The Social House takes over Zeno in Uptown

Stylish setting with intermittently tasty food

The Social House takes over Zeno in Uptown
Emily Utne

It's a Friday night on the see-and-be-seen corner of Hennepin and Lagoon in Uptown, and the Social House's staff members are splitting their time between giving wine pairing recommendations to tables of parents ecstatic to be out past 9 p.m., and running sake and shots to the rowdy group of twentysomethings obnoxiously asking their server, "Who ordered the 'miso horny' soup?" In a quieter corner with the floor-to-ceiling windows that once made Zeno Cafe, a former occupant of this space, a desirable post-movie drink and dessert destination, we scan the list of signature maki rolls, trying to find something ... raw. "Is it just me or do a lot of these descriptions include the words 'deep' and 'fried'? Not that I have a problem with that," said my dining companion, "but I didn't think sushi was really supposed to be so cooked."

In terms of culinary perspective, the Social House appears to be picking up where Fusion, another onetime tenant of this corner, mostly famous for slow service and at least one Kim Kardashian sighting, left off. Pan-Asian flavors and techniques are delivered via Tex-Mex presentations, like in the Korean tacos, or conversely, American diner fare is tucked inside a wonton wrapper and reincarnated as a bacon cheeseburger egg roll. (Don't worry, I plan to discuss those in depth.) But the Social House improves on the overdone and clumsy East-meets-West concept Fusion left behind by reining it in a bit (the only pasta dishes you'll find on its menu are made of soba noodles, not elbow macaroni) and concentrating on sushi, small plates, and strong cocktails. When keeping it simple, the Social House produces some very nice dishes, but when the kitchen runs with a "more is more" philosophy, the flavors lack focus and the food suffers.

At dinner, triumphs included the nori-encrusted sirloin that arrived at our table with an even blush emanating from the ever-so-slightly warm center on each slice. I can't say it was as good as 112 Eatery's version, which has deeper, more deft seasoning on the steak, whereas the Social House boosts the flavor by bathing the meat in a ponzu sauce. But there was obvious care taken in its preparation, and anyone still on that ridiculous "I'm giving up carbs" train (which generally runs out of steam by mid-February) will appreciate seeing it on the menu. The cranberry teriyaki ribs were cooked so wonderfully (to the point that you simply had to hold them on their side to watch them fall off the bone and onto your plate) that it only made the bland, one-note sauce they were shellacked with all the more egregious. Not all the proteins were cooked as skillfully as the sirloin and the ribs, though. The seared sea scallops, altogether unappealing due to careless plating with a gooey black bean sauce, were somehow both stringy and rubbery on the inside.

The Niji Roll: Sushi for people who don’t like sushi?
Emily Utne
The Niji Roll: Sushi for people who don’t like sushi?

Location Info

Map

Social House

2919 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Details

The Social House
2919 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis
612.824.6300; socialhousempls.com
appetizers $6-$11; entrées $8-$16

Just like its predecessors at this location, the Social House is most successful as a happy-hour spot. With impressive, if a little over-the-top, decor (giant Buddha heads, bamboo stalks spiking down from the ceiling like wayward organ pipes, and an entryway fully covered in fake grass), they do a good job offering a different nook to cater to every crowd. The front lounge is open with low tables for the drink-and-mingle types, and there's a more hidden-away sushi bar with a giant flatscreen showing anime and kaiju movies for the less socially inclined. In addition to some exotic cocktails (try the light and effervescent fennel-infused Fronds of Fury), happy hour offers all of the Social House's small plates and maki rolls at a more palatable half-off price. Miso shiso sliders, with slightly seared tuna, lovely fragrant shiso leaf, and curry aioli, arrived on adorable, buttery toasted buns and were immediately gobbled up. The tokudan tacos, filled with tuna tartare in a sweet and hot chile glaze, were very nicely portioned as a two-bite appetizer and stayed neatly contained on top of the crispy fried wonton shell. Korean tacos had a sharp and tangy cabbage slaw with a slight kick in the sauce, but they missed the mark due to chewy, overcooked meat. The same was true, sadly, for the bacon cheeseburger egg rolls. When eating something so obviously unhealthy, the taste experience should be worth your slightly diminished life expectancy, but that couldn't be further from the truth with this dish. The playful idea is likely a popular order for late-night dining, and though the wrap is very crisp, the beef inside gets overcooked and falls apart. The habanero-mango ketchup is completely necessary to cut the richness in this greasebomb and bring some balance to the dish.

Having had enough of the fried stuff, we found some tempura and cream cheese-free rolls that allowed us to better evaluate the rice-to-everything-else ratio of the sushi (overall very good) and quality of the fish. We tried the Niji Roll, topped with unadulterated ebi (shrimp), tuna, salmon, yellowtail, sea bass, tai (red snapper), and ika (cuttle fish) and stuffed simply with grassy cucumber and creamy avocado, and the Tuna Two Roll, with the clean spice of gobo, a crunchy root that tastes like a mild carrot, and a smattering of Social House's jalapeño-flecked salsa. Both rolls left the ingredients to do their job, unfettered. Stripping down even further, the mousse-like uni (sea urchin), unagi (freshwater eel), and both of the roe nigiri were particularly good. But others suffered from too much intervention, such as the Social House roll, topped with strings of greasy fried potato, truffle oil that got completely lost in the mix, and an overly sweet brown sauce; and the lobster roll, bogged down with spicy mayo, overcooked asparagus, and the omnipresent tempura crunch. "This feels a little like sushi for people who don't really like sushi," my friend said in a low voice.

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3 comments
Guest
Guest

Isn't this just another Fun Group place... if so who cares what it changes too... They'll change the name again after it fails, a lawsuit, or some other scandalous behavior.

Britni Mollner
Britni Mollner

I found this review extremely disappointing. It seems as though the whole concept of Social House was misrepresented as a sushi restaurant gone wrong. It appears that Ms. Weiss was expecting more "traditional" sushi on the menu and received something quite different. My response is the obvious- DUH. I would expect a roll to not be the same thing I have had a million other times elsewhere. Interestingly enough, I don’t believe I have ever had a roll at Social House that had cream cheese in it…and I have had almost every single roll on the menu. I have also never had a roll that tasted “deep fried” so I found it interesting that she seemed to have a difficult time ordering one that didn’t have the words “deep-fried” on the menu. I go to Social House because the rolls are the best play on flavors you can find. If someone is expecting “traditional” rolls, and let me say that there is arguably no such thing as a traditional roll, then they didn’t do their homework before walking in the door. Why someone would order a roll and think that is a good determination for the quality of the sushi alone is beyond me. Please for the love of God order the sashimi or nigiri. Don’t waste my time commenting on the rolls. Bottom line, the rolls are pretty spectacular and trying to find fault in the food because you were expecting the same old boring shit you can get anywhere else, well, that just furthers my point that this review was disappointing.

Shawn Haley
Shawn Haley

I cannot agree. I really would not go to any other sushi restaurant in the twin cities, I feel like family here, and am always treated like a king here.

 
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