Top 10 Japanese restaurants in the Twin Cities
Kikugawa remains unchallenged as the Cities' only fine-dining Japanese restaurant where the service and ambiance count as much as the food. With an extensive sake menu, atmospheric location featuring views of the Minneapolis skyline across the river, and authentic Japanese seating with inviting cushions and low tables, dining at Kikugawa is a unique, upscale experience. Warm hand towels are delivered to the table, and the sushi chefs are always happy to take customized requests. The menu features several sushi platter options, fashioned out of the freshest available slices of fish, vegetables, and roe, arrayed on seasoned rice and served with miso soup. Sukiyaki, that ethereal, simmered beef dish, is the best in town, and the eight-course kaiseki teishoku is a delicious way to ensure you won't need to eat again for a full 48 hours.
(43 Main St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.378.3006
Sakura is the one Japanese restaurant you would want to have in your city if you could have only one Japanese restaurant: It does that much. Look inside the deep red walls on a typical night and you'll find legions of different customers. In one corner, Wild hockey fans seek the next spicy sushi sensation, daring the chefs to make them sweat. Near a front window, Japanese expats from local universities, 3M, and Unisys drink and snack till the wee hours. Elsewhere, graduate students take advantage of the thrifty yakizakana teishoku meals, the blue-plate specials, the meat-loaf-and-mashed-potatoes of everyday Japan. Vegetarians confer around the most reliable vegetable sushi in the state. Miyoko Omori, Sakura's owner, has been creating these layers of community for years now, and if you get a table near the window on a Sakura Saturday night, you might understand the brick-built weave of St. Paul in a way you never did before.
(350 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.224.0185
The elegant, soaring warehouse space feels more Miami than Minnesota, the throbbing late-night bar more Milan than Minnesota, and the low, low prices feel more Minnesota than we ever could have hoped for. Nami does well with all sorts of categories of food: It's a sweet spot for Japanese bar snacks and drinks; comfort foods like tonkatsu (a fried pork cutlet) and rice; a low-cal business lunch conveniently located halfway between the corporate towers of Nicollet and the art and ad-agency corrals of the Warehouse District; and even plenty of fear-free dishes like New York strip steak. The sushi is as good as any in town, but the restaurant really distinguishes itself with budget pricing, an amazing piece of "butterfish" (miso-marinated black cod), and ambiance that's chic and airy enough to support fancy dates, business lunches, and martini-soaked birthday parties.
(251 First Ave N., Minneapolis; 612.333.1999
There's no more satisfying feeling than sitting at an Origami table while a server pours one of owner Kiminobu Ichikawa's favorite sakes, for he or she will pour until the glass overflows, the tradition for good luck. Said good luck comes fast and furious in the shape of feather-light tempura, zesty salads, and noodle dishes with all the subtlety of rustling leaves. The downtown Minneapolis location has been the leader in sushi excellence for two decades with its consistently fresh and extensive fish selections, expertly prepared rice, and high quality nori. Owner-chef "Ichi" (Kiminobu Ichikawa) has been keeping a watchful eye over the quality of ingredients since he opened the restaurant in 1991. He uses Tamaki Gold rice, with a sweet aroma and perfect stickiness, seasoned with a top-secret vinegar mixture. Bargain weekday noodle lunches and late-night celebrity sightings round out the package.
(30 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.333.8430
12305 Wayzata Blvd, Minnetonka; 952.746.3398
1. Masu Sushi and Robata
Tim McKee continues to conquer the Minneapolis restaurant scene even as he diversifies. Masu Sushi & Robata opened in northeast Minneapolis in 2011, and already it's hard to imagine a time when we couldn't play Pachinko at a moment's notice. From the gorgeously devourable sushi to the charred robata to the slurpable bowls of ramen (especially that Tonkatsu curry), Masu is the complete package. The ebi yakisoba (pan fried noodles with jumbo shrimp) is a warm and flavorful mix of perfectly browned noodles, generous hunks of succulent shrimp, large slices of crisp cabbage, and a rich swirl of Japanese mayo that adds a creamy note to the whole bowl. The new Mall of America location is just as good, with sushi so fresh and artful it's almost impossible to believe you're eating it in a mall, mere steps away from Panda Express.
(330 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.332.6278
Mall of America, 344 South Avenue, Bloomington; 952.896.6278
Masu Sushi and Robata's website)