Hopkins gets three new worldly restaurants

Check out Samba, Curry 'N' Noodles, and Aji

SUSHI PURISTS—those who won't be satisfied with a Japanese meal that doesn't involve roundtrip airfare to Tokyo—will view Aji with the same disdain they reserve for the ignorant masses who mix green-colored horseradish straight into their soy sauce. But for less-discerning diners whose sushi budgets can't match their appetites, the new restaurant is a welcome option.

Sure, the restaurant serves hibachi dishes, noodle bowls, and bento boxes, but its most noteworthy feature is an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. If the idea sounds familiar, that's because Aji's owner is also involved with the Bloomington restaurant 98 Pounds, which is based on a similar concept. In Uptown Minneapolis one can hardly toss a chopstick without hitting a sushi restaurant, but the stuff gets much scarcer beyond the inner metro. Aji intends to introduce raw fish to a wider market of sushi neophytes at a price that won't stretch the wallet.

The buffet costs just $12.75 at lunch and $16.75 at dinner. Offering a smorgasbord selection at such prices—about what an upscale sushi joint might charge for one roll—involves some obvious concessions, for example the use of mock crab in lieu of the real thing. But compared to its equivalent in pre-made, refrigerated, supermarket sushi, Aji's buffet offers more freshness and variety, not to mention sheer quantity. The spread includes the common California rolls and tuna nigiri, as well as wilder, sauce-drizzled, tempura flake-topped combinations. If you've always wanted to find out what salmon and cream cheese tastes like when wrapped in a wonton skin and deep fried, this way you can to sample a few bites without committing to a whole roll. The buffet also offers a selection of green and fruit salads, soba noodles, and the like, but aside from the kitchen's special concoction of mayonnaise-laced mock crab, green apple, and mango, they feel extraneous.

Samba serves home-style Brazilian food, like the moqueca seafood stew
Alma Guzman
Samba serves home-style Brazilian food, like the moqueca seafood stew

Location Info



922 Main St.
Hopkins, MN 55343

Category: Restaurant > Brazilian

Region: Hopkins

Curry 'N' Noodles

802 Mainstreet
Hopkins, MN 55343

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Hopkins

Aji Japanese

712 Main St.
Hopkins, MN 55343

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Hopkins


Samba Taste of Brazil
922 Mainstreet, Hopkins
952.935.2708; www.sambatasteofbrazil.com
appetizers $2-$10; entrées $11-$22

Curry 'n' Noodles
802 Mainstreet, Hopkins
952.681.7834; www.currynnoodles.com
appetizers $5-$8; entrées $10-$15

Aji Contemporary Japanese
712 Mainstreet, Hopkins
952.358.3558; www.ajicj.com
appetizers $5-$10; entrées $8-$30

At Aji, the sushi buffet is treated like the Japanese equivalent of the gratis house salad—it's also included with the price of an entrée, so if you pay an extra $5 to $15 you can have a steak or seafood dish after stuffing yourself with sushi. And yet this is not the restaurant's most value-oriented option. That would be the Cherry Blossom Dinner for Two offered at the auspicious price of $68.88. The meal begins with a bottle of house sake or wine (i.e., B.V. Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon, the sort of drinkable but unremarkable bottle found on the menu of, say, a pizza parlor). Then there's a choice of appetizer to share—the vegetable tempura could be crisper, but it is a monstrous assortment—and a trip to the sushi buffet. As the meal progresses, two entrées of your choosing arrive. The teriyaki sirloin steak is tender and well seasoned; the meaty sea bass could have a more robust broth, but it's perfectly cooked, artfully presented, and fully twice the size of a typical portion. The enthusiastic but inexperienced waitress may then forget to bring the complimentary tea or coffee, but you'll likely be taking both desserts to go at this point, so no matter. The sweets come from the nearby Truffles of Tortes bakery, and the moist chocolate layer cake is highly recommended.

Aji is also a relatively pleasant place to linger, with its gas fireplace, plush booths, and ambient lighting. For late-night diners—and, remember, there are 9-to-midnight happy-hour discounts on Fridays and Saturdays—there's even a little mood-setting R&B music and a rainbow-colored light show shining from the soffit above the sushi bar.

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