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.
Sushi of Tokyo may actually be located in Plymouth, but nobody is doubting where the restaurant finds its inspiration. Japanese chefs masterfully incorporate raw ingredients such as surf clam, smelt roe, and squid into their nigiri and sashimi. It doesn’t matter that their kitchen is conspicuously lacking in smoke and flames—not when their California rolls taste so good with crunchy cucumbers, imitation crab meat, and sides of salty Pacific Ocean water. Though much of the food is uncooked, the chefs supply ample heat with their spicy lobster salad and udon noodle soups brimming with chicken, veggies, or seafood.
As the sun sets over Lake Minnetonka, the chefs at Sakana Sushi begin to sharpen their knives in advance of the evening’s dinner rush. With a cooler full of fresh fish at their disposal, it’s up to them to turn choice cuts of salmon or yellowtail tuna into artfully arranged orders of maki and sashimi. Their selection highlights the delicate nature of their ingredients, with 16 specialty rolls pairing these tender morsels with premium fillings including lobster, caviar, or Michael Jordan rookie cards. However, the chefs don’t stop at sushi; they embrace Thai recipes when spooning yellow-coconut curry into a stone bowl and honor Chinese flavors in sizzling plates of Sichuan kung-pao steak.
These cuisines' aromas all mingle in the dining room, where four-seat tables extend all the way from the front windows to the open sushi bar at the back. Although pendant lamps illuminate the sushi chefs, the rest of the space is lit by track lighting that remains firmly fixed to the abstract red, green, and blue fixtures that dot the ceiling.
Fresh ingredients from local suppliers abound at Crave, where patrons can create their ideal plates by hand-selecting from an array of all-natural and organic eats. The buffet table sports an elaborate ensemble of tongue tempters, with items such as fresh baked goods, seasonal fruit, applewood-smoked bacon, and egg strata orbiting a chef's selection of fish. Toppings of maple syrup, whipped cream, and berry compote eagerly adorn freshly-toasted checkerboards at the gourmet waffle station, and the chef's carving station showcases a selection of fine meats whittled to look like bars of soap. Champagne, mimosas, and bellinis give brunch a cosmopolitan flair, and Crave's low-lit ambience provides an intimate backdrop for shadow-puppet Civil War reenactments.
Hotel restaurants can sometimes blend together in a generic parade of pork chops and mashed potatoes. Rare Steak & Sushi, however, bursts out of the mold with its selection of grass-fed steaks and innovative sushi. Located on the second floor of the Grand Hotel, the eatery charmed Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl of Minnesota Monthly, who raved about its grass-fed steaks. To complement cuts of filet mignon and New York strip steaks, Chef Chano also rolls up 30 varieties of sushi. The creations range from the simple—such as freshwater-eel sashimi—to the complex, including a hawaiian roll packed with tuna, pineapple, and fried almonds or the vegetarian salad roll, which Grumdahl was “especially wild about.” A quick scan of the dining room reveals a diverse collection of clientele, as the eatery—open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—appeals to locals, businesspeople, and hotel guests alike.
Presiding over table-side hibachi grills, the chefs at Kobe Japanese Restaurant flip eggs into the air and catch them on the edge of their spatulas. Dramatic culinary displays are performed throughout the restaurant: at the sushi bar, diners watch as cuts of fresh seafood are rolled and arranged into sushi and sashimi. Out of sight, the kitchen staff artistically plates each dish atop bowls and platters nearly as beautiful as the fish and steak they support.
Bartenders shake and stir cocktails that draw their power from fresh juices, or pour Japanese beer, wines, and sake. Even in its quietest moments, Kobe dazzles diners with its booths upholstered with genuine Godzilla leather and whimsical glass lamps, delicate upside-down umbrellas, and giant paper koi that all dangle from the ceiling.