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Hiko: Style and sushi find an unlikely home in an Eagan strip mall

The strip mall exterior hides a suburban gem.

The strip mall exterior hides a suburban gem.

South suburban sushi lovers who discover the newish Hiko Sushi in Eagan will be doing their happy dance. Don’t be deterred by the strip mall surroundings; the restaurant would fit right in if you picked it up and dropped it in the middle of Eat Street. Look on the bright side – strip mall equals plenty of free parking.

Chances are you’ll be greeted enthusiastically at the door by owner Eric Guo, who makes you feel like he’s been waiting just for you. Guo has spent most of his life working in restaurants (he has owned New King Buffet in Brooklyn Center for 20 years), and it shows in details like the well-appointed dining room, as well as the gracious hospitality and friendly service.

The restaurant opened this summer, so it still has that fresh, new patina about it. Done up in neutral greys, browns, and taupes, with lots of lovely tile work, the dining room décor is suburban chic – some of the nearby McMansions probably boast the same finishes. The sushi bar, however, feels like a world apart. It is dominated by a huge picture of a sultry woman serving sushi on a sword and bathed in blue lights that set it off from the surrounding tables and booths. Very sexy, very Miami Vice. And none of those cheap wooden chopsticks here. Diners eat with sleek stainless steel versions.

The sushi is well executed,  and impeccably fresh. The menu offers old favorites but has its own personality as well, thanks to some quirky twists. Sure, you’ll find your California roll, your shrimp tempura roll, your rainbow roll. You’ll also find an entire section of sushi rolls named after cars, like the Acura with spicy tuna and mango inside, seared tuna and avocado on top; or the Hummer roll of shrimp tempura topped with eel, avocado and eel sauce. By far the oddest offering is the spicy pop rock roll: spicy crab, jalapeno, avocado and pop rocks inside the roll, which is then garnished with more pop rocks. A cult favorite with regulars, it is definitely an acquired taste, but also a great conversation starter.

And speaking of starters, there is an extensive lineup of appetizers that includes the regular suspects like egg rolls, edamame, cream cheese wontons and other favorites. If you’re with a group, the Hiko Grand Slam is a good option. You get a pile of calamari, two each of spring rolls, egg rolls, shrimp tempura, and chicken wings. For just under $14, you can easily share this with four people if you can agree on who gets what.

While the restaurant’s name says sushi, you can go there with your raw fish averse friends. The kitchen also whips up popular Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes. There’s an entire Hibachi menu that includes everything from steak and chicken to scallops and lobster. You can get noodle dishes including Pad Thai and Yaki Udon Noodles, a variety of teriyaki dishes and a selection of tempura.

The sexy blue sushi bar.

The sexy blue sushi bar.

Prices here are a few bucks cheaper per roll than sushi places in St. Paul or Minneapolis, but as sushi lovers know all too well, the tab can add up quickly. Luckily for you, Hiko offers two daily happy hours, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then again from 8 p.m. to close. You’ll find reduced prices on a generous selection of appetizers and sushi.

The beer list skews unfortunately in the direction of all things “lite”: Coors Light, Michelob Golden Light, Bud Light, but also includes sure bets like Kirin Ichiban and Sapporo. The wine list isn’t long but you can certainly find a good glass to go with your meal. Or ask your server to recommend one of the sakes on the menu.

Hiko Sushi is at 1466 Yankee Doodle Rd. in Eagan. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 10 p.m.