"Vibrant, chic, upscale casual," is how co-owner Kam Talebi—who works alongside his brother and business partner, Keyvan—described the atmosphere at CRAVE Restaurant to Adam Platt of Mpls St. Paul magazine. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when describing each of the contemporary Americana eatery's eight locations, which have gained a plethora of press and even an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Each sleek eatery also entices diners with a diverse menu of modern American lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch fare devised by Corporate Executive Chef Bill King and a sushi menu of traditional and creative rolls. Each menu is then artfully executed using fresh and locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, as well as seafood flown in daily and handcrafted sauces made from authentic Asian recipes. Brick ovens give flatbreads and pizzas a crisp exterior while the grill keeps steaks, chicken, and burgers juicy.
When he made the trek from his native Korea in 1999, sushi chef Charlie Choi brought with him an energetic demeanor and culinary inventiveness. He relies on more than 20 years of sushi-making experience to craft traditional and modern Asian comestibles for his loyal clientele. Meals top bamboo serving trays inside vibrantly colored, themed rooms: natural light spills in through the skylights of a sunroom capped in overhanging tapestries, and a traditional dining room sports glass mosaics and swirling wood-grain chairs. In the warmer months, diners chill out with scoops of mochi ice cream as winds whispering faint chopstick tutorials flit through the cool, cobalt-blue décor of the patio.
Don't let the name mislead you. Though the restaurant is called Mr. Sushi, the menu is expansive and includes traditional dishes from all over eastern Asia. Those seeking noodles to twirl around a fork or spell "I love sushi" with can choose from pad thai, lo mein, or udon. Korean favorites such as beef short rib kalbi and bul kogi slide onto tables alongside hibachi steak or salmon teriyaki. And of course, there's the sushi, served in combinations selected by the chef in maki or atop sticky rice.
The chefs at Blue Elephant Restaurant craft Thai curries, Japanese sushi, and Italian pasta dishes, tying them all together with the common thread of fresh ingredients and careful preparation. They specially order ingredients that are not available locally to ensure that each dish contains the freshest possible items. Basil leaves flavor the Thai-style basil chicken, and cashews add salt and crunch to mango chicken. Within sushi rolls, thinly sliced fish such as tuna and salmon complement the silky texture of cream cheese and avocado.
Prior to establishing the restaurant, the owners committed themselves to observing environmentally responsible building practices. As a result, the entire building is constructed from sustainable and recyclable materials. Energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate the dining room, and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system regulates the temperature. On stormy days, an onsite pond directs raindrops into the soil, preventing them from falling into a gutter or discarded chip bag.
The performing arts and the culinary arts combine into a single mouth-watering discipline at Fuji Steak House, a Japanese eatery where chefs concoct hibachi meals and sushi tableside. They draw on training from the US and Asia to man teppanyaki grills sizzling with gourmet proteins ranging from scallops and lobster tail to chicken and filet mignon; chefs can prepare tender meats in simple hibachi style or coat them with teriyaki sauce or light tempura breading. Alternatively, they wrap sushi rolls in seaweed and construct bite-size sashimi morsels, serving their handiwork on planks or in a wooden “Love Boat” complete with masts, rigging, and sassy talking parrots.
Inside Miyako Sushi & Steakhouse, diners gather around the flames of 10 hibachi grills to watch an expert chef flip and sear chicken in teriyaki sauce, while other patrons sit in comfy black chairs in the cool blue glow of the sushi bar. Sleek modern decor surrounds guests as their teeth unpack skillfully rolled sushi and their eyes stare hungrily at the nervous fish inside the restaurant’s aquarium. Miyako’s hibachi and sushi chefs use only fresh ingredients as they craft each dish to diners’ specifications.
The Painted Fish offers a vibrant menu of delectable dishes that combine Eastern and Western culinary traditions as seamlessly as spray-on trousers. Choose fresh seafaring fare such as emerald shrimp, sautéed with spinach, ham, garlic, and sesame oil ($12.95), or sate a carnivorous craving with the 6 oz. filet mignon, which can be cooked to each diner's preferred level of un-raw ($16.95). Super-fans of protein synthesization can opt for the surf 'n' turf in order to follow a meaty mouthful of seared flat-iron teriyaki steak with the fetching flavors of seared Chinese five-spice bay scallops ($14.95).