly surprised. I remember googling the restaurant beforehand and seeing a bunch of reviews about the service and I hate to say it but I tend to agree. Not the best. I’d recommend the Scorpion roll, which is six pieces and has a bit of a kick but is all sorts of delicious.

Wasabi Japanese Restaurant, 903 Washington Ave. South

Who knew you could get great sushi right behind the Metrodome? This cute little joint is literally steps away — and we discovered this while trying to have a romantic dinner on the outdoor patio and instead was mobbed by loud, belligerent baseball talk after a Twins game was let out. Still, the patio and the food made up for it. I’ll admit, the service was slow but I’m pretty sure only one guy was working that night since he seemed a bit overwhelmed, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. We had a bowl of edamame to start, which is always a great way to begin a sushi night, and though it was good it was a bit over salted for me. Moving on we tried their Volcano roll, which was great and had a bit of a kick, but a good kick. And their American Dream roll, which was quite interesting but sadly, neither American nor a dream. The menu had a number of options, however, and even included an indoor hibachi option, so I’d definitely be interested to try the place again. As for just its sushi, I thought it was good but not spectacular.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for you for now, but seeing as just writing this column has me drooling and big-time craving sushi, I’m guessing this will likely be a two-parter.

Curiocity is more than a state of mind. It’s a fresh look at something familiar. Web producer Sara Boyd rediscovers the city she grew up in and learns new details about what’s happening in the place she calls home.

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