An Onigiri Superhero

Midori's Floating World is an island of homestyle Japanese comfort in midtown Minneapolis

You can have the healthiest food in town with the most historical sushi in town. Why, did you know that nigiri sushi, the usual kind made with a finger of fish on a finger of rice, is a 20th-century art? Back in the day, the pre-refrigeration day, sushi was a way of salting and preserving fish and the usual way of sushi was to layer the fish in the bottom of a mold, layer rice upon it, unmold, slice and serve, like a smallish meatloaf. Midori's is the only place I know of in town that serves this classic oshizushi ($7.50), and it is a must-try for anyone who wants to understand sushi more deeply.

Plus, it's very tasty. My favorite is the saba, in which mackerel is pickled and sweetened, laid down on a layer of translucent kelp, yellowish like old cellophane, and pressed with the rice. It looks like a slab of oiled marble, and has a whole rainbow of savory, subtle, foggy herring flavors, flavors that take you back to the origins of sushi and showcase the meaty simplicity that sushi can achieve. The shrimp version is very nice, too; layers of cooked shrimp made with a very sweet vinegar, glistening beneath the kelp like pink tiles.

Try the oshizushi alongside a cup of the chawan-mushi ($3.75), and you will have a dinner better than that at most of our four-star restaurants, at a fraction of the price. In fact, the dish reminded me of the "seafood cappuccino" at Vincent, except better: It's a subtle eggy custard, barely gelled, holding beneath its beige surface bits of mushroom, shrimp, and more. The custard dissolves sensually on the tongue, leaving behind all the sun-and-fish subtlety of the broth, and a little treat to chew on. Once you try it, you will be back.

Food for tiny superheros
Kathy Easthagen
Food for tiny superheros

The chef responsible for this wonder, Ben Todoriki, is very talented. His tamago, the egg custard, is made utterly correctly, with dozens of tiny layers of omelet, and served cut and wrapped around itself in the most beautiful way, like a Henry Moore sculpture. In sushi sometimes there is a palpable difference between skill and ingredients, and I hope the restaurant gets some more customers so that Todoriki can get some top-shelf fish to work with, because I think then the place will be perfect.

Midori Mori Flomer, who owns the restaurant with her husband John Flomer, says that a sushi bar actually wasn't meant to be their first order of business. "My husband and I originally wanted to open a tea shop, but in the process it somehow turned into a Japanese restaurant," she says. "We wanted to do something a little more home-style Japanese than what's here, and so we spend a lot of time answering questions: 'What's this, what's this, what's this?' But once they find out, they are hooked."

Which seems to be the cultural moment of now: Everyone knows sushi, or thinks they do, but everything else might as well be donuts, or popcorn balls. If sushi is to Japan as hamburgers are to America, the juggernaut export, we finally have a place to get toast, and grilled cheese, and pancakes, and to get our socks knocked off by someone else's comfort food.

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