Fine Living

The Twin Cities' newest sushi spots are just fine, but they also offer mad-crazy rolls

What else? Vegetarians will find many options, lunch service is speedy, and at night party drinks flow like, um, party drinks: According to my server, the house version of a Long Island Iced Tea, the Tokyo Tea ($7.50), is the most popular. So: Planning a sushi birthday party? Want to pay less than you usually do? Wasabi! While you're there, be sure to plunk down an extra $1.50 for the best tamago I've had in town since the first great incarnation of long-gone Katsu Sushi. Here the layered omelet was made with only a hint of sugar and lightened somehow until it had a spry, almost evanescent taste. It was served cut into a pretty envelope to hold a pad of rice, instead of the unimaginative way we usually see it, and it was so beautifully done that it made all the other good enough but not great things I tried from Wasabi much more curious: Only a talented and deeply experienced chef could have pulled that off, and I'll be back one day to see if that person is doing more.

Other than that tamago, the best things I had at Wasabi were the crazy rolls—though not the Crazy Roll ($12), which is essentially a finny chimichanga and is notable mainly for turning something as plain and healthy as rice and fish into something to make a cardiologist weep. The best of the crazy rolls was a house special Snowman Roll with tuna and yellowtail wrapped in rice and then enrobed with buttery slices of the snow-white, tuna-like fish escolar. (Escolar has some indigestible oils in it, so eating a lot of it isn't recommended, but in small amounts it's creamy and lush.) In conclusion: Downtown office workers, party people, attend! Wasabi: You have nothing to lose but your enslavement to pricier sushi spots.

Once I sensed that this column was gaining a common thread of crazy rolls, I packed up for the long, lonely drive to Maple Grove to visit Mt. Fuji. If you've never heard of Mt. Fuji, and I know you haven't, please know it's located in one of those eerie-looking faux Main Streets in the farthest suburbs, and it has sushi rolls so odd, so unique, so jaw-dropping that they should be shown in museums as outsider art.

As cheerful as Holidazzle, without all the product placement: Ba-Gu's Four Seasons Roll
Bill Kelley
As cheerful as Holidazzle, without all the product placement: Ba-Gu's Four Seasons Roll

Location Info

Map

Wasabi Fusion Cuisine

903 Washington Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The Pink Leopard ($9.95), for instance, is a chopped salad of crab meat and avocado wrapped not with seaweed nori but with flesh-pink soybean paper—it looks like one of those tortilla wraps that were so popular at inexpensively catered affairs a few years ago, as rendered by John Waters for a lewd film close-up. It tastes like crab salad. The Host Roll ($15.95), which is named, I'm guessing, for the Japanese boys who dress up nicely and loiter about in big Japanese cities waiting for wealthy ladies to buy them expensive meals, has a full soft-shell crab inside and grilled eel and tuna outside; it's as big as an aquarium. The Spring Roll ($11.95) arrives wearing a Muppet-like bright-green wig of chopped seaweed salad; inside is a raw scallop cloaked with spice, cucumber, and, as the menu put it, "crunch." "What's wrong with you?" asked my lunch date, as the weird and weirder rolls stacked up around the table. The Winter Roll ($6.95) at Mt. Fuji is another deep-fried chimichanga, this one festooned with clumps of red tobiko, the crisp flying-fish roe adding a peculiar note to the deep-fried crevasses and spires of the tempura-batter exterior. Then I ran out of steam and didn't try Monkey Mountain or Deep Impact, because the joke suddenly stopped being funny about halfway through the Fuji River ($12.95), when the crawfish—yes, crawfish—within didn't seem all that fresh. "What is happening?" gasped my lunch date, pushing away his plate. "I mean, really, what is going on here?"

Evolution, mostly. Just as species stranded on the Galapagos will diverge and evolve to fill every possible ecological niche, so it is with our Minnesota and our Japanese and sushi restaurants. Welcome to the new era of diversity: We live not just with old, reliable elms, but now also with gazelles, ferns, and flightless birds!

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