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BEST SUSHI Minneapolis 1998 -

Owner Kiminobu "Ichi" Ichikawa says the images on the neon sign outside his warehouse-district establishment--a sake bottle and a martini glass--symbolize the intersection of Japanese and American cultures, and, by extension, his intent as a restaurateur. Ichi's a shrewd man. Because for all its exotic trappings, sushi--at least sushi American style--is a fusion food. (Why do you think they call 'em California Rolls?) And Origami's packing in the customers; there's almost always a wait for a table for dinner, and during lunch hour on nice days the crowds positively swamp the sidewalk seating. The reason: nothing short of fish artistry, executed with only the freshest of fresh ingredients. To bite into an Origami Spicy Tuna Roll is to submit to an avalanche of flavors and textures. Cool, smooth avocado. Crisp cucumber. The light, sinus-clearing sear provided by chili oil and a wasabi-tinged mayo. And, above all, the melting purity of the main ingredient, oh-so-fresh tuna. Try, too, the Spider Roll, another popular but nontraditional creation featuring fried softshell crab, or the Caterpillar Roll, smoky eel wrapped in rice and covered with thin slices of avocado, arranged along the plate in a snaky tube like a crawling caterpillar, with radish sprouts poking from the head end like antennae. And because it would be a shame to neglect the basics, be sure to order some sashimi (artfully sliced fish or shellfish, unadorned) or nigiri (the same, over a finger of rice). Our favorite--when it's available--is the toro, a butter-supple slice of tuna cut from the belly of the fish. It's an expensive indulgence, but you get what you pay for, and it's worth it.

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