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.
The passion for fresh fish is reflected through Nami Sushi’s aquatic motif and even in the name— nami means wave in Japanese. The fish is so delicious that CBS Local hailed the restaurant as on of the best sushi spots in the Twin Cities in late 2010. A marble sushi bar runs the length of the dining room, chilling the colorful slabs of tuna, salmon, and octopus that sushi chefs mold into signature nigiri, specialty rolls, and abstract self portraits. Behind the scenes, a kitchen staff churns out hot entrees such as the new york strip teriyaki, shrimp tempura, and sautéed ginger chicken.
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.
Tiger Sushi’s skilled seaweed wranglers concoct an extensive selection of specialty sushi, sashimi, hand rolls, and rice and noodle dishes to sate seafaring taste buds. Start a dinner excursion on the right load-bearing limb with servings of Fire Pot soup—a spicy basil broth festooned with shitake mushrooms and a choice of chicken or shrimp ($3.50)—or a snow-crab salad, littered with avocado and masago ($5), while you peruse an aqueous menu of sushi, sashimi, and roll options. Master chefs roll up a belly-sating variety of specialty rolls, such as the sunrise roll, which fuels the sun's intricate system of levers and pulleys with shrimp tempura, cucumber, salmon, mango and masago ($15), and the sunset roll, a dusk-enhancing serving of spicy tuna with salmon, white fish, and seaweed salad ($15).
Japanese hibachi-style cooking, or teppanyaki, is a culinary experience wherein chefs cook on gas-heated hotplates in front of diners. After it migrated to a bigger spot in Calhoun Square, Sushi Tango added a set of specialty hibachi tables for close-up savory showmanship. Prep your palate with edamame ($4.95) or pork gyoza (dumplings, $5) before diving into the briny depths of seafood hibachi dinners such as shrimp ($22), calamari ($18), or salmon steak teriyaki ($22). As Sushi Tango's friendly chefs chop and stir together a hibachi full of meat such as your choice of white or dark chicken ($17) or filet mignon ($24), they'll keep things interesting with jokes, culinary sleight of hand, and lightning-quick knife-fu. All Sushi Tango's hibachi dinners are served with green tea, soup, salad, shrimp appetizers, vegetables, and fried or steamed rice. Special combinations such as musta sefu (steak and shrimp, $28) and surf and turf (filet mignon and lobster tail, $36) are also available on the hibachi menu.
Southern-Inspired Food | Local Ingredients | Food Network–Lauded Grits | Acclaimed Chef
What to Drink: Befitting of a place that’s a stone’s throw from Bourbon Country, there's a lengthy list of authentic bourbons to indulge in. If bourbon's not your thing, there’s also an award-winning wine list and a selection of cocktails to whet your whistle. Whatever you order, be thankful for it; back in 1988, Lilly's opened without so much as a wine license.
When to Go: If you’re not in the mood for a big entree, head in on Wednesday evening to take advantage of the Small Plate Wednesday menu, which showcases a rotating selection of shareable farm-to-table dishes. You’ll also likely be treated to a 50% discount on selected bottles of fine wine.
Who's in the Kitchen? Since opening Lilly's, chef-owner Kathy Cary has become something of a regional icon, garnering acclaim for her creative use of organic veggies, free-range beef, and artisanal cheeses. She even landed a feature spot on Food Network's FoodNation with Bobby Flay, where she touted her creamy Kentucky grits and gourmet fried-green tomatoes. Recognized as a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, Chef Cary prides herself on an unbending loyalty to local purveyors within a 90-minute drive of the city.
While You're Waiting
If You Can’t Stick Around: When a full meal just doesn't fit into your schedule, stop into La Peche, a gourmet to-go café that operates in what used to be one of Lilly's private rooms. Chef Cary opened the original La Peche in 1979, and she serves up some old-time favorites such as the strawberry pie.