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.
Tradition informs the menus at Mt. Fuji, which predominantly feature Japanese staples with splashes of French influences. At the Maple Grove location, chefs occasionally leave the kitchen and man the grills that adorn select tabletops. There, they entertain their hungry audiences by searing entrees of chicken, Canadian sea scallops, and filet mignon while correctly naming every gold-medalist from the 1896 Olympics.
For cuisine prepared with an equally artistic flare but fewer open flames, the sushi chefs at each location assemble orders of sashimi and maki. They pack particularly robust flavor into their special rolls by incorporating such ingredients as lobster tempura, deep-fried soft shell crab, and signature sauces.
At Sushi X, a talented team of chefs is split between two delicious specialties?sushi and hibachi. Each day, they perform a culinary spectacle for guests, transforming fresh seafood into maki and sashimi at the sushi bar or searing meats and veggies tableside at hibachi grills. Their gourmet repertoire also includes traditional Japanese entrees such as teriyaki, tempura, and noodle dishes.
Behind the sushi bar at Suishin Restaurant, chefs prepare hand rolls from a menu of more than 50 different kinds of sushi for onlookers, positioning each piece of sushi and sashimi in artistic displays inside a glass case. At dark-wood tables with leather chairs, sprays of steam blossom from pots of broth, in which crab meat, beef, and vegetables cook. The communal style of eating fuels chatter, which floats past a full bar with purple lighting and sand-hued brick walls. The modern decor complements sleek bento boxes, whose compartments brim with sushi and shrimp tempura. On an outdoor patio, chopsticks click together with the sound of a tap dancer having a pleasant dream, pulling noodles from bowls of ramen-noodle soup.
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.
Presiding over table-side hibachi grills, the chefs at Kobe 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.