Social House in Uptown: A first look

Social House is exquisite. The decor, that is. The restaurant, however, may still be a bit of a work in progress.

We arrived to the buzzing Uptown eatery at around 8:30 p.m. on a Thursday, and were promptly asked if we were only there for the bar. We in fact wished to dine--Social House's website promises "intimate, four-star dining experiences with remarkable service," after all--and were quickly seated.

While we were still enjoying the modern decor--a plush Asian-themed interior Buddhas, bamboo, and Japanese lanterns--we received a martini glass of spiced peanuts, a nice touch.

The menu was on the lighter side, with sections for soup and salad, small plates, a variety of sushi, and a handful of dinner options, including a New York strip steak, kung pao chicken, and scallops. The drink menu offered a modest list of beer and wine, sake, and special cocktails and martinis. We decided to order the miso soup, Korean tacos, and a sample of the sushi.

The miso soup came out first. No complaints here; it had a nice flavor. The Korean tacos were next: beef tacos with a kick. They came with a decent kalbi marinade and a spicy Korean BBQ sauce with a nice sesame flavor. We'd ordered our sushi at the same time, and so we waited. And waited. And waited.

I'd ordered the Abunai roll, since it had three different types of tuna: albacore, yellowtail, and baked escolar, along with asparagus, avocado, cilantro, and a touch of jalapeño. Signature rolls go for $16, so my expectations were fairly high. The presentation was nice. My plate was bedecked with a flower, and the ingredients were fresh.

I have tried to make my own sushi before, and never got the rolling process quite right. The sushi at Social House seemed the same. It was almost impossible to eat with chopsticks without dropping chunks of the roll everywhere, even for a fairly experienced user. The sushi at Whole Foods is wrapped better, and you don't have to pay $16 for a roll.

Our initial impression of Social House was that we were really paying for atmosphere, since overpriced sushi rolls that are hard to eat and not all that tasty couldn't possibly be the main draw. The cocktails, however, have fun and creative names such as "Crouching Basil Hidden Watermelon," "Groin Punch," and "Dirty Little Geisha." Perhaps we should have taken the hint from the hostess and gone straight to the bar, where slow service, high prices, and mediocre food are less of a deal breaker.

Social House 2919 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis 612.824.6300; Social House website

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