Aji Japanese Restaurant has garnered praise from the local Hopkins Patch and Lakeshore Weekly News for its menu of colorful sushi rolls and hibachi-seared meats. Artful presentation underscores each concoction—rolls proudly bearing ruby-colored crowns of tobiko or sweet drizzles of eel sauce and hefty steaks and pan-seared seafood sizzling beneath bouquets of leafy garnishes. Imported Japanese beer and sake unite sushi with the flavors for which it was meant, much in the way milk complements cookies or peanut butter complements its secret soulmate, actual butter.
Inside the dining room, white dinnerware contrasts against rich wooden tables. Overhead, carved crimson lanterns dangle from the tin ceiling and golden bulbs illuminate delectable morsels and the gold-plated chopsticks of diners looking to impress their dates. During the warmer months, an outdoor patio mixes meals with fresh breezes.
The Giapponese menu offers Minnesotans the chance to taste delicious fish that are rarely served elsewhere in the United States, such as imported fish from the world-renowned Tsujiki fish market in Tokyo. Begin with an order of Kobe sliders ($6.95) while you take in the welcoming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan ambience, which often features live music. Giapponese's lineup of nigiri and sashimi includes a variety of signature rolls, such as the samurai crunch with salmon, yellowtail, tuna, and avocado ($15), and the Louisiana with spicy crawfish and avocado topped with walu and unagi sauce ($18). Less raw entrees include Kobe beef New York strip ($40) and mango chicken ($8). Giapponese also offer $6 bottles of wine and an extensive sake list (starts at $6) with evocative names (Wandering Poet, Dreamy Clouds, Snow Maiden) that might inspire you to scribble haikus on the nearest napkin or face. Giapponese uses sustainable fish and is working toward a menu that is 100% sustainable (the first sushi restaurant in the state to do so). Groupons are good for one per table, so treat all seven of the samurai who saved your village from bandits to some rare sushi at Giapponese.
Successful restaurateur Supenn Harrison made her first foray into the restaurant business more than 30 years ago, when she bought a burger joint in the Twin Cities. For Supenn, slinging patties wasn't enough to satisfy her love of the culinary arts; the Thailand native and former teacher quickly traded deep fryers for woks and opened her first Thai restaurant.
She eventually launched the first Sawatdee in 1983 in an abandoned warehouse, transforming the unlikely setting into something you might see in the heart of Bangkok, with gold-leaf ceilings and traditional artwork. Now, Supenn owns seven Sawatdee restaurants throughout Minnesota and has expanded the menu to include sushi dishes. Besides sharing her culinary skills through hands-on cooking classes, Supenn has disseminated her authentic Thai fare by catering birthday celebrations, family reunions, and the Rolling Stones' anti-retirement party.
Described by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine's editors as "as close to an authentic Japanese sushi bar as we come in the Twin Cities," Fuji Ya is a destination for sushi and sake served in a "hypnotic atmosphere." At each of its two locations, chefs diligently slice freshly flown-in yellowtail and surf clam, all of which populate the extensive menu. Sidle up to the sushi bar to watch the assemblage of maki rolls and sushi platters, or gather in private zashiki rooms to dine on hot entrees of sesame-crusted tuna and roasted duck with citrus soy glaze.
Guests seated at Osaka Sushi and Hibachi’s teppanyaki tables watch as chefs slice and grill pieces of filet mignon, chicken, scallops, and other fine meats. With skillful spatula flicks or regulation slingshots, the chefs then fling the meaty pieces onto plates along with piles of white rice and colorful veggies. Nearby, sushi chefs also impress diners with their culinary precision. After rolling rice around shrimp tempura and spicy tuna, they can transform the bundle into a Christmas roll by adding red, black, and bright-green tobiko. Miniature piles of tobiko victoriously sit atop lobster salad in the Sumo roll, whereas sliced avocado contrasts the light-pink salmon in the Coon Rapids roll.